What's top of the wanted list for each county in a hurling draft

Readers know how the NFL draft works: In an effort to maintain competitive balance, teams which perform poorly this season get to choose better prospects coming out of college for next season. Michael Moynihan opens a similar draft for hurling counties.

What's top of the wanted list for each county in a hurling draft

Readers know how the NFL draft works: In an effort to maintain competitive balance, teams which perform poorly this season get to choose better prospects coming out of college for next season. Michael Moynihan opens a similar draft for hurling counties.

The premise is simple. The draft here means every player in every team is eligible for selection by another county, not just hotshots coming off stellar displays in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

We’ll start with the teams which departed the championship early doors and try to match them to what they require — not the dazzling marquee forward every manager would be happy with, but the man whose skills could provide the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Tipperary and Waterford both departed the stage without getting out of the Munster championship, but that’s not to say the two teams need the same draft pick.

Take Tipperary, firstly: From number eight up the field the Premier County have options for every position; returning manager Liam Sheedy can mix and match between workhorses and thoroughbreds from midfield to top of the left and have live options to spring from the bench.

At the back, however, Tipp need something else. Not so much a stopper as a player to give the serried ranks of Knocknagow a focus: A dominant centre-back.

Padraic Maher has all the attributes for No 6, except the clear evidence that he’s happier on the wing, and his brother Ronan has been posted to midfield too often to make a fist of centre-back.

That’s why Sheedy drafts Austin Gleeson of Waterford to play as a traditional centre-back: Holds the centre, sallies upfield every now and then for a point, and pulls down opposing puckouts to energise the crowd on the Killinan End.

Waterford have a different challenge, or a differently located challenge. New manager Páraic Fanning lost full-back Barry Coughlan to accountancy studies before Christmas, but he has a decent replacement to hand in Conor Gleeson when he comes back from injury.

Gleeson can serve the cause further out the field, however. Fanning would be better off taking Daithí Burke of Galway in the draft. Burke is the full-back par excellence of recent years, a dominant presence, exuding power and aggression. Many teams now set up a covering sweeper, because they don’t trust their full-back to cope alone, but Burke imposes his game on the opposition, not the other way around.

Dublin were the unluckiest side in Leinster, having come so close to overcoming Kilkenny in their first-round clash in Parnell Park. One of their chief tormentors that day was TJ Reid, who helped himself to 0-13, all but one score coming from placed balls (by contrast, Dublin managed seven scores from frees.) Free-taking accuracy isn’t the only reason Mattie Kenny should draft Reid, however. Though Conal Keaney gave good leadership to Dublin last year, Reid’s ability to find room in a crowded game puts him on a different level to almost every other forward; consider his late point against Galway in the drawn Leinster final.

As a focal point of a promising attack, Reid would draw the attention of defenders and create room for his fellow forwards. His free-taking would be a bonus.

Wexford, who went out in the quarter-final, resemble Dublin in many ways, being strong and athletic, committed and organised, but do they have the cutting edge in quality to take the next step?

Manager Davy Fitzgerald can tick many boxes in defence, midfield, and attack, but his side could badly do with someone to conjure up game-turning goals. The Clare native would surely draft Seamus Callanan as the tip of the attacking spear. The man from Drom-Inch has the ability to magic up the goals, which would bring Wexford closer to the big show.

Kilkenny had a disappointing championship by their recent high standards, though a narrow defeat by eventual All-Ireland champions Limerick suggests they’re not far away from the top table.

The obvious draft pick would be Daithí Burke of Galway at full-back, freeing Pádraig Walsh for duty further upfield, but the lesson of Tipperary could be applicable here, anathema though that might be on Noreside.

Just as Tipp yearn for a Pat Stakelum/Tony Wall figure at centre-back, do Kilkenny supporters yearn for a tearaway, point-scoring wing-back? Tommy Walsh was a one-off on their great teams, but if the Cats want to add a scoring threat who also distributes well to begin attacks, perhaps Brian Cody should draft Cork’s Mark Coleman.

Clare feature a Tipp player as their pick. The Banner are one more side with quality near the opposing goal, but with a tendency to cough up scores at their own end.

Goals were their downfall against Cork — twice — and though much was made of their chance to beat Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final replay, when Aaron Shanagher hit the goalpost late on, in reality soft goals undid them then as well.

If Donal Moloney and Jerry O’Connor had a draft pick, surely a natural defender inclined not to stray beyond the full-back line would be top of their list, and preferably one adept at man-to-man marking. Cathal Barrett of Tipperary should top their list of draft picks.

Cork, the other All-Ireland semi-finalists, had their own regrets on exiting the championship, their inability to hold onto a six-point lead late on against Limerick chief among them.

Manager John Meyler’s interest in Aidan Walsh and Declan Dalton is indicative of a wish to address a long-running issue with Cork: Namely, winning their own puck-outs. The Leesiders would therefore be better off drafting Jonathan Glynn of Galway, the original target man for long deliveries either on the wing (for his own puck-outs) or the edge of the square (for maximum effect).

Galway themselves made it to the All-Ireland final, of course, and only lost by a point: No major surgery needed, then, but a minor tweak or two would help. Over the winter it was surely noticed by manager Micheál Donoghue that the scoring return from his half-back line in the All-Ireland final was 0-1 (from Pádraic Mannion), compared to the 0-3 Limerick managed: A point from Diarmaid Byrnes and a brace from captain Declan Hannon.

Hannon would be the obvious draft pick for Donoghue. As a former forward, the Limerick captain knows where the posts are, and also has the nous to hold the centre, though simultaneously accommodating Gearoid McInerney would be a fair test of Donoghue’s managerial skills.

Limerick? Winning an All-Ireland validates all the choices and makes all the calls right, but manager John Kiely will know well how thin the margins are.

When the bombardment began in earnest late on against Galway in the All-Ireland final, a wise, old owl would have been a potent trump card.

Hence, Kiely’s counterintuitive drafting of Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh of Waterford for his Limerick side this year, to accelerate the learning process for his men.

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces the draft, he’s usually booed, by the way. Pipe up at the back!

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