Wednesday 21 February 2018

Five Tribesmen and two Cats - Martin Breheny picks his mid-term All Star team

From 1B runners-up to league champions in just four weeks - Canning and Co put down marker

Noel McGrath of Tipperary and Galway's Joe Canning in action in the Allianz NHL final with Tipp's Michael Breen in close attendance Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Noel McGrath of Tipperary and Galway's Joe Canning in action in the Allianz NHL final with Tipp's Michael Breen in close attendance Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The main business of the GAA season is yet to come but, in terms of games, counties have played more up to now that they will for the rest of the year.

So who has made most impression on the hurling fields? These are my choices as mid-term All-Stars.

1. Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)

He got an 8 out of 10 five times and a 9 once from six games in our match ratings, underlying (a) how busy he was and (b) how well he did in a campaign where Kilkenny's consistency was below what we have come to expect.

2. Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)

Started the league in the half-backs - it didn't work and he was reinstated to his usual right corner berth after two games, which Kilkenny had lost. The switch not only benefited him but also greatly increased security.

3. Eoghan O'Donnell (Dublin)

He may have been in a defence that conceded most in 1A but it would have been a whole lot higher without the rapidly-improving full-back, who did very well against several top-ranked forwards.

4. Aidan Harte (Galway)

He is quite comfortable at 4, 7 or midfield, which is quite an asset in the fluid modern game. Consistent all through the league, the best performance of all came in last Sunday's final where he was outstanding.

5. Pádraic Mannion (Galway)

Like Harte, he is effective in either defensive line. He was one of several Galway players who took command early last Sunday, putting down a marker that bewildered Tipperary.

6. Ronan Maher (Tipperary)

He may not have reached the heights of last year but deserves to be assessed on what he did, rather than what he didn't do. Overall, he delivered a solid campaign, even if Joe Canning troubled him last Sunday. Given Canning's form, that's not a big black mark.

7. Pádraic Maher (Tipperary)

Like his younger brother, he wasn't as dominating as in last year's championship but still did well. Most opposition play him the ultimate compliment of trying to avoid his wing rather than attack it.

8. David Burke (Galway)

The complete midfielder, he pops up everywhere there's work to be done. His natural inclination is more attack than defensive-minded but he can do well when dropping back too, as he showed particularly in the first half last Sunday.

9. Brendan Maher (Tipperary)

Like most of his Tipperary colleagues, he wasn't at the All-Star heights of last year but still contributed handsomely. He has so much natural talent that even when a game is going against him, he manages to play his way into it with some telling touches.

10. Podge Collins (Clare)

It took a play-off win over Dublin to save the Banner from dropping to 1B but they had two good days in the group games too, with Collins very much to the fore, as he was in some of the disappointing outings also.

11. Joe Canning (Galway)

He won the last of his three All-Stars as far back as 2012. After recovering from a serious hamstring injury, his form so far this year suggests that a fourth honour is on its way. He seems very comfortable in his game these days.

12. Lee Chin (Wexford)

The general rise across Wexford's ranks, which had been hinted at in recent seasons, saw improvements in most individuals. Chin showed why he has the capacity to be one of the game's real stars.

13. Conor Whelan (Galway)

Started the league campaign with two goals against Offaly and finished it with five points against Tipperary. In his third season at the age of 20, his potential for further development is enormous.

14. Conor McDonald (Wexford)

Slated as a big star of the future when he first came on the scene, he is making progress towards achieving that. Wexford's boat is rising, with the likes of McDonald poised to accelerate the process.

15. John McGrath (Tipperary)

Never got into the game last Sunday - either in open play or as replacement free-taker for Seamus Callanan - but was brilliant up to then, scoring 5-21 from open play in the earlier rounds of the campaign.

Irish Independent

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