Lack of county representation magnifies poor year

ONCE again, hurling looks to an All-Ireland final to paper over the cracks of yet another disappointing championship.

Aside from Dublin’s rise, this has been a poorer year than 2009 and 2010.

The lack of competition should be reflected in this year’s All Stars.

We’re not second-guessing the selection committee here but it would be surprising if more than four counties are represented in the best 15 of the year. Right now, we anticipate Dublin’s proportion to be four but that could be whittled down to two after Sunday.

Gary Maguire has had his best year between the sticks for Anthony Daly’s side, the Leinster final being his only low, although a performance from David Herity in the final could see him sneak it.

Brendan Cummins has had something of a James McGarry season when his defence has been on top form.

Paul Curran’s commanding presence at the edge of the square sees him take the slot ahead of Peter Kelly but the Lucan Sarsfields man has done more than enough to earn a spot in the full-back line especially after his second-half marking job on Lar Corbett and his display against Kevin Downes.

Paul Murphy is a fresh face to the Kilkenny rearguard but looks comfortable behind Tommy Walsh, who has again been a class apart.

Joey Boland’s semi-final display will earn him a nomination but the battle for the No 6 position is a straight shoot-out between Brian Hogan and Conor O’Mahony with Sunday deciding who gets that berth with Hogan marginally ahead.

If Walsh is the most commanding half-back in the country then Padraic Maher is not too far behind. The Thurles Sarsfields man has hardly put a foot wrong since Cork last year.

In midfield, Michael Fennelly has transformed himself into a leader and is in the shake-up for hurler of the year once more.

Shane McGrath’s best form has been in Croke Park the last two years but he’s been more consistent this season while namesake Noel seems to be peaking at just the right time, his semi-final display a treat.

Either side of him, Liam Rushe, a man of many jersey numbers, claims a role for some heroic performances but could lose out to Michael Rice on Sunday, as does Henry Shefflin who has been Kilkenny’s best forward this summer (Conal Keaney’s accident will deny him an All Star but not a nomination).

John Mullane was just as deserving of inclusion at centre-forward but is moved for convenience to take his place alongside seven-goal Lar Corbett (no argument needed) and Dublin freetaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan O’Dwyer also has claims but his team-mate was the more unfailing operator for the league champions this year.

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