Saturday 15 December 2018

Tipperary star Jason Forde is top of league charts according to our ratings

Tipperary’s Jason Forde holds off Limerick’s Sean Finn during their league semi-final in Thurles last month. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Jason Forde holds off Limerick’s Sean Finn during their league semi-final in Thurles last month. Photo: Sportsfile

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Jason Forde's stellar performances in helping Tipperary to a league final make him the form hurler in the top two divisions after a special analysis carried out by the Irish Independent.

More than 900 players lined out in the league across six divisions and each were rated by our reporters and correspondents, with only those who featured in at least four matches considered in the final analysis.

Walter Walsh of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Walter Walsh of Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

And when the numbers were crunched, Silvermines star Forde's haul of 7-72 helped to propel him to the top of our Division 1A ratings with an average of 8.29, followed closely by the brilliant Kilkenny man TJ Reid who came in with an 8.14 average across his league campaign.

As was the case with the football ratings which were published in this newspaper last Saturday, forwards picked up the higher marks than backs and that is reflected throughout the divisions.

Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley is the top-rated defender according to our ratings, averaging 7.63 over his successful spring. In Division 1B, that honour goes to Limerick's Diarmuid Byrnes on 7.57.

However, it is hard to argue with Forde and Reid coming out on top of the pile in 1A. Forde topped the scoring charts in his division, including an incredible 2-12 haul against the Cats while Reid wasn't far behind on 1-81.

The Ballyhale Shamrocks man's tally included 0-15 in the league final as he dragged the Cats to what looked like an unlikely title after they had lost their opening two league games, only to bounce back and secure yet more silverware for the county.

After Forde, Antrim star Neil McManus put up the best numbers across the top two divisions with an 8.2 average. Despite the Saffrons enduring a forgettable campaign, McManus was excellent, regularly topping the ratings for his side.

Antrim won just one of five games in the league proper before losing a promotion/relegation play-off to Laois that means they will operate in Division 2A next year, meaning McManus was a rare bright spot for the Ulster men.  

However, even Forde couldn't match the Lancashire's Ronan Crowley. The Cork native was operating well away from the rarified heights of Division 1 but he topped the overall ratings with 8.75 after putting up some huge tallies as the Exiles secured Division 3B success.

Our analysis also revealed that Dublin and London used the most amount of players over their league campaign (34).

Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary also used in excess of 30 players as counties try to add further depth to their panels ahead of a new more gruelling championship schedule.

Division 1A

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Jason Forde may be the top hurler across the top two divisions but league champions Kilkenny and Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford dominate our Division 1A selection.

Brian Cody's men fill five positions on the team through goalkeeper Eoin Murphy, defenders Pádraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley with Reid and Walter Walsh included in the forwards after they claimed yet more silverware under Brian Cody.

Their Leinster rivals Wexford are represented by Liam Ryan, Paudie Foley, Lee Chin, Kevin Foley and exciting young tyro Rory O'Connor.

In total, five of the 1A teams are represented with Cork the only side to miss out. The Rebels beat Kilkenny on the opening weekend of the league to make a promising start to life under John Meyler but they didn't win again until they beat Waterford in a relegation play-off to maintain their Division 1A status for 2019.

Beaten league finalists Tipperary and Clare, who lost out at the quarter-final stage after losing a 'shoot-out' to Limerick, each have two players on our team of the league. Top dog Forde is joined by defender Alan Flynn while Clare are represented by John Conlon and David Reidy in attack.

Despite an injury-hit start to the year, Austin Gleeson is the Déise's sole representative and he takes his place in the half-back line.

Division 1B

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All six of the Division 1B teams are represented here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, promoted Limerick make up a third of the team after they won all five of their 1B games before losing out in a league semi-final to Tipperary in a thriller after extra-time.

Seán Finn, Dan Morrissey, Diarmuid Byrnes, Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane are all included from John Kiely's side as they secured promotion back to the top flight.

All-Ireland champions Galway are represented by the Mannion brothers Cathal and Pádraic at either end of the field with Seán Loftus also included after a good showing in the league.

Offaly enjoyed a promising spring under Kevin Martin and caught the eye when running Kilkenny close in a league quarter-final and they have three on the side including attacking veterans Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin as well as Ben Connelly in defence.

Goalkeeper Enda Rowland and Ross King from Laois are also included with McManus Antrim's sole representative.

Divisions 2A and 2B

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Nine of the 12 teams who competed in these two divisions are represented. Interestingly, no Down player makes the team despite them reaching the Division 2B final, while Kildare, who didn't win a game in 2A, and Armagh, who won just once in 2B, miss out.

Ten players come from 2A sides with Westmeath, Carlow, Kerry, Meath and London all earning two spots on the team. Division 2B champions Mayo are also represented twice, while Wicklow, Donegal and Derry get one spot each.

Wicklow's Robert Fitzgerald is selected in goal and his rating of 7.8 makes him the highest averaging goalkeeper across all the divisions. Division 2A top scorer Jack Regan of Meath is named at full-forward after hitting 2-47 in five games.

Carlow's Martin Kavanagh is the top-rated player across theses two divisions, earning marks of one seven, four eights and a nine in his six appearances to average out at 8.0.

Divisions 3A and 3B

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The players in these divisions could hardly be much further removed from the spotlight but they still have racked up some of the biggest numbers. Tyrone's Casey hit 2-11 in one game but even that feat was eclipsed by Louth's Niall Arthur's 4-12 against Longford. 

However, Cork native Ronan Crowley is the top-rated hurler across all the divisions after the Bandon man helped Lancashire to a 3B title where he scored 0-16 of his side's 1-25 tally.  

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