Waterford’s third league success has been built on a solid defence that has helped them to five ‘cleansheets’ in eight games, including two against Division 1 opponents, Galway and Cork. Inevitably they dominate the Irish Independent’s Hurling Team of the League with six selections
1. Stephen O’Keeffe
Being protected by the tightest defence in the campaign gave him a comfortable ride – they only conceded three goals from general play – but his save from Seamus Harnedy in the final typified his performances.
2. Paul Schutte
Has developed as a really forceful defender in this campaign, closing out some of the best forwards and instinctively attacking the ball at every opportunity
3. Peter Kelly
A return to his best position, after a spell at centre-back, gave Dublin a steadier hand for the closing stages.
4. Noel Connors
If Connors was a rugby player he’d wear No 7 across his back. For hooking, blocking and emerging with possession from so many of those rucks that tend to form in Waterford games, there has been no one better.
5. Austin Gleeson
Emerging as one of the game’s great talents, Gleeson has class in abundance and the versatility to play across any line. So measured in his clearances.
6. Padraic Maher
The rock on which the Tipperary defence is built, their outstanding player in the games against Galway and Kilkenny.
7. Tadhg de Burca
The fulcrum of arguably Waterford’s most influential line, De Burca provides the hard edge and is a primary source of possession.
8. Kevin Moran
If hurling had an order of merit Moran would currently top it. Deise’s leader and Man of the Match in the League semi-final, the No 10 on his back is merely for identification.
9. Tony Kelly
More attuned to half-forward play but their game-plan ensures midfield is also his hinterland. Missed the first two defeats but found impressive form towards the end of the league.
10. Seamus Harnedy
Brings an exceptional work-rate to his game but also chips in with key scores, including the winner against Dublin in the semi-final. Finished with 0-21.
11. Pauric Mahony
A scoring machine for the League champions, finishing with 1-90, 1-19 from play. But even that disguises the quality of his deliveries and his industry in deeper positions.
12. Mark Schutte
Ripped Limerick apart in a League quarter-final and continued his fine form against Cork in the League semi-final 1-3. A vastly improved forward.
13. Richie Hogan
The current Hurler of the Year was used quite sparingly during the campaign but he still amassed 1-43 (0-13 from play). His opening night performance against Cork a real highlight.
14. Seamus Callanan
Started slowly but built momentum and was scintillating when Tipp were at their best. He finished with 3-45 but some of his touches were glorious, like his pass for James Woodlock’s goal against Clare.
15. Patrick Horgan
Hard to exclude Conor Lehane but Horgan’s free-taking carried Cork through so many games. Disappointed in the final but still finished with 2-87, 2-19 from play in eight games.