With 36 points from half-back, Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes stands on top of the pile due to his consistent brilliance for the All-Ireland winners
Limerick are All-Ireland champions for the third successive year and while not as dominant as 2020 or 2021, many of their players were among the top performers in the championship. In our analysis of individual performance, they deserve the top three places between them with Diarmaid Byrnes getting top billing.
We rate our top 50 players on the basis of 2022 championship performances.
1. Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick)
The measure of Byrnes’s brilliance was not the amount of scores he accumulated from half-back but when he accumulated them. When the clutch moments came, so often it was the Patrickswell man who had the answer.
Remember his response at the very start of the championship when Cork scored a quick 1-2 to lead in Páirc Uí Chaoimh? He scored the next three points, two frees, to calm nerves.
Or the second half against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final when he scored four of his six points in a 25-minute period just after half-time.
He scored 0-36, six from play in seven championship matches, an incredible return for a defender who is not his team’s primary free-taker.
But from anywhere within 100 metres, and even sometimes beyond, Byrnes broke barriers. No player is making the dimensions of a hurling pitch feel smaller. On top of that there was his fielding of opposition puck-outs, especially in the second half of the All-Ireland final. For his fifth point he caught from Eoin Murphy, won a free and converted from 95 metres, a trademark sequence all season.
2. Gearóid Hegarty (Limerick)
Unplayable in the All-Ireland final, his 1-5 against Kilkenny brought to 3-14 what he has scored now in three successive All-Ireland finals. Scored 2-16 in all, both goals, he also scored one of the highest quality in the Munster final against Clare, were brilliant. In the air, on the ground, he makes his presence felt. Such a physical force targeted by opponents. His red card against Clare, for two yellows, was harsh. Strong performances against Cork, Tipperary, especially in the concluding stages, and Clare in Munster; slight dip against Galway but saved the best until last.
3. Aaron Gillane (Limerick)
Came into the All-Ireland final as a strong contender for Hurler of the Year but not always at his best as Huw Lawlor troubled him. That said, Gillane was magnificent in 2022 and is arguably the most dangerous inside forward. He was top championship scorer from play with 3-21, 3-47 overall from in six games. Against Waterford in Munster and Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, he set the place alight, his over-the-shoulder striking almost impossible to defend. His goals against Cork and Tipperary settled nerves too.
4. Barry Nash (Limerick)
Limerick’s launderette services made a killing on the one-time forward because he hardly broke sweat in 2022 with his effortless movement and timing around the pitch. The calmest man on any hurling field, his precise clearances orchestrated so many Limerick attacks and as the ‘spare’ man so often he had that ubiquitous presence, though when TJ Reid pushed up on him in the All-Ireland final, he had his troubles. He scored four points too but when he needed to roll the sleeves up defensively there were a suite of blocks to reflect on, those on Waterford’s Mikey Kiely, Tipp’s Mark Kehoe and Galway’s Fintan Burke among the most memorable and important.
5. TJ Reid (Kilkenny)
Not always at his best in Leinster but by the second half of the provincial final against Galway he was flying, and against Clare and Limerick he was Kilkenny’s top performer. Remains the best fielder of a ball in the game while his range of assists in the All-Ireland final created five points in the first half alone. Championship top scorer with 2-65, 1-10 from play, his consistency from frees dipped only briefly against Wexford.
6. Tony Kelly (Clare)
Kelly’s season petered out and he was held scoreless from play by Mikey Butler for the first time in 27 championship games in the All-Ireland semi-final, but the high that it reached during the Munster Championship was phenomenal. Scored 1-54, 0-21 from play and one from that wonder sideline at the end of the Munster final to force extra-time, a day he scored 13 points. In all, he scored 29 points against Limerick in two games but wasn’t always reliable from frees. His reading of breaks and the pace he runs on to them is unmatched.
7. Declan Hannon (Limerick)
The first captain to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup four times led from the front and was an oasis of calm from centre-back. Almost always did the right thing in possession with a touch mindful of Phil Mickelson’s wedge work. Had Kelly not converted that Munster sideline he would have had a winner for the ages just before that, one of four points he scored. His colleagues know they can depend on him ‘having their back’.
8. Huw Lawlor (Kilkenny)
Conceded four points to Galway’s Conor Whelan in the Leinster final and three from play to Aaron Gillane in the All-Ireland final yet the memory of both duels is of Lawlor winning so many one-to-one battles against two of the most difficult forwards to track. Completed negated Clare’s Peter Duggan and has grown into a forceful No 3.
