Thursday 23 February 2017

All-Ireland Club Hurling

Martin Breheny's top 25

1 Ballyhale Shamrocks

1 Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny)

Would they be in Croke Park on Thursday if Henry Shefflin hadn't injured his knee last August? Quite possibly. Still, that's a matter of conjecture, unlike the fact that they are the most successful outfit in the history of the hurling championships, with five All-Ireland titles (1981, '84, '90, 2007, 2010). The first three encompassed the Fennelly brothers' era; Shefflin, 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly and the Reids were central to later successes.

2 Birr (offaly)

The standard is extremely high at the top end as Birr are only just behind Ballyhale on four All-Ireland titles (1995, '98, 2002, '03). Inspired on the field by the Whelahans, the Pilkingtons and the Hanniffys, and off it by 'Pad' Joe Whelahan, Birr provided many of the Offaly team for a long period.

3 Blackrock (Cork)

They won three All-Irelands in 1972, '74 and '79 with such famous names as John Horgan, Ray Cummins, Pat Moylan, Eamon O'Donoghue, Frank Norberg and Kilkenny's Frank Cummins anchoring a powerful squad. Times changed for the worse after that early burst of success.

4 athenry (galway)

Portumna will feel they should be rated ahead of their fellow Galway men. However, Athenry edge them out because as well as having an outstanding team, which won All-Ireland titles in 1997, 2000 and '01, they also reached the All-Ireland final in 1988 and '05.

5 portumna (galway)

All-Ireland wins in 2006, '08 and '09 left them favourites to win the 2010 title but Ballyhale caught them in a well-planned ambush in the final. Inspired by Joe and Ollie Canning, Damien Hayes, Andy Smith, Kevin Hayes and Eugene McEntee produced outstanding performances in the 2006-09 era and while they came up short in last year's Galway championship, it's likely that there's more to come.

6 james stephens (kilkenny)

Winners of two All-Ireland titles in 1976 and '82, they had to wait 23 years for a third title which finally arrived in 2005 with a Peter Barry-led side. The 1976-82 squad was one of the strongest ever to win the All-Ireland title, featuring Brian Cody, 'Fan' Larkin, Liam 'Chunky' O'Brien, Joe Hennessy, Mick Crotty and Tom McCormack.

7 sarsfields (galway)

The first club to retain the All-Ireland hurling title, the Cooney-led squad won in 1993 and '94. The starting team was the same for both finals and featured no fewer than five Cooney brothers: Pakie, Brendan, Michael, Joe and Peter. Sarsfields also reached the 1998 final but lost to Birr.

8 st finbarr's (cork)

The only club to win All-Ireland titles in both codes, their successful years in hurling were 1975 and '78. It was surprising that they didn't win more titles as among their powerful ranks were Gerald and Charlie McCarthy, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, John Allen, Donal O'Grady, Tony Maher and Denis Burns.

9 glen rovers (cork)

They won two of the first seven All-Ireland titles in 1973 and '77. Martin O'Doherty, Teddy O'Brien, Denis Coughlan, Patsy Harte and Pat Horgan were among their leading influences as the Glen asserted itself in the first decade of the club championships.

10 castlegar (galway)

Their All-Ireland win in 1980 paved the way for Galway's breakthrough later in the year. Castlegar were anchored by no fewer than five Connolly brothers -- John, Joe, Michael, Padraic and Gerry -- and also featured the Glynn brothers, Micheal and Gerry. Castlegar also reached the 1985 final, where they lost in a replay to St Martin's (Kilkenny).

11 kiltormer (Galway)



They beat Birr to win the 1992 title but the real drama came in the semi-final where it took three games to separate them from Cashel King Cormacs. Conor Hayes, Tony and Ollie Kilkenny, Justin Campbell, Aidan Staunton and Damien Curley were stars in a powerful outfit.

