Here you have Dublin with four All-Irelands in a row and Stephen Cluxton, acknowledged as the finest ever goalkeeper in football, not able to get an All-Star in any of the four years. For someone of Cluxton’s influence on the way Dublin play, it’s a strange one.
Aren’t this year’s hurling All-Stars the same pattern? There’s probably only two big talking points. You had Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes missing out at wing-back and his teammate Dan Morrissey getting in.
Maybe Dan making wing-back was a sop to his brother Tom missing out at wing-forward.
All-Ireland champions Limerick boast six names on the 2018 All-Star hurling team of the year. Galway and Cork have three representatives each, while two Clare players make the cut with one Kilkenny player. #rtegaa pic.twitter.com/jZPYWwm3lF— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) November 2, 2018
“I would have picked Tom Morrissey there and left Séamus Harnedy inside in the full-forward line, where John Conlon and Graeme Mulcahy were certs.
Don’t get me wrong. Patrick Horgan, along with TJ Reid, would be one of the first names you’d pencil in for the best six forwards in Ireland. But the All-Stars are picked on a given season, and I thought Tom Morrissey was a bit more consistent than Horgan in 2018. Tom can consider himself unlucky.
The other name to mention at half-forward is Kyle Hayes. How often over the years did getting Man of the Match in the All-Ireland final make an All-Star out of a lad? Kyle wouldn’t have been out of place on this selection, but Joe Canning was absolutely nailed on and Peter Duggan not that far behind him.
Kyle getting Young Hurler of the Year is compensation.
That was a tough decision between him and Darragh Fitzgibbon (even though neither of them, funny enough, made the U21 Team of the Year). Darragh is rightly an All-Star midfielder, along with Cian Lynch.
That last man is a popular choice for Hurler of the Year. Cian really came into his own over the summer.
I’ll be straight up and say I didn’t agree with Joe Canning as Hurler of the Year in 2017. To me, that man was Gearóid McInerney. Nothing whatsoever against Cian Lynch but Joe deserved Hurler of the Year in 2018. I’d say the same even if Galway had lost to Limerick in the All-Ireland by 10 or more points.
This year, we really saw Joe’s battling qualities. He led fightbacks, and never better than in the All-Ireland Final. Joe’s a more rounded hurler now, but good luck to Cian.
Seán Finn, Daithí Burke and Richie English for the full-back line are no way controversial choices. But I suppose Mike Casey, who was brilliant in the All-Ireland Final on Jonathan Glynn, has to be a small bit unlucky about full-back. I wondered beforehand whether Mike would be able to mark a man of Glynn’s height, 6’ 5” and all the rest. But Mike was more than up to it.
I won’t dwell on the point but it was nothing short of a disgrace that Jack Browne didn’t even get a nomination in this line. Nothing to do with him being from Clare and everything to do with his performance levels.
Anyhow, it was great to see Seán coming back so strongly from his cruciate injury. He’s such a skilful hurler.
And I’ve always had massive time for Richie English. He was just gone overage when I took over the Limerick minors for 2015. One of the people involved with me said at the time: “I have a right lad to do the hurleys for this year’s backs.”
“Who’s that?” I said.
“Would he do that, and he just gone himself?”
“He would, flying.”
Richie has always been a desperate solid young fella. I’m pure delighted for him to get this acknowledgement.
Nickie Quaid had a great year in the Limerick goal but Eoin Murphy is sort of becoming the Stephen Cluxton of hurling. He’s such an influential figure for Kilkenny. Looking at Eoin coming off his line, he’s nearly more like Brian Lohan with the ball in his hand, more like a full-back, than he’s like any other past goalkeeper.
Brian [Cody] might have mixed feelings about Eoin’s influence. In the past, we saw the Kilkenny defence being so dominant that their goalkeeper found it hard to get a look in for an All-Star. Ask James McGarry…
It’s noticeable that Eoin Murphy is the only choice from a county that didn’t make the last four this summer. That’s fair enough, but I remember John Leahy getting an All-Star back in 1994 for his league performances, especially in the final, even though he got injured for the championship.
On that basis, going by performances from the spring on, you could make a case for TJ Reid in these All-Star.
But the new round robin format, with so many extra matches, means league form is back further than ever when it comes to picking All-Stars.