Sean Cremin delivers the first edition of the PA Hurling Power Rankings. Here are the Top 25 Hurlers in the country at present. 25. Declan HannonThe best is yet to come from the Limerick attacker. Along with most of the Limerick side, he failed to deliver in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final but many forget his age. He is still only 21 years old and completed an incredible fifth season of playing under-21 with Limerick this year. He has a big physical presence but more importantly excellent skill levels. He has a big future.24. Tommy WalshHe is a veteran at this stage but he still remains one of the finest defenders. His aerial ability is outstanding and his clearances are phenomenal. He was one of their better performers in a poor 2013 for Kilkenny. He will be important if Kilkenny are to bounce back.23. Padraic MaherHe remains a very good hurler but has taken a few backward steps since he burst onto the scene in 2009. He is yet to make the number 6 jersey his own in Tipperary and hasn’t become the colossus that most thought he would become. His delivery to the forward line needs to improve. His clearances are often high and aimless but he still has lots of good attributes.22. Peter Kelly2013’s all-star number three is a fine defender. He has now solved Dublin’s troublesome full-back position and is one of the country’s best in his position. He is very athletic. He has good pace to power out of defence. He has done some very good man-marking jobs in recent years.21. Gavin O’MahonyHe is a player who was very unlucky not to receive an all-star in 2013. He has been one of Limerick’s most consistent performers in recent seasons. He has really settled in the left half-back position. He contributes in both attack and defence. He can also get himself on the score-sheet from time to time.20. Pat DonnellanClare’s All-Ireland winning captain of 2013 gets into the top 20. He has been a very important member of Clare’s resurgence under Davy Fitzgerald. He has been a great leader of a young group. He has played different roles at centre-back, midfield and as a sweeper. He has really fulfilled the role captain when it has counted and is also a very good hurler.19. Cian Dillon Dillon is Clare’s most under-rated player. It was very harsh that he didn’t even receive an all-star nomination in 2013, never mind an award itself. He was their main man-marker all season. He marked the opposition’s danger man in most games and did an excellent job on all opponents. He is well able to defend and was integral in setting up Conor McGrath’s vital goal that led them to the title in 2013.18. Richie McCarthyAnother full-back in the list shows just how many good full-back’s there are in the country at the moment. McCarthy is an inspirational player for Limerick. He is the last line of defence and the first line of attack. He sets the tone for how Limerick play. If he plays well, he inspires those around him. If not, Limerick tend to struggle.17. Conal KeaneyHe was a late enough arrival to intercounty hurling having sided with the Dublin footballers for many seasons. It’s no coincidence that Dublin progress has happened at the same time as Keaney’s return. He is a vital player for Dublin. He is a great ball winner with a good eye for a score. He is a huge leader for the Dubs.16. Anthony NashRarely has a goalkeeper had such an influence on a team. He waited a long time for his chance. It finally arrived and he has been an improvement on what went before him. He carries a huge scoring threat from frees but more importantly he has all the traits of an excellent goalkeeper. He has a huge influence on Cork’s performances.15. Conor McGrathHis 2013 season was hampered by injury early on, having been Clare’s main attacker in previous seasons. Subsequently he played a few below par games but he really showed his class when it mattered. He finally looked sharp and fit by the end of 2013 and he is definitely one of the country’s best inside forwards. He still has youth on his side and he could become one of the greats.14. David McInerneyThis is a player who made a big name for himself in his debut season. He gave exhibitions for the Clare under-21’s this season and also showed up very well for the seniors. His move to corner-back seemed to suit him. He made a trademark of his solo-runs out of defence. He showed great maturity at important stages of the big games. He is another player with a huge future.13. Padraic CollinsCollins may be slightly unproven as a consistent performer over a period of time but he had an outstanding debut season. His performances were one of the highlights of 2013, particularly the hand-pass against Galway. He brought energy, skill and scoring ability to fore for Clare. A lot of counties would look for a player like Collins and that shows how far he has come in a short space of time.12. Shane O’NeillThis man is possibly the country’s most under-rated player. For some time now O’Neill has been an outstanding defender for Cork. Since his debut