The talk is cheap but better than silence or quote of the year award:
Who else? The man who said, as he resigned from inter-county refereeing: “The general feeling among a lot of the public — friends and indeed members of own club, county and community — would have said I had a very good chance of refereeing the final.”
James McGrath’s tantrum was simultaneously hilarious and hugely damaging to his (remaining) inter-county colleagues, adding as it does to the rumbling sense that some referees see themselves as the main show, not the players or the game itself.
Still, if he had gotten the game the gaiety of the nation would have been much reduced. So muchas gracias.
The man apart altogether or player of the year award:
Last year Joe Canning got the award for hurler of the year. In truth he should have gotten point of the year for his All-Ireland semi-final winner, as there was no way he was the standout hurler of the season (that was Conor Whelan).
It was an award like Paul Newman’s Oscar, given for brilliance in a career rather than a specific display. There’s a far stronger case for Canning to get it this year.
It’s not an insult to Limerick that they don’t get the award. Before the final yours truly said they weren’t reliant on a single player to anchor either their defence or attack, they were such a well-balanced side (something that will make them a significant force in future seasons, but that’s another day’s work.) Limerick the side of the year. Canning the single player of the season.
The man apart altogether but not as old, or young player of the year award:
Kyle Hayes of Limerick was in a minor All-Ireland final two years ago, won an U21 All-Ireland last year and was man-of-the-match by some distance in the senior decider on Sunday.
Four points and an assist for Graeme Mulcahy’s goal and caused wreck all day. The irony is Hayes is a future centre-back for Limerick. What damage will he do when he settles into his best position?
The when worlds collide or game of the year award:
Some years you struggle at this point. One of the first championship games this year, though, was Dublin-Kilkenny in Parnell Park, now a forgotten masterpiece in a minor key.
Forgetting, if possible, the quality of the Munster championship, the fine balance of the semi-finals — both level after 70 minutes, and one still level after 90- makes them front-runners.
Does the fact Clare-Galway couldn’t be separated make that a better game or is the way Limerick kicked on in extra time enough to give them the crown? A dead heat, but what a weekend that was.
The what we dreamed of as kids or score of the year award:
Peter Duggan’s point against Galway has already entered the annals, and deservedly so. The fact it was a crucial score in a tight game, not the adornment added to an easy victory, adds to its lustre.
Duggan’s match-winner against Tipperary was arguable more significant, and had more of an influence on the shape of the championship, but the sheer what-was-that impact of the score against Galway shades it.
The lessons in persistence or another score of the year award:
Shane O’Donnell’s goal against Galway in the replay comes with a slight caveat — the steps taken — but was a monumental achievement, particularly against the best full-back of the year. However, the round-robin goal Conor Lehane got against Clare is worth revisiting, if only for Patrick Horgan’s incredible flick-back.
They say at the highest level you’re punished for the smallest mistake — the Clare defence were entitled to think Shane Kingston’s effort was going wide harmlessly, but Horgan showed small kids playing the game everywhere there’s no such thing as a lost cause.
The I may not be Joe Hart but I don’t have dandruff or save of the year award:
Can we split hairs? Anthony Nash’s save from John O’Dwyer saved Cork from defeat against Tipperary, but he’s not keeper of the year.
Eoin Murphy’s consistent brilliance and long-range free-taking make him keeper of the year, but he doesn’t get save of the year. Nickie Quaid’s outrageous dispossession of Seamus Harnedy in the All-Ireland semi-final wasn’t just a technical marvel, it saved Limerick’s season. A goal at that stage would have been fatal, but Quaid wasn’t having it.
The air it out or free of the year award:
GOAL! What a finish by Joe Canning! pic.twitter.com/Ai4VSDzlZp— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 19, 2018
The I can do the moonwalk or new move of the year award:
Not exactly a new move, but kudos to Daithí Burke of Galway for flying the flag for ciotogs everywhere.
Some hurling traditionalists wince audibly when they see a left-hander in such a central position, but Burke’s fielding and aggression, hurley in his left hand, was exemplary all year. Either that or the constant dismantling of nine-point leads. How do you even do that?
The Clive Thomas or refereeing event of the year award:
Waterford-Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds will be remembered for an appalling error by referee Alan Kelly or, more accurately, his umpires, in allowing a goal for Tipperary when it was clear the ball had not crossed the line.
There were ramifications for the championship, with Waterford not collecting a win they might otherwise have expected (the game ended in a draw). Kelly’s only saving grace was he was overshadowed by...
The runner-up ref of the year award:
See the first category. James McGrath of Westmeath, who reacted with impressive maturity when informed that he would not be handling the All-Ireland senior hurling final*. (*Above may not be strictly true.)
The oddest tactic award:
Clare made it back to Croke Park and served up one of the games of the year in their gutsy draw with Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
However, a couple of years ago in this slot we pointed out key attacker Tony Kelly’s penchant for drifting into his own half; in the replay with Galway Kelly was the man hitting a wide from his own half with the last play of the game. Couldn’t they move him closer to goal? Won’t he stay there?
Then you wait for hours then two come along or the suddenly easy achievement award:
Who knew that all we needed all along was more games? The Munster championship served up unbelievable entertainment. A weekend off in the middle of those games and it’s perfect.
The knowing what to do or classy touch of the year award:
Limerick and Galway took the field for the second half last Sunday to Let’s Dance by David Bowie.
That wasn’t the best musical choice in Croke Park this summer, though. The reaction from the crowd on Sunday when The Cranberries were put on the speakers in the middle of the Limerick celebrations after the final whistle was shivers-up-the-spine stuff.
The belated knowing what to do or classy touch of the year award:
Still impressed with having the clubs of the participating players in the All-Ireland final represented by kids in those jerseys.
The Deep Impact Morgan Freeman or collision of the year award:
Late in the season but worth waiting for. Gearóid McInerney was hustling forward in the first half last Sunday when Seamus Flanagan met him with a shoulder. It’s easy to describe such collisions as a statement of intent. Easy but in this case entirely accurate.
The karma hurts and don’t take my word for it award:
Clare almost beat Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final replay, Aron Shanagher hitting the post with what would have been a match-winning goal late on.
A couple of weeks earlier Clare had almost gone out of the championship when Tipperary’s Jake Morris had the chance to beat them late on only to hit the . . . post. “Karma,” said Clare joint-manager Gerry O’Connor.
The home of hurling or venue of the year award:
Thurles. Thurles. Thurles. Thurles. Closely followed this year by Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but still Thurles.
The (much-anticipated) Paudie Maher or haircut of the year award:
Cillian Murphy has a lot to answer for. The Peaky Blinders cut is now as much a part of the minor intercounty set-up as a pair of football boots, and a lot of the seniors are indulging as well. The man this award is named after has become a conservative, while Limerick’s Cian Lynch has also abandoned his weakness for dye jobs.
Hail Tom Morrissey of Limerick then, and his magnificent faded quiff on The Sunday Game the other evening. Worthy of his namesake Steven, who said once that dreams have a knack of just not coming true. And sometimes they do.