Halloween is here and so are the All Stars, but I don’t think there was anything that counts as a real scare in the 15 hurlers chosen.
Brian Hogan got goalkeeper, which was probably one of the more uncertain spots. Eoin Murphy can be considered unlucky. Right now, he is the best in the business, but missed out.
Two All-Stars as yet doesn’t really do justice to Eoin’s status in the game.
But congratulations to Brian Hogan, and to his father, Ken, the first father and son to win an All-Star in the same position. Ken, who kept goal for Tipp for years, got one back in 1987. Now the son has his own one. It’s a marvellous achievement.
There wouldn’t have been too much debate about the backs. No arguments about Seán Finn and Cathal Barrett as the corner-backs. They were clearly ahead of the pack. And much the same story with Brendan Maher and Pádraic Maher as the wing-backs.
Full-back might have been an issue, because a case could definitely be made for the consistency with which Liam Ryan performed for Wexford and Mike Casey for Limerick. But Ronan Maher heading in there for Tipperary was the story of the year about full-back. Once Ronan did well, and Tipp won the All-Ireland, the wind was only blowing one way.
His brother Paudie received his sixth award, which is some going, putting him level with Nicky English and Eoin Kelly. Some company to be in… A hurler can be lucky to get one in a particular season. But you don’t accumulate six of them without being a really serious operator.
And who would bet against Paudie getting another one, and becoming the most decorated Tipperary hurler of all time in terms of All Stars?
I’m sure there’ll be personal motivation in that for 2020. Once players get to 30 or so, they need to find fresh angles to keep themselves right.
Pádraig Walsh slotted in at centre-back, and nearly everyone will be happy enough with that. I like Paddy Deegan, his team-mate in Kilkenny, someone who did terrific marking jobs over the summer. But if Paddy had got in, it would have been at Pádraig’s expense. So where do you go?
Noel McGrath was nailed on in midfield. In fact, he is fierce unlucky not to be a nominee for Hurler of the Year. I imagine Séamus Callanan will get that award, ahead of Patrick Horgan and TJ Reid.
But how much better for Tipp was Séamie than Noel?
Diarmuid O’Keeffe will be a popular choice for a partner at midfield. Diarmuid is there for the buzz he brought to Wexford. He popped up everywhere. You could definitely mention Kevin Foley in this area, but Kevin, same as with Paddy Deegan and Pádraig Walsh, could only have made it at his own man’s expense.
The forwards nearly picked themselves. Well, Lee Chin, TJ Reid, Séamus Callanan and Patrick Horgan were certs. Aaron Gillane was almost in the same category, because he became Limerick’s go-to guy during the summer. At times, Aaron looks like he’ll become hurling’s next superstar forward. The makings of it are there.
There will be an eyebrow or two raised about Colin Fennelly being picked at wing-forward. Colin is no stranger to the position but he did nearly all of his hurling in 2019 at full-forward. Do we need to go back to the old system where players were nominated for a specific line?
But I suppose Colin’s influence on Kilkenny’s great wins over Cork and Limerick, in the All-Ireland quarter-final and the All-Ireland semi-final, couldn’t be overlooked. Those wins were as considerable underdogs, something Kilkenny don’t experience too often. Colin truly stood up when it counted.
Jason Forde has to be the man unluckiest to lose out as an attacker. When a team scored as much as Tipperary did in 2019, is it logical that they only have one forward of the six? But odd things happen. The six lads there, including Colin, are there on merit.
By the way, I looked on in admiration last Sunday as Ballyhale Shamrocks did back to back senior titles in Kilkenny.
James Stephens found it hard to come up with answers to the speed at which the Ballyhale lads went at it. Actually, a friend from Kilkenny was on to me, once he heard this year’s selection, and he says Ballyhale Shamrocks now have the most All Stars of any club.
Colin and TJ getting picked seemingly made 29 in total. They had been level top with James Stephens on 27, but now Ballyhale are sole top. I suppose James Stephens have had better weeks, but nobody will begrudge a bit of good fortune for a place that has seen more than its fair share of tragedy in recent years.
There will always be decisions to pick at around the edges. Did Enda Rowland have a shout in the goal, if Eoin Murphy wasn’t getting in?
You could make a case, and it would have been a nice boost for Laois hurling. But it’s always difficult to raise a shout that comes off if your team doesn’t at least feature in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
And you nearly must perform well on the biggest day of all to be certain of your chances.
There are always realities you can’t get around, and the All-Ireland final as the biggest determinant on the All-Star pick is just one of them, any day of the year.