JUST one member of the Tipperary starting 15 that won the All-Ireland SHC title, centre-back Conor O’Mahony, has failed to make the nominations for next month’s All Star team.
And it’s an omission that’s bound to cause controversy.
O’Mahony’s two half-back line colleagues, Declan Fanning and Padraic Maher, both make the cut, but the Newport stalwart, one of Tipperary’s most consistent performers this season, loses out.
Then again, were he to be included it would probably have been at the expense of one of those two colleagues, because it’s almost impossible to argue with the nominations of the others named for the half-back positions – Waterford’s Tony Browne and Micheál ‘Brick’ Walsh, Kilkenny’s timeless and talented pair of Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney, Cork’s John Gardiner and Ronan Curran, and Galway’s defensive rock, Tony Óg Regan.
Others can count themselves unlucky. Galway keeper Colm Callanan had a fine season, while high-scoring Wexford forward and captain Diarmuid Lyng probably paid an additional cost for his late dismissal against Galway in the Leinster championship, with suspension robbing him of chances to impress.
While the nominations are dominated by Tipperary with 14, beaten finalists Kilkenny are also strongly represented, with 11, including Henry Shefflin, who makes the cut despite an injury-curtailed season.
It means that the Kilkenny ace has a chance of extending his record run of eight awards in succession, and setting a new record of 10 in total (he currently shares top billing with DJ Carey and Pat Spillane). Kilkenny’s twin towers of talent in the half-back line, Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney, are both included, the former with seven consecutive awards.
Galway are rewarded for winning the National League, then running Tipperary extremely close in the championship, with six nominations, including brothers Ollie (currently on four awards) and Joe Canning (two).
Midfielder Ger Farragher was superb for Galway in that league run, as were Shane Kavanagh and Tony Óg Regan in the spine of the defence, while flying forward Damien Hayes has looked to have been a lock in the wing-forward position after a series of magnificent performances in both league and championship.
Munster champions, Waterford, and runners-up, Cork, are also strongly represented, both with six each. Goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack is in for Cork after another outstanding season, as are defenders Shane O’Neill, John Gardiner and Ronan Curran; Waterford keeper Clinton Hennessey also makes the list, while youngster Noel Connors joins veteran Tony Browne, along with centre-back ‘Brick’ Walsh, in defence.
Closing out the nominations, Offaly’s outstanding Shane Dooley could join the father/son winners elite (his father Joe – also the Offaly team manager – won an award in 1998), while Antrim full-forward Liam Watson is rewarded for a virtuoso display against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
There was no silverware this year for strong hurling counties such as Dublin, Clare, Limerick, Wexford, but with the likes of Stephen Hiney, John Conlan and Keith Rossiter (respectively) included, all bar strike-weakened Limerick had strong contenders.
Breakdown by county: Tipperary 14; Kilkenny 11; Cork 6; Waterford: 6; Galway 6; Offaly 1; Antrim 1. Total: 45
Goalkeepers: Brendan Cummins (Tipperary); Donal Óg Cusack (Cork); Clinton Hennessey (Waterford).
Full-backs: Michael Cahill (Tipperary); Ollie Canning (Galway); Noel Connors (Waterford); Paul Curran (Tipperary); John Dalton (Kilkenny); Shane Kavanagh (Galway); Shane O’Neill (Cork); Paddy Stapleton (Tipperary); Jackie Tyrell (Kilkenny).
Half-backs: Tony Browne (Waterford); Ronan Curran (Cork); JJ Delaney (Kilkenny); Declan Fanning (Tipperary); John Gardiner (Cork); Padraic Maher (Tipperary); Tony Óg Regan (Galway); Micheál Walsh (Waterford); Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny).
Midfield: Ger Farragher (Galway); Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny); Brendan Maher (Tipperary); Shane McGrath (Tipperary); Shane O’Sullivan (Waterford); Michael Rice (Kilkenny).
Half-forwards: Lar Corbett (Tipperary); Damien Hayes (Galway); Eoin Larkin (Kilkenny); Patrick Maher (Tipperary); Niall McCarthy (Cork); Noel McGrath (Tipperary); TJ Reid (Kilkenny); Gearoid Ryan (Tipperary); Henry Shefflin (Kilkenny).
Full-forwards: Joe Canning (Galway); Shane Dooley (Offaly); Aidan Fogarty (Kilkenny); Patrick Horgan (Cork); Eoin Kelly (Tipperary); John Mullane (Waterford); John O’Brien (Tipperary); Richie Power (Kilkenny); Liam Watson (Antrim).
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