Shefflin and Cats steal All Star show

KILKENNY are celebrating one of their highest All Star tallies ever under Brian Cody after picking up eight of the GAA-GPA awards sponsored by Opel.

The haul is only second to the nine they picked up in 2000 and 2008 and is the same spread as their representation on the 2003 side.

As part of the group, Henry Shefflin has collected a record-breaking 10th All Star, beating the previous best he jointly-held with former Kilkenny teammate DJ Carey and Kerry great Pat Spillane.

Wing-back Tommy Walsh has now joined Carey and Spillane in having won a remarkable ninth consecutive award, smashing the eight-in-a-row record he had shared with Shefflin, who was denied a ninth successive accolade last year largely down to a cruciate injury.

Shefflin and Walsh are joined by Kilkenny teammates Paul Murphy, Brian Hogan, Michael Fennelly, Michael Rice, Richie Power and Richie Hogan.

Murphy and the two Hogans are three of six first-timers in the 15, along with Dublin goalkeeper Gary Maguire, midfielder Liam Rushe and Tipperary’s Michael Cahill,

Fennelly, a contender for Hurler of the Year along with Walsh and Tipperary’s Padraic Maher, will receive his second All Star, as will Rice and Power.

Just like two years ago, when he missed out at full-back, JJ Delaney can count himself unfortunate to be overlooked after an excellent All-Ireland final preceded by an impressive second-half display against Waterford in the semi-final.

However, his closest opponent for a position in the half-back line was his teammate Hogan, with Walsh and Maher having been shortlisted for the top individual prize.

Although Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher’s cause had support, Kilkenny make up the entire half-forward line.

It’s the second time the Cats under Cody have dominated all three positions across the one line — Michael Kavanagh, Noel Hickey and Jackie Tyrrell making up the full-back trio in 2008.

All-Ireland runners-up Tipperary are next best with four awards, Cahill and Paul Curran being chosen in the full-back line with Corbett being selected for the third consecutive year and Maher winning his second All Star.

Cahill, Maher and Corbett’s acknowledgements mark a proud day for Thurles Sarsfields and will provide some consolation after recently surrendering their senior county title.

Likewise, Dublin are celebrating their best ever number on an All Star hurling team, with Maguire and Rushe earning awards.

Alan McCrabbe’s award two years ago was the county’s first in 21 years and their All-Ireland semi-final appearance and Division 1 title is reflected here.

Peter Kelly and Paul Ryan also had good shouts in the full-back and full-forward lines while Conal Keaney’s freak injury before the quarter-final win over Limerick deprived him of what surely would have been an All Star-winning season.

John Mullane is Waterford’s sole award winner, his third consecutive gong, while no player from Galway or Limerick, who were represented in the nominations, made the 15.

For the second year running, only four counties — again, the All-Ireland semi-finalists — featured in the team.

Six of last year’s team made the grade in 2011 — Curran, Walsh, Corbett, Mullane and Power.

Responding to the team’s announcement, GAA president Christy Cooney said: “Within Kilkenny’s haul of eight the personal feats of both Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh remind us that we are witnessing first-hand the skills of players who are as good as any that have played the game.”

Rushe, Limerick’s Declan Hannon and Waterford’s Pauric Mahony are in contention for the Young Hurler of the Year award tonight.

The 2011 GAA-GPA Football All Stars sponsored by Opel will be announced live on RTÉ 1 from the Convention Centre Dublin this evening at 7pm, along with the Player of the Year Awards.

Picture: STAR GAZING: Tommy Walsh picks up a record eighth consecutive All Star. Picture: Inpho

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