Frank Roche's end of season hurling awards - Who will be crowned hurler of the year?
Frank Roche reviews the 2016 hurling championship by divvying out his end of season awards.
HURLER OF THE YEAR
1 SEAMUS CALLANAN
TO the victor, the spoils ... and Callanan shades our vote by dint of leaving his staggeringly prolific best ‘til last. The Drom & Inch assassin wasn’t in pole position at 3.30 on Sunday; an hour-and-a-half later he had shot his way, literally, to the top of the queue. Man of the Match against Cork in May; found the net against Limerick and Waterford; didn’t score from play against Galway but still chipped in with a priceless goal assist. Sunday’s 13-point tour de force against Kilkenny, including nine from play, ranks among the greatest final displays. His five-match SHC campaign yielded 2-47 (2-16 from play). A third consecutive All Star and plenty of more plaudits beckon.
2 AUSTIN GLEESON
WHEREVER he roams (and half-forward looks his ideal home) Waterford’s soaring talisman has glue in his hands and magic in his wrists. Is there a better fielder? Or a player who makes the conversion of extraordinary points look almost mundane? We’ll forgive Gleeson his one major off-day (against Tipp) or his shoot-on-sight tendencies (nine wides against Wexford) because of all those magnificent memories against Clare and Kilkenny.
3 PÁDRAIC MAHER
PLENTY of candidates, including Richie Hogan (Kilkenny’s best player) and a trio of Tpp men (Shane Barrett, John McGrath and Ronan Maher) ... but we opt for another Premier leader, the inspirational Pádraic Maher. A font of stellar consistency over all five SHC games, his goal-saving hook against Galway and touchline point against Kilkenny were standout moments.
YOUNG HURLER OF THE YEAR
1 AUSTIN GLEESON
STILL raw but the game’s most outrageous talent – and to think he’s only 21, with an All-Ireland U21 final to come on Saturday.
2 RONAN MAHER
THIS high-fielding rock at the centre of Tipp’s defence looks to have made the No 6 jersey his own for many years to come.
3 CONOR McDONALD
AT 22, John McGrath is too old for consideration so we plump for Wexford’s gifted target man, who tallied 35 championship points, including 0-13 against Cork.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
1 JOHN O’DWYER
TIPPERARY v KILKENNY: For the stunning quality of his All-Ireland final finish, but especially for its game-changing significance, we go for this Bubbles net-bulger ... even though some preferred the shortened-grip audacity of his goal against Galway.
2 JOE CANNING
GALWAY v CLARE: As Clare’s defensive system went AWOL at the start of the second half, Galway went for the jugular ... but it still required a sublime flick-up and angled finish by Canning to punish them.
3 COLIN FENNELLY
KILKENNY v WATERFORD: The first of his two early replay strikes, stemming from Walter Walsh’s angled delivery ... but it was the the turn past Barry Coughlan and howitzer shot that really took the breath away.
POINT OF THE YEAR
AUSTIN GLEESON: We’re cheating and will allow you, the reader, to nominate any one of Gleeson’s five brilliant points from Waterford’s semi-final stalemate with Kilkenny.
SAVE OF THE YEAR
EOIN MURPHY: You could advocate the Kilkenny man’s last save against Tipperary - to repel John McGrath - but really it has to be his soaring catch above his own crossbar to deny Waterford’s Pauric Mahony a last-gasp equaliser in Thurles.
SÉAMUS CALLANAN: His All-Ireland final heroics can’t be ignored, eclipsing Deise duo Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson in their drawn semi-final against the Cats.
TIPPERARY v KILKENNY: There’s only one time to peak ... September.
FLOP OF THE YEAR
WATERFORD v TIPPERARY: More than just a total system malfunction, this was an individual and collective 21-point meltdown.
CORK: How the mighty have fallen. They were abject on the double, against Tipp and Wexford, although you could argue league champions Clare were even more culpable of failing to maximise their SHC potential.
SHOCK OF THE YEAR:
WESTMEATH U21s: It’s true, you weren’t dreaming ... they really did topple Kilkenny.
THOUGHT OF THE YEAR
HOW Dublin must hope that linear form graphs are not to be trusted. They lost by three points to Cork, who lost by three to Wexford, who then lost by ten to Waterford, who eventually lost by two to Kilkenny, who then lost by nine to Tipperary. On that 27-point swing basis, Ger Cunningham has a major rebuilding job on his hands.