has rung all the juries, collated all the votes, and accepted all the bribes. Once again he presents his much-anticipated End of Season Awards.
He hopes it doesn't spoil the occasion for anyone.
The TALK IS CHEAP BUT BETTER THAN SILENCE OR QUOTE OF THE YEAR Award
This can often be a bit of a lottery, though Patrick Horgan of Cork’s reference to the lightning at Clare-Cork was an early front runner (“Yeah, even a flicker in the golf and they’re gone off the course,”) but the Kilkenny press night ahead of the All-Ireland final - not traditionally associated with dazzling copy - came good for us.
Brian Cody mentioned Love Island.
Nothing else comes close.
THE MAN APART ALTOGETHER or PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Seamus Callanan and TJ Reid were the respective spear-tips for Tipperary and Kilkenny, while Patrick Horgan was awesome all season.
Though Ronan Maher of Tipperary also made a case, Noel McGrath’s second coming - the McGranaissance? - gets our vote.
Influential when it counted, intelligent when that was needed, McGrath’s decade in blue and gold was crowned by Sunday’s display.
THE CAUGHT EVERYONE or SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
You may have forgotten it, but on a chilly weekend it lit up the league.
Waterford-Galway last March might have been forgotten if Shane Bennett had not feigned disappointment with a sideline cut; the Waterford man slouched away from the ball but not before allowing his hurley to brush against it.
Jamie Barron swooped down, rose the sliotar and put it between the posts.
Brilliant thinking, even if the management team responsible were gone by the end of the season.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE or TEAM OF THE YEAR
The All-Ireland champions take this crown by default - or rather by right of arms, given what they’ve accomplished.
Tipp are worthy All-Ireland champions, having battled back from mid-season disappointment.
However, special mention must go to Laois, whose defeat of Dublin was a blow for underdogs everywhere and a reward for their self-belief and shrewd management by Eddie Brennan.
THE CLEVER FINISH or NEW SKILL OF THE YEAR (1)
The batted goal was the finish of the year in almost every game, whether it was Kyle Hayes against Tipp in the Munster final or Colin Fennelly against Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final.
It’s the obvious way to avoid a hook from behind close to goal, but it’d be interesting to trial a similar finish in Gaelic football, where the hand pass over the bar is the go-to solution in tight corners. (Which is not a situation to many people’s satisfaction, to put it mildly.)
THE CLEVERER FINISH or NEW SKILL OF THE YEAR (2)
Shane Dowling’s overhead smash against Kilkenny was a different animal, however, to those batted goals mentioned above.
Dowling was a long way from goal, with an in-form Eoin Murphy poised to save and the Limerickman’s powerful finish - borrowed from Wimbledon? - surprised all in Croke Park.
THE CLEVER SAVE or NEW SKILL OF THE YEAR (3)
Brian Hogan is a big unit in the Tipperary goal, but two of his saves - against Wexford and Kilkenny, in the semi- and final respectively - owed more to his eye and co-ordination than his size.
Twice Hogan pulled down balls going well over the bar, and though Hawk-Eye reversed both calls, it was a warning to Tipp’s opponents that they’ll have to put the ball a good foot over the crossbar to be sure of a point in future.
THE EVERYONE DESERVES A BREAK, BUT or REFEREEING NONSENSE OF THE YEAR
Where do you start? With the Limerick 65 that should have been in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny, the chaos of disallowed goals in the other semi-final, the season-turning sideline cut award in Waterford-Clare . . . not a good year for officials.
THE GET A CALL RIGHT AND THEY’RE STILL ON YOUR BACK or REFEREE OF THE YEAR
James Owens got it right last Sunday. End of.
As noted here yesterday, arguments which don’t focus on the incident itself are invalid.
Owens had a low bar to clear to put himself in the front rank of hurling referees, but clear it he did.
THE TRIBUTE TO A BYGONE STAR or GOAL OF THE YEAR CONTENDER
GOAL!! For Limerick's Aaron Gillane! pic.twitter.com/IxByvu6YPo— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 2, 2019
When Aaron Gillane flicked a flat, fast delivery past Stephen O’Keeffe in the league final the elder lemons among us thought immediately of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s similar goal in the 1983 All-Ireland semi-final.
The wrists and vision required . ..
