Unlike last year, when All-Ireland runners-up Tipperary trumped them by one in the individual stakes and 2012 when Galway were honoured with two more than the All-Ireland winning Cats, they are best represented in the team with Galway next in line collecting four All Starss.
At 26, corner-back Paul Murphy is the most decorated player in the 15, winning his fourth All Star, his second in succession. Also picking up their second in a row from Brian Cody’s side are Cillian Buckley and hurler of the year nominees Richie Hogan and TJ Reid. Michael Fennelly claims his third award, his first since his hurler of the year-winning season of 2011.
Joey Holden and Ger Aylward are among seven first-time winners, the others being Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan at the age of 33, his team-mate Daithí Burke, Waterford pair Tadhg de Burca and Maurice Shanahan and Galway forward Cathal Mannion.
Passage man Noel Connors is recognised for the second time, his first coming in 2010, as Division 1 champions and All-Ireland semi-finalists Waterford are rewarded for a massive breakthrough season with three All Stars. The likes of Austin Gleeson and Shane Fives were also in the shake-up.
The third hurler of the year nominee Seamus Callanan is Tipperary’s sole All Star, picking up his second gong having won his first last year. It is once more a bad year for the Munster champions and means of the last four winners there have only been two All Stars victors. Last year provincial winners Cork failed to pick up a single award. In 2013, Richie McCarthy was Limerick’s only recipient while three years ago Tipperary won their second successive Munster crown but were not acknowledged in the 15.
Pulling off a string of spectacular saves on top of a rock-solid puck-out, Galway netminder Callanan was a most deserved winner after an impressive season having been third choice when the county last reached the final in 2012. Murphy and Holden’s consistency of performance made them easy selections while Connors’ fine reputation was emboldened by great performances in the league and Munster championship.
In the half-back line, Buckley hardly put a foot wrong for Kilkenny this summer. De Burca may have been selected in either line given his versatility in the sweeper role he filled so impressively and Daithí Burke, Galway’s only outfield defender in the side, was a standout player despite the All-Ireland final disappointment.
For his brilliance in the second half of the All-Ireland semi-final and then the entirety of the final in spite of a serious back injury, Fennelly was a certainty as was David Burke who was dynamic throughout both the Leinster championship and All-Ireland series.
Mannion’s brilliant scoring bursts were appreciated and joining him in the half-forward line Hogan and Reid were arguably the first two names on the sheet. In the full-forward line, Aylward’s championship haul of 3-15 from play across four games saw him anointed and Shanahan’s magnificent target man displays made him an obvious choice. Callanan had impressed in Tipperary’s Munster semi-final victory over Limerick but it was his remarkable 3-8 tally in the All- Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway that sealed his slot.
After his heroic exploits in the Munster championship, where he excelled against both Limerick and Waterford, John O’Dwyer can count himself unfortunate to miss out but his mediocre display against Galway would have counted against him. After excellent 2015 campaigns, young hurler of the year candidate Jason Flynn of Galway and Kilkenny veteran Eoin Larkin may also have grounds to feel they were unlucky to miss out.
The hurler of the year, chosen from Reid, Hogan and Callanan by inter-county players, will be announced at tomorrow’s ceremony, which takes place at the Convention Centre Dublin. De Burca is up for a young hurler of the year, also chosen by his peers, but faces stiff opposition from Galway duo Mannion and Flynn.
Along with the footballer and young footballer of the year, the football team will be announced on the night. The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on RTÉ One from 7pm.
2015 GAA/GPA Hurling All-Stars sponsored by Opel
1. Colm Callanan (Galway)
2. Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)
3. Joey Holden (Kilkenny)
4. Noel Connors (Waterford)
5. Daithí Burke (Galway)
6. Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford)
7. Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny)
8. Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny)
9. David Burke (Galway)
10. Cathal Mannion (Galway)
11. Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
12. TJ Reid (Kilkenny)
13. Ger Aylward (Kilkenny)
14. Séamus Callanan (Tipperary)
15. Maurice Shanahan (Waterford)