Dermot Crowe: Cork star Kearney ought to have been honoured in All Star team - but who would you have left out?
The new hurling Championship format may be deemed a roaring success, but it has made choosing the All-Stars elite an even more forbidding mission than before.
The heavy catalogue of classic matches brought a blitz of outstanding individual performances. In the squeeze to find the best 15 there's bound to be casualties.
By any measure, Daniel Kearney ought to have been honoured, but would you have left any of the six forwards who were out? A player like Kearney, being less box office than some of the other big name contenders, might simply not attract the level of attention that wins votes and minds when it comes to deciding on a team like this.
Jamesie O’Connor’s selection had Kearney included in last week’s Sunday Independent but there is no perfect formula for picking All Stars and it follows that there is no perfect team either. Jamesie’s selection might be talked of more for who was left out than who was left in - with the omission of Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy; to some, including this writer, a credible contender for Hurler of the Year.
Others will vouch for Seamus Flanagan and but for a low-key All-Ireland semi final against Cork he would have made the task of selecting this team even more torturous. Aaron Gillane, his Limerick team-mate, and Tom Morrissey, were also contenders but Morrissey more so, as Gillane had too many indifferent days. Morrissey has probably been Limerick’s most improved player and his leadership in turning a potential loss to Kilkenny into a thrilling late victory underlined a character that is as valuable in a forward as the ability to shoot points, which Morrissey has improved greatly at too. TJ Reid must also have been a serious bidder.
Eoin Murphy, while Nickie Quaid played a huge part in Limerick’s year, is a very popular and worthy choice as All Star keeper. Murphy in now in the autumn years of his career but if he avoids injury he can add to his two All-Stars. In a disappointing year for the former All-Ireland champions Galway, Daithi Burke and Padraic Mannion were outstanding. The All-Ireland champions, Limerick, as you’d expect, took most of the awards, with six, although they managed only one of the attacking positions, where Cork and Clare each have two.
Notable omissions include Tipp, All-Ireland winners in some style only two years ago, and Waterford, finalists last year. Of special satisfaction to those who admire out and out defenders will be the honouring of the two corner backs, both Limerick men, Sean Finn and Richie English. Interestingly, when Limerick last won the MacCarthy Cup in 1973 their All-Star haul was one less, with just five.