Cat scan: As Kilkenny bid for yet another leinster title
1 Henry Shefflin: Best hurler of all time? He continues to build his case for those who remain unconvinced, while the many who believe he has already done enough to claim the No 1 spot are now watching him decorate his extraordinary achievements.
He leads fellow Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher by 67 points on the all-time championship charts, having scored a total of 22-434 in 57 successive games since making his championship debut in 1999 on the same day that Brian Cody led Kilkenny into Leinster SHC action for the first time.
2 dj carey
His Kilkenny senior career began nine years before Cody's first championship as manager, but he was very much at the heart of the new millennium revolution which he launched with a Hurler of the Year campaign in 2000. He remained a key component in the attacking machine right up to his last inter-county game, the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Galway in 2005. Lest we forget, he was a genius.
3 Tommy Walsh
He scored 0-5 from left half-forward on his championship debut against Dublin in 2003. Three months later, he won an All Star award and has added eight more consecutively since then, six as a wing-back, one as a corner-back, one as a midfielder.
Kilkenny's system of selecting captains (county champions) makes it improbable that Walsh will ever lead the team (Tullaroan are 40/1 to win this year's Kilkenny championship). Seems a pity that Walsh -- and JJ Delaney too -- are likely to finish their careers without captaining Kilkenny. Why link leadership with the collective strength of a player's club?
4 JJ DELANEY
His performance against Dublin (prior to picking up an injury) in the Leinster semi-final was as close to full-back perfection as you'll get. It wasn't the first time that opposition decided to test his aerial skills and certainly wasn't the first time that they found it a dismally unproductive policy. And when Delaney isn't required at full-back, he's one of the best No 7s in hurling history.
5 EDDIE BRENNAN
Remember his role in Kilkenny's second goal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final? He could easily have taken a point (putting Kilkenny six ahead after 49 minutes) when space opened up before him, but instead he had a higher investment in mind. He made ground, delivered a radar-accurate pass to Richie Hogan who whipped the ball to the Tipperary net. Hogan was the finisher but Brennan's instinct for goal -- a talent he nurtured right through his career -- was crucial in creating a goal that possibly won the game.
6 noel hickey
Called into the squad for the 2000 campaign at the age of 20, he has been a huge presence at No 3 for much of the intervening period. Beat illness and injury to return to the high standards he set for himself from the day he made his championship debut against Dublin on June 18, 2000.
7 jackie tyrell
Run at him. Turn him. Play the ball over his head and speed on to it. Draw him out of position. Theories abound on how to beat him, but they tend to overlook one basic essential -- he knows the art of defending in such minute detail that a compilation of the way he goes about it would be a worthwhile addition to any young hurler's DVD collection.
8 michael kavanagh
Pre-dated Brian Cody's arrival and played a massive role in building the great empire. Like Tyrrell, his ability to read the game was one of his biggest assets. His role in Kilkenny's second goal in the 2009 All-Ireland final (he kept the ball in play when many others would have failed to prevent it going over the sideline) was crucial to the four-in-a-row success. Instead of winning an attacking line ball, which might have yielded a point, Tipperary were under pressure from Kavanagh's clearance and conceded a goal to Martin Comerford.
9 derek lyng
Power, courage and relentless determination underpinned his game, but he was also more skilful than he got credit for. How many opposition midfielders wished their careers had taken them into defence or attack after jousts with Lyng?
10 richie power
Still only 26 years old, his best may be yet to come. If he gets better, it will be a real bonus for Kilkenny as his current standards are enough to give all opponents a splitting headache.
11 james mcgarry
He received a 'Dear James' letter from Brian Cody in late 1998, informing him he was no longer required. As circumstances changed over the next few months, he was recalled to the panel and went on to impose himself as one of the best goalkeepers in a golden generation for No 1s.
12 brian hogan
Henry Shefflin's departure through injury in the 2010 All-Ireland final was a huge boost for Tipperary, but Hogan's absence for the full game may have been just as important in shaping the game. Tipperary made great progress through the middle that day, something which would have been much more difficult if Hogan had been manning the No 6 slot.
13 peter barry
Moved from wing-back to centre-back where he thrived in the first half of the last decade. An imposing figure, he was hugely influential in Kilkenny's power surge under the leadership of his club colleague, Brian Cody.
14 martin comerford
When Kilkenny needed crucial goals, he was a willing accomplice with Eddie Brennan in finding ways of squeezing them from defences. Remember his crucial strikes against Cork in the 2003 All-Ireland final and against Tipperary in 2009?
15 eoin larkin
Like so many Kilkenny attackers, he can play anywhere and, if required, is a deadly free-taker too. Still only 27 years old, so there's a whole lot more fuel in this particular tank.
16 michael fennelly
Took some time to establish himself as a No 1 choice at midfield, but quickly made up for lost time. Yet another from the Kilkenny school of midfield excellence.
17 andy comerford
A powerful midfield presence in the early years of the Cody reign. Captained the team to All-Ireland glory in 2002.
18 michael rice
An influential figure in Kilkenny's power game and likely to remain so. Equally comfortable at midfield or half-forward.
19 james 'cha' Fitzpatrick
Signed off the panel this year after losing a place that he looked to have secured on a long-term basis after picking up three All Star awards in 2006, '07 and '08. It was pity to see such a talent check out.