9. Kyle Hayes (Limerick)
Switched into full-forward for the opening game against Cork and got a goal but was never entirely comfortable inside, despite scoring another goal against Tipperary. It was only when restored to centre-forward that he really thrived and in Croke Park was probably Limerick’s most consistent player over two games, running hard lines to score three points against Galway before adding four against Kilkenny.
10. Seán Finn (Limerick)
Limerick’s firefighter showed the best of himself at the end of the All-Ireland semi-final with his defiance in the face of Galway’s aerial bombardment. Held Conor Whelan in check that day, having started the season so well against Cork.
11. Mikey Butler (Kilkenny)
What a first season for the tigerish corner-back. Kept Tony Kelly scoreless from play in the All-Ireland semi-final, same for Graeme Mulcahy and Peter Casey, having tracked Galway’s Cathal Mannion out the field for much of the Leinster final to great success. Dublin’s Fergal Whitely was another to suffer in his company, pinching just one point.
12. Adrian Mullen (Kilkenny)
His best season yet as he hit 0-28, the highest return of points from general play. Operated between half-forward and midfield; had his biggest performances against Galway in the Leinster final and Clare.
13. Pádraic Mannion (Galway)
Strong all year and so instrumental in the Salthill win over Kilkenny when he tied up a rampant Eoin Cody and won two late frees, but in defeat against Kilkenny and Limerick he never yielded.
14. David Fitzgerald (Clare)
Another Clare player who soared in 2022, scoring 2-18 from play between midfield and half-forward. A powerful runner in possession, the source of so many of those scores; at his best against Cork and in the Munster final against Limerick.
15. Conor Whelan (Galway)
Injured early on against Wexford but recovered quickly to play such an influential role, hitting 2-18. His shots from tight angles hugging sidelines were a joy. Had his hands full with Finn against Limerick though.
16. Shane O’Donnell (Clare)
For O’Donnell to be back on a hurling field was a triumph after his concussions. To score 0-15, win so many puckouts and run relentlessly at opposition defences really elevates what he did. One of the few Clare players to stand up to Kilkenny.
17. Nickie Quaid (Limerick)
Once again provided a silver service and was an ocean of reliability from possession. Made two outstanding saves on the opening day against Cork, particularly from Shane Barrett. Could have been better positioned for Martin Keoghan’s All-Ireland final goal.
18. Diarmuid Ryan (Clare)
Took the fight to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final when so many colleagues couldn’t, a day when he scored three points – bringing to 0-9 what he struck from half-back.
19. Lee Chin (Wexford)
Came off the bench on the opening day to drag Wexford to a draw against Galway and produced big performances against Kilkenny and Clare as he hit 1-59, 0-12 from play.
20. Dáithí Burke (Galway)
Back to his best for much of the season and even after taking on board water early on against Gillane in the All-Ireland semi-final still steadied to win so many important battles. Solid against Kilkenny on both days too.
21. Joseph Cooney (Galway)
Operated between half-forward, midfield and even half-back after Gearóid McInerney’s All-Ireland semi-final withdrawal and left his impact on most games, scoring 2-18 overall.
22. John Conlon (Clare)
How much did Clare miss his robust presence from centre-back in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny? Had huge games against Tipperary and Limerick (final) in Munster.
23. Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)
Made a trio of saves against Galway in the first half of the Leinster final that helped to give Kilkenny supremacy, while his stop from Conor McDonald against Wexford was one of the saves of the championship. One uncharacteristic error in Galway led to a goal.
24. Tom Morrissey (Limerick)
Possibly being judged by his own exalted standards to suggest he has had better years and was taken off in his last three games. But with 0-16 scored Morrissey still delivered so much when Limerick needed him, leaving the best until last with four All-Ireland final points.
25. Richie Reid (Kilkenny)
Helped to transform Kilkenny with his move to centre-back when he came in. That sequence in the All-Ireland semi-final when he blocked Peter Duggan and then cleared for the Keoghan goal was indicative of his work.
26. Séamus Flanagan (Limerick)
Injured for much of the Munster Championship, he put on a stellar show in the Munster final against Clare, scoring eight points and followed up with good early form against Galway next time out too.
27. Cathal Mannion (Galway)
After Adrian Mullen, the championship’s most prolific point-scorer with 0-26, many from distance including four against Limerick in his deep-lying role.
