Fennelly top of the bill in stars roll call
Jamesie O'Connor selects his 2011 All Star side and, not surprisingly, Kilkenny names dominate
1 Gary Maguire
While Kilkenny's David Herity probably feels he should have stopped Pa Bourke's goal in the All-Ireland final, it's a solitary blemish in what was a great first season between the posts as Kilkenny's number one. Yet, after a rock-solid year, I think few could quibble with Dublin's Gary Maguire getting the nod ahead of both Herity and Tipperary's Brendan Cummins. A lot of Dublin players stood up and were counted when it mattered most this season and none more so than their netminder. Not only performed the bread and butter basics consistently throughout the season, but pulled off crucial saves in the league final, as well as against both Galway and Tipperary in the championship. Deserves to get the All Star, and I think the consensus is he will.
2 Paul murphy
Had an outstanding debut season, unquestionably the best right full-back in the country in 2011, and in my mind a certainty to win his first All Star. Got his chance against Wexford and seized it with both hands. Followed it up with another great display in the Leinster final, and in fact hardly put a foot wrong all year. Certainly didn't look like someone playing in his first senior final four weeks ago as he delivered another tenacious and impressive performance, and likely to be a fixture on the Kilkenny team for some time to come.
3 paul curran
A few anxious moments with Eoin Larkin in the opening minutes of the final apart, it's hard to think of another instance when Tipperary's full-back was troubled all year. Very, very effective in a position that many counties are struggling to fill, and a real leader in the Tipperary dressing room. While a compelling case can also be made for Noel Hickey's inclusion, I thought Curran was just that little bit better.
4 peter kelly
If you were picking a team to go to war with in the morning, Jackie Tyrrell would occupy the number four jersey, but I don't think Jackie did enough to merit inclusion in a team of the year. Limerick's Tom Condon had a fine year, as did Tipperary's Mickey Cahill, who I'm sure will feature in many people's selection. It's hard to have any real arguments with that, particularly after his finish to the season. But because of his versatility, and the contribution he made over the entire year, Dublin's Peter Kelly has to be included. After a superb league final, the team's needs saw him redeployed to full-back in the crucial game with Galway following Tomás Brady's season-ending injury, where he coped admirably with the threat of Joe Canning. Had a superb Leinster final under the severest of pressure, was rock-solid against Limerick, and while initially struggling with Lar Corbett in the semi-final, he went on to have a massive second half. Has pace, athleticism, and ball-winning ability and is a player, I think, with a really big future.
5 tommy walsh
What can you say? A certainty to win his ninth consecutive All Star, and he's still only 28. Consistently excellent again on his return from injury; impeccable in the air -- watching him outfield Conal Keaney in the Leinster final remains one of the defining moments of the year -- and outstanding in the first half of the All-Ireland final in particular.
6 brian hogan
Another relatively easy decision to make. Anchored the Kilkenny defence superbly, and apart from John Mullane's second-half cameo in the Waterford match, put the shackles on everyone else he marked. Was a bigger loss to Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland final than many of us realised and underlined his value to the side with one big performance after another this year.
7 pádraic maher
In any other year, with a man of the match performance in the All-Ireland final, allied to his reputation as arguably the greatest defender of the modern era, JJ Delaney would be a lock at right half-back. It's a testament to the form shown by Maher all year, though, that he usurps the Kilkennyman. Probably the hurler of the year had Tipperary won the All-Ireland, following dominant displays in his side's first four matches. Not as influential in the final, but another automatic choice.
8 michael fennelly
Hurler of the year, and has grown into a real powerhouse in the Kilkenny engine room. Had to serve his apprenticeship, but after the last two seasons, has really established himself as a central pillar on Brian Cody's teamsheet. Dynamic, athletic and the type of driving player Cody loves to have in the middle of the field.
9 liam rushe
After the tour de force he produced against Galway, Waterford's Kevin Moran deserves mention, as does Limerick's consistently reliable Donal O'Grady. However, Liam Rushe has to get the nod to partner Fennelly at midfield. Like Peter Kelly, Rushe's versatility saw him redeployed elsewhere, as the team's needs dictated. He put in stints at centre-back against Galway, where he lorded proceedings and dominated the match, as well as in the Leinster final, when Joey Boland was struggling having just returned from injury; and wing-forward against Limerick, to provide much needed ball-winning ability in the wake of Conal Keaney's loss. Either way, his performances and consistent excellence all season will garner him a deserved All Star as well the young player of the year award.
10 michael rice
Although selected at midfield in the final, where he made more plays than anyone else on the field and was hugely influential, Rice played most of his hurling at number ten this year, and that's where I've stationed him. Very similar in style to Fennelly: fit, athletic, dynamic, but proved himself a scorer as well as a provider in Kilkenny's earlier matches, and another automatic choice for me.
11 richie power
Has matured and really stepped up to the plate in the last two seasons. Has huge ball-winning ability and unselfishly laid passes off to others that he could often have finished himself. His direct style caused problems for every direct opponent he faced this year, problems they didn't encounter with any other centre-forward.
12 henry shefflin
Certain to become the first ever player to win 10 All Star awards, further cementing his place in hurling history. Kilkenny's best player in both the Leinster final and in the semi-final defeat of Waterford, and as important as ever in terms of his influence both in the dressing room and on the field. The other obvious contenders for a berth in the half-forward positions are Tipperary's Bonner Maher and Dublin's Conal Keaney, with honourable mentions to Waterford's Pádraic Mahony and Limerick's Declan Hannon. While Bonner had his moments, he was taken off against Dublin in the semi-final, and for me didn't do enough to get in. Keaney is a closer call, on the back of what he brought to Dublin right throughout the league and up until his accident. Had he been available for the Limerick and Tipperary matches, the deck might well have been reshuffled.
13 john mullane
Produced a match-winning display against Limerick, and despite a Munster final that every Waterford person will want to forget, came good again against Galway. Showed real leadership in the semi-final with Kilkenny where, as ever, he wore his heart on his sleeve, and as someone remarked to me, never hid or went missing, even when the Waterford ship was going under. Tipperary's Eoin Kelly had an excellent Munster campaign, and if this team was picked in July, Kelly would have been one of the first names on it. Unfortunately for Tipperary, his form dipped in Croke Park, and he ended the year with two displays well below the standards we've come to expect from him.
14 lar corbett
Will have huge regrets with how the All-Ireland final went, but up to that had another great year. Got crucial scores, including key goals against Cork, Clare and Dublin, as well as giving the standout performance of the year in the Munster final. To get 4-4 from play on the second Sunday in July in Páirc Uí Chaoimh meant Lar's All Star was secured on that performance alone.
15 richie hogan
While he was unerringly accurate from dead balls, particularly when the pressure was on, and had a fine game against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, I don't think Dublin's Paul Ryan did enough from play in the other games to squeeze in. Colin Fennelly too had his moments, and also comes close, but on the back of his goal against Wexford, two against Waterford, and sublime finish for the decisive score in the All-Ireland final, Richie Hogan deserves the nod.
Sunday Indo Sport