All-Ireland champions Limerick have smashed the all-time PwC hurling All-Stars record haul in one season with 12 accolades.
Just as Cork become the first All-Ireland runners-up not to receive an award, Limerick have bettered the previous record by three, which they had equalled last season.
Prior to that, Kilkenny had also picked up nine in 1983, 2000 and 2008.
In football, Dublin (1977, 2020) and Kerry (1981) have won nine.
The collection of a dozen reflects a remarkable season for John Kiely’s group when they defended their All-Ireland crown in emphatic style, extending their 100% record in the Championship to nine games. Their last SHC loss was the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny.
Goalkeeper Nickie Quaid, full-back Dan Morrissey, and inside forward Aaron Gillane can consider themselves unfortunate not to be included, although the three men who kept them out — Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy, Waterford captain Conor Prunty, and Clare skipper Tony Kelly — had strong claims.
As the three hurler of the year nominations, Seán Finn, who earns his fourth consecutive All-Star, Kyle Hayes, his second successive gong and Cian Lynch, his third in total after being selected in 2018 and last season, were certs for the 15.
For the second year in a row, the Limerick half-forward line of Gearóid Hegarty, Lynch, and Tom Morrissey are winners, another first in the history of their scheme.
Their joint accomplishment in 2020 was the first time since 2011 that one county produced the entire All-Stars half-forward line when Michael Rice, Richie Power, and Henry Shefflin were acknowledged.
Given their fine displays against Clare, Dublin, and Kilkenny, the lack of a Cork presence is obviously a significant one.
Five of their men — Seán O’Donoghue, Tim O’Mahony, Seamus Harnedy, Jack O’Connor and Patrick Horgan — would have been considered major candidates for awards going into the final when they were beaten by 16 points.
For his array of saves, Kilkenny’s No 1 Murphy was a marginal call over Quaid while Morrissey and O’Donoghue were considered next best to the Déise’s Prunty who put all his injury woes behind him to produce an excellent season for his county.
Tony Kelly could have been picked in a number of positions but was synonymous with the inside role he performed so well against Waterford in the Munster SHC opener and he continued to sparkle there and around the Banner attack throughout the summer. It is Kelly’s third All-Star and he is the only non-Limerick man to be collecting for the second season in a row. Of Limerick’s 12, there were six included for their 2020 efforts — Finn, Diarmaid Byrnes, Hayes, Gearóid Hegarty, Lynch, and Tom Morrissey. Byrnes, 2020 hurler of the year and two goal hero in August’s All-Ireland final Hegarty and Morrissey will be collecting their second All-Stars as will captain Declan Hannon.
Unfortunate not to be picked for what he delivered last year, William O’Donoghue is a deserving first-time recipient as is his midfield partner Darragh O’Donovan. It is the first time one county has produced the midfield pairing since Clare in 2013.
Limerick’s top scorer from play and O’Donoghue’s fellow Na Piarsaigh man Peter Casey was a lock as was Seamus Flanagan and Barry Nash’s transformation from a forward to a deep-lying defender has been one of their great success stories. That quintet along with Prunty make it six first-time recipients.
Shortlisted by the selection committee comprising journalists, the inter-county playing body were asked to pick their one, two, three from Finn, Hayes, and Lynch for hurler of the year.
The winner will revealed on the RTÉ show at 7pm tomorrow evening.
Kilkenny’s Eoin Cody, who was last season’s victor, Cork starlet Shane Barrett and Clare’s Aidan McCarthy are the candidates for young hurler of the year (U21).
The football All-Star team for 2021 will also be announced in the 90-minute broadcast along with the footballer of the year — Tyrone pair Kieran McGeary and Conor Meyler along with Lee Keegan are the three nominations, and young footballer of the year, which will be one of Darragh Canavan of Tyrone, last year’s winner Oisín Mullin (Mayo) and Galway’s Matthew Tierney.
In the 50th year and 51st staging of the All-Stars, Cork’s failure to earn an award as All-Ireland finalists is a first alongside Limerick’s record-breaking haul.
Twice in the not so decent past, heavily-beaten finalists have managed to pick up one selection. In 2008, Waterford’s Eoin Kelly was the sole recipient from his county following their 3-30 to 1-13 loss to Kilkenny. Eight years before that, Offaly’s Johnny Dooley was the only representative from the team that were also heavily beaten by the Cats in the decider, 5-15 to 1-14.
In football, Cork received one All-Star in 2007 - Graham Canty - when they were dismissed by Kerry in the final, 3-13 to 1-9. Galway’s Stephen Kinneavy was the only one of the runners-up chosen for an All-Star in 1983 after Dublin’s two-point win.
Having earned nine nominations, the lack of Cork representation is sure to irk supporters particularly given the excellent form produced by the likes of Seán O’Donoghue, Jack O’Connor and Seamus Harnedy in the lead-up to the final. Although he was dropped for the All-Ireland semi-final, Shane Kingston turned that game around upon his arrival and scored a handsome 4-9 this past summer.
The perceived snub may provide inspiration for Kieran Kingston’s men as they look to build on a promising 2020 season. Nevertheless, it is one that is going to smart.