Michael Moynihan's hurling awards: The top players and moments from Championship 2021

Michael Moynihan has counted the ballots, consulted the independent observers, and now reveals his hurling awards for 2021 
Michael Moynihan's hurling awards: The top players and moments from Championship 2021

Kyle Hayes of Limerick with the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the All-Ireland SHC final win ovre Cork. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The TALK IS CHEAP BUT BETTER THAN SILENCE OR QUOTE OF THE YEAR Award: To be fair to all concerned, managers piped up a little, at least. Early in the season, Limerick boss John Kiely signalled his unhappiness with refereeing styles after his side played Galway and then later rowed back on his remarks, apologising to Galway.

Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates with supporters after the All-Ireland SHC success. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates with supporters after the All-Ireland SHC success. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

At the All-Ireland final press conference, when that period of the season was mentioned, Kiely said: “Sure we all have our moments, don't we? It was a senior moment, maybe.” Ageist, cancelled. Sorry, John.

The MAN APART ALTOGETHER OR PLAYER OF THE YEAR Award: Cian Lynch was mesmerising in the All-Ireland final but Kyle Hayes stood out for this observer all year. By panzering his way upfield for that stunning goal in the Munster final against Tipperary Hayes put a whole generation of wing-forwards on notice that they would need to mark him as much as he them, while his size alone deters opposing goalkeepers from testing out that zone of the field with puck-outs, never mind creating a general sense of inhospitality for attackers there.

The MAN WHO SUMS UP EVERYTHING GOOD AND BAD ABOUT HIS TEAM OR SYMBOL OF THE YEAR Award: It’s customary to pick a dashing forward as the epitome of a team’s approach, but Limerick’s Sean Finn is a case study in effectiveness, all the more so as those blue boots make him look like someone padding around the full-back line in his slippers: his footwear seems to make his tread seem all the more deliberate, the more remarkable for its speed.

Sean Finn, signing autographs for Limerick supporters at the Woodlands Hotel, Adare. Picture: Brendan Gleeson
Sean Finn, signing autographs for Limerick supporters at the Woodlands Hotel, Adare. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Finn’s ability to face the oncoming traffic and slip off a pass makes him a first point of attack for his side. Not bad for a corner-back.

The MAN APART ALTOGETHER BUT NOT AS OLD, OR YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR Award: A few Cork players were in contention until Sunday, and Limerick’s team are still largely settled and maybe a year or two out of contention for this, strictly speaking. Cork’s Shane Barrett found the net in a cameo appearance against Clare but on the young player-significant part of team index, Iarlaith Daly continues to develop for Waterford despite injury issues this summer, so the gong goes to him this year.

The WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE OR GAME OF THE YEAR Award: Different games, different attractions.

The Munster hurling final was the proverbial game of two halves, the latter lit up by Limerick’s power but oddly enough it seemed settled long before the end. Cork-Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final had an exciting end, as did Cork-Clare in additional time the previous weekend.

But Wexford-Kilkenny takes it for us, the Leinster SHC semi-final ebbing and flowing with controversial calls, goals galore and extra time all feeding into a classic.

Kilkenny's Billy Ryan and Kevin Foley of Wexford. Picture: INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy
Kilkenny's Billy Ryan and Kevin Foley of Wexford. Picture: INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy

The WHAT WE DREAMED OF AS KIDS OR SCORE OF THE YEAR Award: Some good scores this year but hard to pass Kyle Hayes’ goal in the Munster final. There didn’t seem to be much on when the wing-back collected the ball in his own half of the field but he drove at the heart of the Tipperary defence and finished with a venomous strike. His full-forward Seamus Flanagan deserves a lot of credit for pulling the Tipperary defence out of shape with his run off the ball, but Hayes’ finish, upside-down hurley and all, was the icing on the cake. Of that, er, goal.

Limerick's Kyle Hayes celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Limerick's Kyle Hayes celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

The I MAY NOT BE JOE HART BUT I DON’T HAVE DANDRUFF OR SAVE OF THE YEAR Award: A lot of competition here (in a category desperately in need of renaming in a more apposite way). Patrick Collins of Cork had a good year, as did Nickie Quaid - there may be an argument to broaden this category to include puck-outs - but Eoin Murphy had more to do than either and did it supremely well.

Not just with the basics, either - his full-length tip save from Jack O’Connor in Kilkenny’s game with Cork was astounding and barely visible to the naked eye.

The SINGLE SAVE AFFECTING THE SEASON OR SPARK FOR ‘FINE MARGINS’ COMMENTARY OF THE YEAR Award: Cork were shattered after Sunday’s game but making an All-Ireland final is progress. Their year all came down to injury time in their game with Clare, when chaos ruined in the Gaelic Grounds and Tony Kelly’s effort to win the game was beaten away by Patrick Collins to set Cork on the road.

Yes, we all said ‘fine margins’ afterwards.

The I CAN DO THE MOONWALK OR NEW MOVE OF THE YEAR Award: Honourable mention for a delicious hand pass from Austin Gleeson of Waterford in their win over Tipperary, but Cian Lynch’s patented flick-up into the hand is the accessory no teenager can stop chancing for him- or herself at training, surely. Lynch’s ability to snap the ball up energises his linking of the play and is the springboard for much of what Limerick do.