THE COACHING IN ACTION or GOAL OF THE YEAR CONTENDER
Seamus Callanan had quite a bit to do when that Niall O’Meara pass went running sideways, angled away from goal, in the All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford.
Any young hurler should keep an eye on Callanan’s body position as he makes up the ground to get leverage, then takes the ball as it hops up with a savage strike.
THE CAN’T COACH THAT or GOAL OF THE YEAR CONTENDER
Another goal for Cork from Patrick Horgan! pic.twitter.com/gkmprE359c— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 14, 2019
Patrick Horgan’s second goal against Kilkenny gets more ridiculous the more you see it.
The Cork man was on his knees but still found the power and accuracy to beat Eoin Murphy.
Improvisation and achievement.
The MAN APART ALTOGETHER BUT NOT AS OLD, OR YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR Award
Adrian Mullen was in the frame here until last Sunday, when Barry Heffernan’s storming display in defence helped Tipperary over the line.
Heffernan’s progress this year augurs well for Tipperary’s future.
The WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE OR GAME OF THE YEAR Award
We weren’t in Parnell Park for the defeat of Galway by the Dubs, and we didn’t make O’Moore Park for Laois beating the Dubs either, but both occasions looked absolutely memorable.
In a season that didn’t reach last year’s heights, the Tipperary-Wexford semi-final had everything (and a bit more besides), so that gets the nod.
The WHAT WE DREAMED OF AS KIDS OR SCORE OF THE YEAR Award
Leave it to the last goal of the championship.
Seamus Callanan has the easy point on offer but finds Bubbles O’Dwyer, the very last player any defence wants to see in space 20 metres from goal.
Credit O’Dwyer with that closing flourish, not taking the ball to hand before slamming it home.
The THEY SHALL NOT PASS or SAVE OF THE YEAR award
Nitpickers decided that Nickie Quaid’s diving flick against Seamus Harnedy in last year’s semi-final was not, technically, a save, but there was no doubt about his stop against Seamus Callanan in this year’s Munster final.
The in-form Tipp man was clean through but Quaid stood up as long as he could and got a boot to Callanan’s shot.
The QUICK CALCULATION or CONFUSING FINISH OF THE YEAR award
At the end of Wexford-Kilkenny in the round-robin the Wexford management weren’t entirely sure if they’d made the Leinster final. They had.
Pulses restored to normal soon after.
The IRISH SUMMERS, EH or BIZARREST WEATHER OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP award
There we were in Ennis for Clare-Cork and the sky looking threatening until bam: thunder, lightning and rain coming down like stair-rods, to borrow an old Jack Lynch line about the 1939 All-Ireland.
You could barely see the far side of the field for a while, and we were thinking the players might need to be taken off the field for their own safety.
The KNOWING WHAT TO DO OR CLASSY TOUCH OF THE YEAR Award
When Clare-Limerick was very much a live contest in the Gaelic Grounds the Banner won a hotly-contested sideline in front of the covered stand.
While Peter Duggan warmed up to take it, Limerick manager John Kiely - recently arguing loudly for his side to get the sideline - took the 65-metre flag to allow Duggan an unencumbered stroke.
"Isn’t it what any decent man would do?” said Kiely when I asked him about it after the game.
The WHEN SPACE IS AT A PREMIUM OR HURLING IN A PHONEBOX Award
This is a particular favourite, because it tests a player’s economy of movement.
No surprise to hear it goes to the man with the golden wrists this year, Noel McGrath.
The HOME OF HURLING OR VENUE OF THE YEAR Award
Am strongly considering renaming this the Thurles Perpetual Award. Yet to be beaten.
The (MUCH-ANTICIPATED) PAUDIE MAHER OR HAIRCUT OF THE YEAR Award
Lamentably, the Peaky Blindification of men’s hairdressing means a depressing uniformity to hurling haircuts.
Every helmet taken off reveals a bald poll and tufted dome, and to be honest, in some cases those helmets should probably be left on: quite a few of the ‘dos are tragic.
So, just as this season didn’t quite reach the magical heights of last year, this award goes - once again - to Cian Lynch of Limerick, making quite the name for himself with the light magenta fade and wispy beardling.
Congrats, Cian, and here’s hoping for a real challenge next year.