12 newtownshandrum (Cork)

Blackrock, Glen Rovers and St Finbarr's flew the Cork flag in the early stages of the championships but years later, the small parish of Newtownshandrum made its own headlines, winning the 2004 All-Ireland title and also reaching the '06 final before losing to Portumna.

13 sixmilebridge (clare)

The first Clare club to win the All-Ireland title, their success came in 1996 when they beat Dunloy in the final. Davy Fitzgerald, Michael O'Halloran and the Chaplins, John, David and Danny, were leading figures on a team that also won the 2000 Munster title before losing the All-Ireland semi-final to Graigue-Ballycallan.

14 st Joseph's (clare)

All-Ireland winners in 1999, they made a bold bid to retain their crown a year later but lost the final to Athenry. The Doora-Barefield outfit had James and Christy O'Connor, Seanie McMahon and Ollie Baker as mainstays on a team that was the last to complete a Munster two-in-a-row.

15 loughgiel shamrocks (antrim)



The only Ulster club to win the title, they reigned in 1983. It was a splendid success for a club that was drawing from just 300 families. Captained by flamboyant goalkeeper Neilly Patterson, they beat St Rynagh's in the final.

16 buffer's alley (wexford)



Beaten by Kilruane McDonaghs in the 1986 All-Ireland final, Buffer's Alley made the big breakthrough three years later. It was a special occasion for the legendary Tony Doran, who was just three weeks short of his 43rd birthday on All-Ireland final day.

17 midleton (cork)

John Fenton, Kevin Hennessy, Ger Fitzgerald, Denis Mulcahy and Pat Hartnett led the way as Midleton became the fourth Cork club to win the All-Ireland final in 1988, beating Athenry in the final. They won two Munster titles in '83 and '87.

18 Glenmore (kilkenny)

They became the fourth Kilkenny club to win the All-Ireland when beating Patrickswell in the 1991 final. Christy and Ray Heffernan, Eddie and Willie O'Connor were leading men for Glenmore, who also won the '95 Leinster title.

19 borrisoleigh (tipperary)



A glory day for Borrisoleigh as they won the 1987 title with a victory over Rathnure to complete a two in-a-row for Tipperary, as Kilruane McDonaghs had captured the 1986 title. Bobby and Aidan Ryan, Richard and Conor Stakelum and Noel O'Dwyer all played major parts in what was the best season in Borrisoleigh history.

20 kilruane mcDonaghs (tipperary)



"It was the crowning day of my hurling life. It was the local club, people I grew up with, people I saw growing up after me," recalled team manager Len Gaynor in Jack Mahon's book, 'For Love of Town and Village.' Kilruane won the 1986 title, beating Buffer's Alley in the final.

21 st martin's (kilkenny)



The big prize went back to the parishes of Coon, Muckalee and Ballyfoyle in 1985 when St Martin's beat Castlegar in a replayed final. Coached by former Wexford star Tom Neville, they were outsiders in most games but grew with every challenge and eventually took the top prize.

22 roscrea (tipperary)

The honour of becoming the first club to win the All-Ireland title rests with Roscrea, who beat St Rynagh's in the 1971 final, played on September 19. Tipperary stars Francis Loughnane and Tadhg O'Connor were leading influences.

23 rathnure (wexford)

One of the 'nearly' stories of the club championships. They won six Leinster titles between 1971 and 1998 and although they reached All-Ireland finals in 1972, '74, '78, '87, and '99 they lost all five. It was all extremely frustrating for a great hurling base.

24 dunloy (antrim)

They lead the Ulster title roll of honour with 10 titles but the All-Ireland crown continues to elude them. They reached the All-Ireland final in 1995, '96, 2003 and '04 but lost all four finals to Sixmilebridge, Newtownshandrum and Birr (twice).

25 st rynagh's (offaly)

They won four Leinster titles between 1970 and 1993 but were unable to make the All-Ireland breakthrough, despite reaching the final in 1971, '73 and '83. They lost to Roscrea in '71, to Glen Rovers in '73 and to Loughgiel Shamrocks (replay) in '83.

Irish Independent

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