Dublin and Limerick lead the way in our hurling Team of the Week
The new hurling season has officially commenced with high drama over the weekend as counties battle for the early season edge. Independent.ie’s Michael Verney puts together his team of the week based on all the action throughout the country.
1. James Dempsey (Offaly)
The Faithful net minder was unbeatable on Saturday evening as Offaly earned two valuable points in their derby game against neighbours Laois in O’Moore Park. The Kinnitty keeper stopped a late Zane Keenan penalty as well as making a point-blank save from Willie Hyland in the first-half in a masterful display.
2. Richie McCarthy (Limerick)
The diminutive Limerick defender is often the source of inspiration on Shannonside and his ‘wonder score’ at the death nearly earned a win for his side only for Waterford to hit back with a leveller. Yet another tigerish defensive performance from the consistent Blackrock man.
3. Michael Carton (Dublin)
Last year’s Hurler of the Year nominee Seamus Callanan never got a sniff of the ball with Carton dominating the edge of the square from start to finish in Parnell Park. The O’Toole’s fireman has laid down a serious early season marker and with Peter Kelly currently located at number six, Ger Cunningham may have found a new full-back.
4. Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)
Kilkenny began life after JJ Delaney with a fine win away to a near full-strength Cork side. Despite his direct opponent Paudie O’Sullivan starting brightly, the Danesfort defender powered into the game dominating the last line of defence and ensuring “Pebbles” was called ashore with 25 minutes to play.
5. Iarla Tannian (Galway)
The towering defender has played in almost every position for Galway but Anthony Cunningham looks to have found the key to the Ardrahan club man at half-back. His high-fielding under opposition puck outs and forward-friendly deliveries are fast becoming a weapon for the Tribesmen.
6. Lee Chin (Wexford)
Wexford were in cruise control for the majority of their clash with Antrim in Wexford Park until 1-6 without reply sent the Saffrons in to a one-point lead. When the Model men needed a leader Chin stood up, as he always does, and helped force his side over the finish line with a power-packed display in the pivotal centre-back slot.
7. Conal Keaney (Dublin)
Named at wing-forward but reverting to half-back, Keaney had a huge influence throughout as Dublin stunned last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Tipperary, getting some semblance of revenge for two crucial defeats in 2014. The Ballyboden St Enda's man got onto a mountain of ball and provided a springboard for his side over the 70 minutes.
8. Paul Browne (Limerick)
Silent but deadly, small but outrageously effective. Many said the pocket-size Bruff man didn’t have the physical scope to make it at county level but he continues to prove his detractors wrong. A bundle of energy, equally effective both in defence and attack, Browne shot four excellent points as Limerick drew with Waterford on Valentine’s night.
9. Shane Durkin (Dublin)
Durkin has played in a wide range of positions in the Dublin shirt but he may have found his best location at midfield. The Ballyboden player gave a fine performance yesterday, covering every blade of grass in Parnell Park and chipping in with a beautiful long-range effort, as the new-look Dubs got their league off to the best possible start.
10. Johnny Glynn (Galway)
Glynn’s ability to win aerial ball, as seen to good effect against Tipperary in last year’s Qualifier with Tipperary, is key to the success of this new Galway side. With big names like Joe Canning, Conor Cooney and David Burke absent, the Ardrahan half-forward scored two points and was a key source of possession for youngsters like Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion to feed off.
11. Gavin O’Mahony (Limerick)
After missing Kilmallock’s All-Ireland club semi-final win over Portaferry last weekend through suspension, O’Mahony needed a game to prove his match sharpness and he did just that. He showed no sign of ring rustiness, firing over five beautiful scores in what could be his new home for the county side.
12. John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer (Tipperary)
Be it in victory or defeat the natural talent of Bubbles always comes to the fore. With his team-mates under performing all around him the Killenaule man still retained the massive standards which he set for himself last year, shooting five magnificent scores from play and further enhancing his growing reputation as hurling’s most technically gifted player.
13. Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
Write them off at your peril. Understrength and with a host of high-profile retirements over the winter, Brian Cody’s Cats were underdogs going into Saturday night’s clash away to Cork. The relocation of Hurler of the Year Hogan to corner-forward was key as he shot 11 points, three from play, further confirming his status as Kilkenny’s new ‘go to’ man.
14. Jack Guiney (Wexford)
Guiney is full of potential, even though we don’t always see it. When the Rathnure man is on top form he is an irresistible force and without him Antrim would have caused a major shock in the sunny south east. Let’s hope yesterday’s nine points, four from play, is a sign of things to some in 2015.
15. Shane Dooley (Offaly)
For Offaly to progress under Brian Whelehan, Dooley needs to exert significant influence and he certainly did Saturday evening. Scoring a whopping 1-14, 1-10 from frees, the Tullamore ace was the difference between the two sides with his unerring accuracy from hand and placed balls. His ‘surprise’ goal from a free caught the Laois defence napping and was the pivotal score of the game.