Stars spring a few surprises

Last night’s GAA-GPA Opel All Star hurling awards served up plenty of surprises with All-Ireland champions Kilkenny’s representation one less than runners-up Galway while Munster winners Tipperary had no player on the team.

Stars spring a few surprises

For only the second time in the 42-year history of the awards, a team other than the Liam MacCarthy Cup winners received more awards as six of Anthony Cunningham’s side were honoured compared to the Cats’ five.

The only previous occasion of such an instance came in 1973 when runners-up Kilkenny had seven men among the 15, two more than champions Limerick.

In 1971 (Tipperary-Kilkenny), ’85 (Offaly-Galway) and ’94 (Offaly-Limerick), the finalists had an equal proportion of players on the team.

However, this year’s choices offered up quite the rarity although committee members had emphasised Galway, who had beaten and drawn with Kilkenny in two of their three Championship meetings, had relied on a lesser amount of players during the campaign.

Yesterday also brought an end to a remarkable nine-year run of All Stars for Kilkenny defender Tommy Walsh although there was plenty to celebrate in the county as Henry Shefflin won a record 11th All Star and was acknowledged as hurler of the year for the third time, his previous two honours coming in 2002 and ‘06.

Following cruciate and shoulder surgery over the last two years, the accolade, awarded by his peers, was a most fitting one for the Ballyhale Shamrocks man while Galway’s Johnny Coen was selected by the players as young hurler of the year.

There was disappointment for Tipperary, however, as they became the first ever provincial winning side (Leinster or Munster) not to pick up an All Star award.

It also marked the first time since 1998 that a player from the Premier County hadn’t been included in the side, although Padraic and Patrick “Bonner” Maher came close to be chosen.

Tipperary’s previous worse showing in the scheme when they were provincial champions was in 1993 when Michael Cleary was their sole recipient.

A trawl through the record books shows that ’93 was one of nine instances when either Munster or Leinster champions finished up with a solitary winner, the last occasion coming in 2004 when Bob O’Keeffe winners Wexford had only goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry in the team.

Somewhat ironically, Cork and Waterford, two teams that Tipperary beat in Munster, had acknowledgements in the side with Kanturk’s Anthony Nash one of eight first-time winners and following his club-mate Aidan Walsh who won his second football All Star award yesterday evening.

The pair emulate Ballyboden St Endas’ Gary Maguire and Michael Darragh Macauley who won All Stars in different codes with Dublin last year.

In being chosen as left-corner forward, John Mullane was handed his fifth All Star, his fourth in succession, and Kevin Moran made it an extra special night for De La Salle as he claimed his first honour in midfield alongside another debutant, Galway’s Iarla Tannian.

At right-half back, Brendan Bugler is Clare’s first winner since Tony Griffin in 2006 and along with Nash, Moran and Mullane brought Munster’s total to four, the province’s worst All Stars showing in 12 years.

However, it was the decision to award more Galway players than Kilkenny that raised the most eyebrows.

Even though four of Kilkenny’s five recipients — Shefflin, Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney and Brian Hogan — received the full complement of votes from the selection committee, compared to just one for Galway (Joe Canning), none of their seven other nominations were close to being chosen.

Going into last Wednesday’s meeting, Galway had the most nominations with 14, which hadn’t come as a great shock in light of them using a more concentrated number of players compared to Kilkenny.

They had also beaten the Cats comprehensively in the Leinster final although Cyril Donnellan, arguably the best performer in the provincial competition this year before he shipped an arm injury prior to the All-Ireland semi-final, was beaten by team-mate Damien Hayes for a spot in the half-forward line.

In defence, hurler of the year candidates Murphy and Hogan were obvious choices for their second successive awards as was their Kilkenny team-mate, JJ Delaney, who picked up his sixth in total.

Galway captain Fergal Moore was favoured over fellow defender Coen in respect to his man-marking duties while Collins’ three solid performances against Kilkenny were noted in his favour at left-half back.

Kilkenny’s absence in midfield was anticipated although there are likely to grumblings in the county about Galway having one more player chosen in the forwards.

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