GIVEN that so many of the front-runners for the various positions are involved with Kilkenny and Tipperary, choosing an All-Star selection before the biggest game on the hurling calendar is a risky business.
One basic in the criteria — because there is so much experimentation going on in the early season, we’re only going to take the final of the league into consideration, along with all the championship games.
In goalkeeping, I feel that Donal Óg Cusack of Cork has totally redefined this position over the last decade, is now out on his own, and yet he’s not my number one choice this year. Reason?
I think Brendan Cummins has had an even greater influence in Tipperary than Donal Óg in Cork, and his puckout strategy and accuracy (copied unashamedly from the Cork keeper) has added a new dimension to Tipp’s playbook.
In the backs, and in a year in which defences were so often on top, so many contenders. All the big teams have all their big names in there, all-conquering Kilkenny leading the way but Tipperary, Galway, Waterford, Cork are also in the mix, along with a few from the likes of Clare and Wexford. A couple of automatics, specifically in the wing-back positions, but so many in hard luck to lose out, the brilliant Tony Browne and young Noel Connors of Waterford perhaps unluckiest of all.
Midfield, a number of good performers but four standouts; going with two of those, but Michael Rice and Ger Farragher are very unlucky.
In the forwards, it is dilemma after dilemma. It’s not that it’s been a vintage year, just that there were so many who stepped in, stepped out and stepped in again. Additionally, there’s the new switching and swapping that almost every county seems to have adopted these days, making it even more difficult to pick a team on the traditional position-by-position basis.
Some are very unlucky to lose out here, and I’m thinking specifically of Eoin Larkin, Aidan Fogarty, Niall McCarthy, Alan McCrabbe, Diarmuid Lyng and perhaps Patrick Horgan if he’d been given more game-time. I’ve taken one liberty, placed Shane Dooley out on the left wing when he did most of his hurling in the full line of attack, but such was his impact with Offaly this year, I couldn’t leave him out.
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