The I CAN DO THE MOONWALK OR ANOTHER NEW MOVE OF THE YEAR Award: Patrick Horgan scored a point against Clare off his knees, but that may not have been the most outrageous flash of skill from him in that game. When Shane Kingston sold Horgan slightly short with a first-half pass the full-forward engineered a flick up off the ground to the Douglas man to set up a Cork goal. The Glen man’s pirouette belonged in Las Ventas.

THE CLIVE THOMAS OR REFEREE OF THE YEAR Award: Fergal Horgan stays out on his own in this category, helped no doubt by a series of refereeing performances in which officials - not always fairly, it must be said - were judged harshly.

Referee Fergal Horgan throws in the sliotar to start the All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Referee Fergal Horgan throws in the sliotar to start the All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The controversy referred to above, when John Kiely raised questions early in the league about officiating, eased off relatively quickly, but there was still some grumbling at various points of the season.

THE WE’LL HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE CYNICAL FOULING, JUST NOT THAT Award: The awarding of a penalty - and sin-binning of Aidan McCarthy for a foul on Jake Morris - in favour of Tipperary in their Munster SHC clash with Clare was a game-changer, and Brian Lohan wasn’t happy with referee James Owens afterwards (“Tell me, am I out of order here, what did ye see?” Lohan asked reporters. “Everyone had a good view of it. It is so frustrating to have to deal with that.”) 

The DOESN’T MAKE IT UP TO CLARE, BUT IS IT WORTH POINTING OUT award: When Adrian Mullen got the ball deep in the Cork 20-metre line/zone, were Rebel defenders mindful of not dragging him to the ground for fear of conceding a penalty and trudging to the bin? Maybe there’s something to that rule after all (dons helmet).

The ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS PASS OR GLENN HODDLE Award: He may have hung up his hurley after a disappointing qualifier defeat to Waterford, but Joe Canning gave us one last flash of genius. With time running out the Galway star was heading goalwards but saw - somehow - Jason Flynn had ghosted in behind the Waterford defence. Canning took out half the Deise backs with a beautifully judged assist which Flynn collected, finding the net.

Joe Canning. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Joe Canning. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The OTHER ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS PASS OR SECOND GLENN HODDLE Award: Deep in injury time against Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final Padraig Walsh surely had goal on his mind when he collected the ball inside the Cork 45. Instead of just flaking the ball goalwards, however, Walsh identified Adrian Mullen lurking inside and arced in an inch-perfect deliver. Cue Mullen’s dramatic equaliser.

The SURPRISING CLUB TRANSFER OF THE YEAR Award: GAA President Larry McCarthy expedited a quick move for Declan Hannon to Na Piarsaigh on the Croke Park podium last Sunday. Cue Hannon’s polite assertion of his Adare-ness.

The DEEP IMPACT MORGAN FREEMAN OR COLLISION OF THE YEAR Award: Cork’s Mark Coleman meets Walter Walsh of Kilkenny on the end line in the All-Ireland semi-final. With the game on the line stopping Walsh was vital for Cork: Coleman did just that.

The SOMETHING WILL HAVE TO BE DONE OR IMPENDING RULE CHANGE Award: This is an easy one. Or is it? The protection of forwards inside the 20-metre line going for goal is a good concept, it just needs to be administered a little more efficiently. Easier said than done, I know.

The HOME OF HURLING OR VENUE OF THE YEAR Award: Stop, stop, STOP. Thurles. Life achievement without parole here.

A general view of Semple Stadium through the view-finder of a television camera before the 2021 Electric Ireland All-Ireland MHC final between Cork and Galway. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
A general view of Semple Stadium through the view-finder of a television camera before the 2021 Electric Ireland All-Ireland MHC final between Cork and Galway. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The MORE HONOURED IN THE BREACH THAN THE OBSERVANCE OR RULE OF THE YEAR award: Look, are we just going to allow players to throw the ball altogether? There seems to be a tacit agreement that players will get blown on one or two random occasions in each half - and the rest of the time it’s quietly accepted by all involved that it’s okay to scrum-half the ball on to a teammate.

And where’s the ground hurling gone? I tell you youngsters, you never saw...

The IF THAT’S EQUIVALENT TO TWO POINTS THEN WHAT WOULD WE HAVE WON BY OR ARE SIDELINES JUST TOO EASY NOW ALTOGETHER award: This was a hangover from last year, but I see now that minors are putting it over the bar at their ease, and from well out the field as well. Look, something will have to be done, etc (see above on the matter of fouls inside the 20-metre line).

The NONCONTROVERSIAL CONTROVERSY or NONEVENT OF THE YEAR Award: See multiple entries under refereeing, etc., elsewhere.

The GOLDEN WRISTS OR SMOOTHEST STRIKER OF THE YEAR award: This one to Austin Gleeson of Waterford, one of a group of players - including Gearoid Hegarty - who always seem to holding something back in their strike, even though the ball invariably jumps off the bás.

The PRESS EVENT OF THE YEAR OR WHAT’S RARE IS WONDERFUL Award: Limerick won this battle comfortably ahead of the All-Ireland final with a delicious chicken and rice dish, followed by cheesecake if you were so inclined.

There were interviews as well.

The (MUCH-ANTICIPATED) PAUDIE MAHER OR HAIRCUT OF THE YEAR Award: Tom Morrissey came up on the outside here in this category - a little like he did a few times last Sunday, ho ho - to nudge out perennial winner Cian Lynch. A welcome change from the high and tight bazzers we seem to see everywhere. Variety, please!

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