Cats top pile as hÁilpíns join elite set of brothers to win Allstar awards

BROTHERS Sean Óg and Setanta Ó hÁilpín, are among seven first-time winners named in the 2003 Vodafone GAA Allstar Hurling team.

Predictably, the selection is dominated by dual champions Kilkenny who gain eight awards with J.J. Delaney, Tommy Walsh and Eddie Brennan included for the first time. All-Ireland runners-up Cork have a total of four players chosen - Joe Deane is picked for the third time and Ronan Curran is a winner in his debut year.

Waterford star John Mullane also features in the selection, having gained a first nomination last year while Galway's Ollie Canning is also included in the group.

And, more or less as expected, Brendan Cummins is the featured goalkeeper ahead of James McGarry, who still awaits an award after having been nominated for the past five years.

Cummins, Henry Shefflin and Deane were each chosen twice previously. The Tipperary man was first honoured in 2000 and again the following year, Shefflin in 2000 (at left half-forward) and last year at centre-forward where he has again been placed. and Deane was honoured in 1999 and 2000.

The first year he was at full-forward, and his second award was in the left corner.

Picked for the second successive year are Kilkenny players Michael Kavanagh, Derek Lyng and Martin Comerford. Other second-time winners are Noel Hickey (named three years ago at right corner-back) and Ollie Caning named in 2001.

The seven first-timers are: Sean Óg Ó hÁilpin, Ronan Curran, J.J. Delaney, Tommy Walsh, John Mullane, Eddie Brennan and Setanta Ó hÁilpin. The 2002 team also included two brothers, Paul and Eoin Kelly from Tipperary. and The previous occasion in which when two brothers were named in the same team was in 1995, when Johnny and Billy Dooley from Offaly were chosen.

In the 32-year history of the scheme, a total of 14 sets of brothers have received Allstars.

They include the Bonnars from Tipperary, the Lohans from Clare, the Quigleys from Wexford, the Cashmans from Cork, the Fennellys and Hendersons from Kilkenny and the Cooneys and Connollys from Galway.

The players will receive their awards from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at a gala banquet tomorrow night in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.

The event will also feature the winners of the Vodafone Allstar football awards and will be aired live on RTÉ Additionally, the 2002 and 2003 Allstar hurlers will travel to Phoenix at the end of January for a week's trip, during which they will play each other in an exhibition game. Replacements for players chosen for other players who are unable to make the trip will be announced in late December.

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