McInerney was a hugely influential figure in ending Galway’s 29-year All-Ireland famine, holding Austin Gleeson scoreless on the afternoon of the decider. The 26-year old was similarly authoritative in the semi-final win over Tipperary and was rewarded for his efforts on that occasion with the man of the match crystal.
On RTÉ’s The Sunday Game on the night of the final, all seven panelists — Farrell, Michael Duignan, Brendan Cummins, Tomás Mulcahy, Anthony Daly, Jackie Tyrrell and Eddie Brennan — selected McInerney as their outstanding hurler of 2017, as did Tommy Dunne and Daithí Regan on Newstalk’s Off The Ball. Rather crucially, though, the All-Star committee did not view him to be among the top three hurlers, with Canning, along with the Waterford pair of Kevin Moran and Jamie Barron, the preferred nominees.
Three-time All-Ireland winning manager Farrell said McInerney has right to feel hard done by.
“The three nominated hurlers had very good years, but Gearóid McInerney had a fantastic year for Galway,” he noted. “He was the piece that was missing in the Galway jigsaw.
“He made the number six shirt his own and that settled the whole team. He improved every day he went out. Any of the centre-forwards he came up against, he dominated them. He couldn’t have done much more to be included.”
Of the three shortlisted, Farrell expects Canning to collect the top gong. This is the Portumna forward’s second time to be nominated for hurler of the year, having been shortlisted in 2012 after Galway lost the final replay to Kilkenny. Were either Barron or Moran to win the players vote, they would become the fourth Waterford player to take home the award despite not being the holder of an All-Ireland medal — Tony Browne (1998) Dan Shanahan (2007) and Austin Gleeson (2016).
“For me, it has to be Joe Canning,” Farrell continued.
“He had a fantastic influence on the whole year. If you look at the league quarter-final against Waterford in Pearse Stadium, he led them in Galway coming back from the dead. In the league final, he was excellent. There was his display in the All-Ireland semi-final. The whole year, he was excellent.”
Farrell is also predicting a Galway winner of the young hurler of the year award. Conor Whelan clipped 17 points from play during this year’s championship and is expected to edge out Cork’s Mark Coleman and Waterford’s Conor Gleeson.
“Whelan is the frontrunner there. From the very start of the summer, he was very sharp. Physically, he has really developed. He was a top corner-forward, so much so that some days he had two lads on him. He was making scores and creating scores, he’d a very good year.”