in 2007, only one injury affected season has seen O’Neill not put in brilliant performances. Shane O’Donnell may have got headlines while marking him this year but a player does not become a bad player overnight. He was essential to Cork’s return to competitiveness in 2013. He is a brilliant defender.11. Michael CahillCahill is another understated player. Cahill is an outstanding corner-back. He can play a variety of positions but if an Irish XV was being picked tomorrow, he would wear the number four jersey. He has been consistently excellent since making his debut in 2010. He won an All-Ireland in his first season and an all-star in his second. Even though the honours may have dried up Cahill’s performances haven’t. He is an excellent hurler.10. Kevin MoranHe is the only Waterford man in the selection. He has grown into one of the leading hurlers over the last three to four seasons. Moran has been the Déise’s driving force whether he has been positioned half-back or midfield. This year’s qualifier against Kilkenny just summed up his ability and his importance. The quality and significance of his two equalizing scores were incredible.9. Danny SutcliffeHe has only completed his second season and senior level but he has been ultra-consistent on his arrival. He is a very mobile half-forward with great scoring ability. He scored the vital goal that defeated Kilkenny and gave an exhibition of point scoring against Cork. He really is the template of a modern-day half-forward and should be around at the top of the game for many years.8. Patrick HorganHorgan was a player who came of age in 2013. Horgan stepped up to the plate and assumed responsibility in a squad that had been cleared out by management. He was the main man in attack. He was extremely effective and showed that he is indeed up there with the best in the country.7. Noel McGrathTipperary have failed to get the best out of McGrath in the last two seasons and they have struggled as a result. Their team should be built around him. He showed his qualities with his club this season. He is one of best in Ireland. He has everything. A move to midfield would see McGrath showcase his talents and would also probably lead to an upturn in Tipperary’s fortunes.6. Brendan BuglerBugler is currently up there with the best half-backs. He has been outstanding for Clare in the last two seasons. He is one of their more experienced players and has shown this in abundance. He really has inspired the young players around him. His own performances have been from the top drawer. He is a huge player for Clare.5. Liam RusheRushe is finally being played in his best position. As a result both Rushe and Dublin are beginning to fulfil their potential. Rushe had been moved all around the forward line and to midfield. But 2013 finally saw Rushe move permanently to centre-back and Dublin came very close to winning an All-Ireland. He is a very good player. He is a calming influence on the defence and his use of the ball is very intelligent.4. Paul MurphyMurphy is an outstanding defender. He is the best defender in the country. He was probably the best player in Ireland in 2012. Although Kilkenny had a poor 2013, Murphy still managed to put in five star performances. He carried out his defensive duties without fail and even scored a point in the quarter-final against Cork. His levels of performance since getting into the Kilkenny side have rarely dropped below eight out of ten. He is an excellent hurler.3. Joe CanningGalway’s inconsistency shouldn’t go against Canning. If there was a transfer market in hurling, Canning would be at the top of a lot of managers lists. He has everything in his locker. He still has time to become one of the greatest players to play the game. We have seen signs of his class on many occasions. If he can lead Galway to All-Irelands, he will go down as a huge name in the history of the game.2. Michael FennellyThis man was Kilkenny’s biggest loss in 2013. He is an awesome hurler. He has size, strength, speed, power and and eye for goal. He is an extremely effective player at both midfield and centre-forward. After a long injury lay-off, he was still one of the standout players in their quarter-final defeat to Cork. If Kilkenny are to make any sort of return, Fennelly will be their main man.1. Tony KellyIn only his second season as a senior intercounty hurler, Kelly created history in being the first player to win Young Hurler of the Year and Hurler of the Year in the same season. He is still under-21 next year and looks like he will have a long time at the top of the game. His point scoring is sensational. His quality of striking of both left and right side means he can literally score from anywhere. He has pace and his skill levels are unbelievable. If he could add a bit more creativity to his game, I think there will be very little to stop him being one of the greats for a long time. He is currently the best in Ireland.Pundit Arena, Sean Cremin.
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