DONAL ÓG CUSACK is my choice as goalkeeper – it hasn’t been a vintage year for ’keepers but he’s made the saves he had to make and was his old reliable self.
Brian Murphy and Jackie Tyrrell make the corners – Murphy was one of Cork’s best players while Tyrrell remains the modern benchmark for corner-backs.
Shane Kavanagh was immense, and consistent, for Galway and shored up a position that’s been a problem for them for a few years. Outside them the half-back line picks itself – Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh shades Ronan Curran and Brian Hogan with JJ Delaney and Tommy Walsh alongside him.
In the midfield area Michael Fennelly is now the main man for Kilkenny and has been very good, while Michael Rice was also good in the Leinster championship – even though he may not start on Sunday. Brendan Maher is my third-best midfielder of the year. There’s some poetic licence in the half-forward line, with many players occupying different positions throughout the year. One was Damien Hayes, who was probably Galway’s top forward.
Noel McGrath’s had a topsy-turvy year but was outstanding against Waterford at number 11, and he gets a tentative nod in a season where we didn’t often have outstanding centre-forward play. Lar Corbett is another player who’s occupied practically every position for Tipp, and I put him at wing-forward because he did well there when alternating with John O’Brien in the All-Ireland semi-final. John Mullane was Waterford’s top forward all year, while at full-forward Richie Power shades it over Eoin Kelly at present because of his displays against Cork and Galway in particular.
Henry Shefflin, another versatile player, goes in at corner-forward; he was very good in the Leinster championship particularly and couldn’t be left out.
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