20 charlie carter
His career ended in controversial circumstances in 2003 when he left the panel during the championship, but it shouldn't overshadow his contribution over previous years when his opportunism caused all sorts of problems for opposition.
21 aidan fogarty
Scored 1-3 in the 2006 All-Ireland final, a game that set Kilkenny on their four-in-a-row voyage and sent Cork into rapid decline.
22 philip larkin
Maintained the great family tradition when becoming the third generation of Larkins to win All-Ireland senior medals.
23 willie o'connor
Captained Kilkenny to the first All-Ireland in the Cody era in 2000. Aged 33 at the time, his career was winding down but his contribution to the launch of the golden age deserves recognition.
24 john tennyson
Has had his career interrupted by injury but can still be proud of his contribution to Kilkenny's golden era.
25 john power
Wasn't on the panel in 1998 but restored once Cody came in. Power delivered with his usual mix of strength and industry over the next few seasons.
26 denis byrne
Another who played a big part in raising Kilkenny boats after a period of calm while Offaly, Clare, Wexford and Cork ruled the high seas.
27 richie hogan
The best is yet to come. If it's to mirror his performance in last year's All-Ireland final, it's going to be mighty impressive.
28 tj reid
Looks as if he's finally ascending to the heights he has promised to reach in recent years.
29 pj ryan
Had to wait patiently for his chance but took it most impressively following James McGarry's departure. Man of the Match in the 2009 All-Ireland final, his saves kept Kilkenny's four-in-a-row ambitions afloat.
30 james ryall
One of the unsung heroes of Kilkenny over several seasons, his defensive versatility was a major asset.
31 brian mcevoy
Left the panel short after Charlie Carter's departure in 2003. Had plenty good days over previous years.
32 john hoyne
A hard worker across the half-forward line, he created more than he scored but was happy to fulfil that role.
33 willie o'dwyer
An underrated attacker, he was well capable of disrupting the best defences when playing at full power.
34 paul murphy
Enjoyed an excellent debut season last year and has maintained his form this term.
35 colin fennelly
Moving up through the gears, he will be aboard the Kilkenny bus for a long time to come.
36 david herity
Has settled in well as the third goalkeeper of the Cody era.
37 Eamonn kennedy
Restored to the panel after Cody's arrival, he did well for a few seasons, winning an All Star award at centre-back in 2000.
38 richie mullally
A solid campaigner over several seasons, his versatility brought an extra dimension to his overall value.
39 paddy mullally
Like his brother, he brought huge honesty to his game.
40 canice brennan
He was there at the start of the Cody era, having done more than most in an effort to change Kilkenny's fortunes in the late 1990s.
41 john dalton
Looked set for a great career a few years ago but never quite advanced to the level his potential suggested.
42 paddy hogan
Making an impressive move to build on the promise of the last few years.
43 jimmy coogan
Had some good days in exalted company.
44 pj delaney (2006)
Not to be confused with his Fenians clubmate of the same name who was on the squad in 1999, the younger PJ joined the squad in 2006.
45 donnacha cody
Unfortunate with injuries which disrupted his progress.
46 stephen grehan
Made a considerable contribution in the early years of the Cody reign.
47 sean dowling
Filled a super-sub role on quite a few occasions.
48 pat tennyson
Looked as if he might nail down a regular spot around 2002 but it didn't quite work out that way.
49 ken coogan
Had an extended run in 2004, but it was a disappointing year for Kilkenny, who were beaten by Wexford and Cork.
50 conor phelan
Played eight championship games, four as a sub.
51 ken o'shea
Scored 3-1 in '99 championship.
52 pat o'neill
At the end of his career in 1999. Played in the All-Ireland semi-final and final.
53 eoin mccormack
Figured quite regularly in attack in 2005-2006.
54 john mulhall
Came on as a sub three times last year.
55 tom hickey
Noel's older brother captained the team in the 1998 All-Ireland final and played in the two Leinster championship games a year later.
56 eoin reid
Made five appearances as a starter and sub.
57 brian dowling
Made a few championship appearances as a sub.
58 niall moloney
Came on as a sub in all four of Kilkenny's championship games in 1999.
59 pj delaney (1999)
Made three appearances as a sub in Cody's first season in charge.
60 bryan barry
Seemed to be on his way to big things in 2005, but it didn't work out.
61 aidan cummins
Had a few outings.
62 sean meally
Full-back against Dublin for the first Leinster game in 2000.
63 john paul corcoran
Made a few appearances as a sub.
64 sean cummins
One outing as a sub.
65 walter burke
Came on a sub against Dublin in 2003.
66 john maher
Two runs from the bench in 2004.
67 peter cleere
Played twice in the championship.
68 john costello
Came on as a sub for Eamonn Kennedy in Cody's first championship game as manager against Laois in 1999.
69 alan geoghegan
One outing off the bench in 2002.
70 mark phelan
One run as a sub.
71 richie doyle
Placing the newcomers to the squad at the bottom end is done deliberately as their time is yet to come. Doyle is already being talked off as the new JJ Delaney. Best for him if he's allowed to play his own way into the most competitive squad in hurling without comparisons.
72 cillian buckley
Another youngster with long-term plans for a Kilkenny jersey.
73 matthew ruth
A new sniper in the Kilkenny army.
74 kieran joyce
Another who is trying to force his way into the most competitive field in hurling.