Tuesday 16 October 2018

Stephen O'Keeffe edges Anthony Nash as Galway dominate with seven All-Stars

Stephen O'Keefe, Pa Horgan and Conor Whelan were all nominated
Stephen O'Keefe, Pa Horgan and Conor Whelan were all nominated
Waterford's Stephen O'Keeffe. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

All-Ireland champions Galway dominate the 2017 PwC GAA/GPA All-Star hurling team with seven awards on a team picked exclusively from the four All-Ireland semi-finalists.

Joe Canning wins his fourth award after a season that saw Galway sweep to league, Leinster and MacCarthy Cup success, his match-winning point against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final perhaps the stand-out moment of the season. Canning now stands levels with brother Ollie on four awards having made the teams in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

There are six first-time winners, four from Galway, while Cork's Mark Coleman and Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe are also team debutants.

O'Keeffe's head-to-head with Cork's Anthony Nash was always going to be one of the tightest calls.

Nash delivered a brilliant puck-out service as Cork claimed the Munster hurling title but was beaten four times in the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford, albeit against a defence that suffered from the dismissal of Damien Cahalane. Nash did, however, save spectacularly in the first half from Pauric Mahony.

O'Keeffe made two magnificent saves for Waterford in their Munster semi-final defeat to Cork, denying Alan Cadogan and then Seamus Harnedy in one of the goalkeeping performances of the season.

2017 hurling allstars. Photo: Sportsfile
2017 hurling allstars. Photo: Sportsfile

O'Keeffe is joined on the team by colleagues Michael 'Brick' Walsh, Noel Connors, Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran. Barron is picking up his second successive All-Star, having made the 2016 team.

He had an exceptional year, posting 3-10 from midfield, where he is again joined by David Burke, the first time ever that the same midfield pairing has made back-to-back teams.

Galway captain Burke had a difficult day against Tipperary but bounced right back with a most influential All-Ireland final when he landed four points from play.

Burke has now made the last three All-Star teams and was also on the 2012 team bringing his total to four.

Barron hit his highest notes against Kilkenny and Cork, when he scored 2-1 with his blistering pace also a factor for so much of the All-Ireland final until he was substituted, having picked up an illness in the build-up.

Significant

'Brick' Walsh is also winning his fourth award, 10 years after his first in 2007 when he captained Waterford to a league final win over Kilkenny. Walsh won his other awards in 2009 and 2010.

Kevin Moran is also included, having got the goals against Wexford and Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final respectively. That helped him to 2-13 throughout a championship that he had a significant influence over.

With Walsh and Moran included, Pauric Mahony has been squeezed out with Canning taking the centre-forward berth.

On the inside line, there were no surprises with Galway's Conor Cooney and Conor Whelan taking first awards and Patrick Horgan rewarded with his second All-Star, having won his previous award in 2013. He nailed down his award with a big All-Ireland semi-final performance when he scored 0-12, five from play. Cooney scored seven points in the Leinster final against Wexford and contributed 1-16 from play throughout the campaign.

Pádraic Mannion is another first-time Galway winner, slotted in at right corner-back despite hurling at half-back for long spells of the season.

But that move allowed the selectors to include 19-year-old Coleman and Pádraic Maher, either side of Gearóid McInerney in the half-back line.

Maher is now the most celebrated Tipperary All-Star defender with five awards, adding to those claimed in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016. Nicky English and Eoin Kelly remain out in front with six each while Brendan Cummins ended his career on five.

Dáithí Burke's remarkable consistency earns him a third successive All-Star and once again he finds himself in a different position after picking up his previous awards at right half-back and left corner-back.

There will be some disgruntlement in Waterford that Tadhg de Búrca has missed out, having sat out the All-Ireland semi-final because of suspension.

It is only the second time in the last 21 years that Kilkenny have won no All-Star, having drawn a blank in 2013 when they failed to reach an All-Ireland semi-final. They had only two nominations, goalkeeper Eoin Murphy and Cillian Buckley.

The absence of any player from the All-Ireland quarter-finalists continues a trend that goes back to 2012 when Brendan Bugler and Moran made the team, despite Clare and Waterford falling short of the last four that year.

The Canning brothers now draw level with the Kellys, Paul and Eoin, from Tipperary on eight while the Hendersons from Kilkenny, Pat, Ger and John, also have eight.

But they are still short of Tommy and Pádraig Walsh, who have 10 between them, the most recognised set of brothers in the scheme.

Irish Independent

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