The talk is cheap but better than silence (Quote of the year) award:
Either John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer saying Tipp were “champions of Ireland” with a present participle added last Sunday on live television, or Tipperary minor hurling selector John Sheedy when asked about minors playing Gaelic football and hurling and he pointed out that with all the games, training, back doors, etc: “Batman wouldn’t do that.” (Note: this came out at the Tipperary press night, and much thanks to senior manager Michael Ryan for recommending a chat with John in the first place).
The man apart altogether (Player of the year) award:
Richie Hogan of Kilkenny has been very good all year and got a terrific goal Sunday, and ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer timed his run of excellence to his manager’s obvious satisfaction. Seamus Callanan had a once-in-a-lifetime All-Ireland final. But Austin Gleeson of Waterford has been the player everyone’s spoken about, imitated, and celebrated, and was also better than anyone else for longer, going back to those MOTM displays in the league (remember that? Played in springtime). The clue’s in the title: Of The Year, not just for the games seen by daytrippers.
The man apart altogether but not as old (Young player of the year) award:
Ronan Maher of Tipperary was still U21 this year but he was a key man on the Premier senior side. He stood up well to the ultimate tests on Sunday, TJ Reid and Richie Hogan: bound to improve over the next couple of seasons. Only needs to match big brother’s adventurousness at the barber.
The when worlds collide (Game of the year) award:
The Kilkenny-Waterford All-Ireland semi-final replay. Fought out in a savagely claustrophobic Semple Stadium, it was in doubt right to the final whistle, when Kilkenny got across the line thanks to the Save of the Year (see below). The teams revived the championship the previous weekend; they made it immortal the following Saturday.
The what we dreamed of as kids (Score of the year) award:
Bubbles’ goal against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final was a vital score, one that Tipperary badly needed as they grappled with the Tribesmen. It was also the most aesthetically pleasing goal of the year, with O’Dwyer swatting the ball past an in-form Colm Callanan on his near side, bouncing the ball downwards to squeeze it over the line from a very tight angle.
The I may not be Joe Hart but I don’t have dandruff (Save of the year) award:
Pauric Mahony of Waterford almost levelled the All-Ireland semi-final replay down in Thurles, but Eoin Murphy got up over the crossbar to pull down Mahony’s free. A superb match-deciding save, Murphy’s bravery was rewarded when Kilkenny worked the ball upfield for the score that made the game finally safe.
The air it out (Free of the year) award:
When Tipperary played Waterford in the league, Austin Gleeson launched a massive free with the last puck of the game to win it. From his own half. Or downtown, as I believe they say in basketball.
The I can do the moonwalk (New move of the year) award:
Revealed last Sunday — Tipperary’s forwards have shown a new skill, the ability to guide a dropping ball into their path: best examples, John McGrath and Bubbles O’Dwyer in the second half, letting the ball come over their shoulder before killing it and collecting on the run. Coming to a kids’ training session near you.
The Clive Thomas (Referee of the year) award:
Unfortunately this is not a well-contested category, and if one were to be mean-spirited about it, there could be a reverse award pinpointing... but less about that. Kudos to Barry Kelly for his handling of Galway- versus Tipp in particular, showing how to facilitate and enforce at the same time.
The runner-up ref of the year award:
The Kilkenny officials who chased James McGrath down the tunnel in Thurles the night of the All-Ireland semi-final replay. Only being helpful, I’m sure.
The git thar fustest with the mostest (Oddest tactic) award:
Tony Kelly of Clare was playing behind his own 65 at times in his county’s championship defeat to Waterford: a strike forward who should be inside the opposition 65, if not closer to their goal. A situation compounded by being occasionally joined far from shore by the likes of Podge Collins.
The you wait for hours then two come along (The suddenly easy skills) award:
There was a time when a sideline cut going over the bar almost drew a national holiday. There were two in the biggest game of the year on Sunday — from Bubbles and Mark Kelly — while during the year the likes of Austin Gleeson and Joe Canning were hitting them for fun. Seriously, when did this become so easy?
The knowing what to do (Classy touch of the year) award:
After the Munster final, Tipp manager Michael Ryan was in the tunnel under the stand in the Gaelic Grounds; he wouldn’t talk to the reporters present until Waterford manager Derek McGrath, up the corridor, was finished. Courtesy costs nothing.
The belated knowing what to do (Classy touch of the year) award:
TJ Ryan of Limerick stepped down this year, which gives an opportunity to revisit the Munster final of 2014. After Limerick took the field that day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Ryan followed his players out and high-fived the children who formed the guard of honour for his players. It showed a lot of class on a pressurised day.
The Deep Impact Morgan Freeman (Collision of the year) award:
When Paudie Maher of Tipp met Joe Canning of Galway along the sideline of the Hogan Stand side in Croke Park, the clash made the girders in the stadium shake. A fair shoulder, respect to both men for giving it, taking it and carrying on after it — and to ref Barry Kelly for calling it as such.
The when space is at a premium (Hurling in a phonebox) award:
If there was ever a player who could utilise the smallest amount of room available, Richie Hogan of Kilkenny is that man. Hogan’s ability to use the smallest amount of space on offer to shake off a defender or get a shot away is unparallelled.
The home of hurling (Venue of the year) award:
Stadia may come and go but Thurles is forever. Not literally, perhaps, when climate change is on all our minds, but you know what we mean.
The (much-anticipated) Paudie Maher (Haircut of the year) award:
A break with tradition here as we go to a tight squeeze between Cormac Murphy of Cork, fond of a high tight cut, and Maurice Shanahan, given to a high bald cut. We’ll let them fight it out and may the best bazzer win.