28. Paddy Deegan (Kilkenny)
Had a tough time on Hegarty in the All-Ireland final, a day he still scored two points but was coming off the back of big displays against Galway and Clare.
29. Damien Reck (Wexford)
If only for his block and goal-line clearance from TJ Reid in the dying moments of Wexford’s first championship win over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, he deserves recognition. But there was more to Reck than that. He held Eoin Cody scoreless that evening and for a long time kept O’Donnell in check in the All-Ireland quarter-final before he got injured. Three points against Dublin, five overall. One of his county’s best.
30. David McInerney (Clare)
Clare’s best player in defeat to Kilkenny with so many catches from centre-back, he had great battles with Hegarty in Munster.
31. Robbie O’Flynn (Cork)
On their poorer days early on, O’Flynn was a beacon for Cork with his hard-running game yielding 11 points.
32. Ryan Taylor (Clare)
A revelation at midfield in 2022 where his pace caused all range of opponents trouble. Not as productive against Kilkenny but still, 13 points is a decent return for one of the quickest ball-carriers around.
33. Dónal Burke (Dublin)
Scored 59 points, 20 from play, in five games, an average of 12 points per game, four from play per game. Huge return on a team that didn’t fire.
34. Fintan Burke (Galway)
The measure of him was how he dealt with Hegarty in the All-Ireland semi-final, relishing the physical challenge and conceding just one point. At the other end, floated over three sidelines, among the eight points he scored.
35. Will O’Donoghue (Limerick)
Didn’t hit the heights he got to in 2021 but still big performances in both Clare games in Munster.
36. Tom Monaghan (Galway)
Big season, especially, Wexford in Salthill and Limerick as he operated between midfield and half-forward but it had its dips in the middle too. His ability to find pockets of space in crowds, to whip over scores (0-18 in total) was lauded by his manager.
37. Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)
Held his own against Clare’s Ian Galvin and Limerick’s Flanagan in Croke Park having been so consistent in the Leinster Championship.
38. Killian Doyle (Westmeath)
On a team that had their back to the wall for much of the Leinster round-robin, Doyle came up with 58 points, 10 from play. Rarely missed.
39. Noel McGrath (Tipperary)
Immense against Waterford first day out and finished with 33 points after taking over free-taking duties. Tipp’s performance dropped, McGrath’s didn’t.
40. Paul Flanagan (Clare)
Got caught in one-to-one aerial battles with TJ Reid in the All-Ireland semi-final but was otherwise tidy, composed and a real asset to Clare in 2022, especially in the Munster final against Kyle Hayes and against Wexford as the spare defender.
41. Dessie Hutchinson (Waterford)
A tame Waterford effort but the Ballygunner man still stood up with 1-3 against Tipperary and 0-5 against Limerick when it really mattered before posting 0-6 in a scorefest against Clare.
42. Tommy Doyle (Westmeath)
Has put in some outstanding performances – chiefly at full-back where Kilkenny’s Keoghan, subbed off early, and Dublin’s Ronan Hayes, among others, struggled in his company.
43. Mike Casey (Limerick)
Back after a two-year absence and acquitted himself well, particularly against Tipperary though there were difficult moments against Galway. But attacked every ball without fear, his ‘win’ late on ahead of Patrick Horgan the first day out was a real memory.
44. Éanna Murphy (Galway)
Three saves in the first half against Cork ultimately progressed Galway to an All-Ireland semi-final.
45. Rory Hayes (Clare)
Started the championship like a train, superb against Tipperary and Cork especially, but struggled in Flanagan’s company in the Munster final and was whipped off after just nine minutes against Wexford. Much improved against Kilkenny.
46. Darragh O’Donovan (Limerick)
Chipped away in the engine room all summer and got on the end of moves for six points, hitting Gillane with plenty of good ball in the semi-final.
47. Ciarán Joyce (Cork)
Strong first season for the 20-year-old who will be the rock on which future Cork defences are built. Even on a Cork team that took their time to get going, his competitive instincts shone.
48. Eoin Cody (Kilkenny)
Had his moments where his pace and power running at defences caused trouble, but had quiet days against Wexford, Galway and Limerick. His flick to create the Keoghan goal in the final was sublime.
49. Dan Morrissey (Limerick)
Restored to half-back and less effective than he has been at No 3 but enjoyed a decent final, having had it difficult against Monaghan in the semi-final.
50. Martin Keoghan (Kilkenny)
Whipped off early in a few games but goals are his currency and he scored five, including in the All-Ireland semi-final and final.