Cats and Tribe are tied with Déise just behind
TAKE a look at this year's GAA GPA All Star hurling nominations, sponsored by Opel, and you get a pretty accurate snapshot of the small ball season just gone.
And not a particularly eventful or multi-denominational one at that.
The 45-strong list of nominations is dominated - to a scarily lopsided degree - by the four All-Ireland semi-finalists.
Winners Kilkenny and runners-up Galway lead the way with 12 nominations apiece, with league champions and beaten semi-finalists Waterford hot on their heels with 11.
Munster champions Tipperary, vanquished by Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final that qualified as match of the year, must satisfy themselves with the comparatively slim pickings of seven nominations.
Then you have a precipitous drop to three other counties who garner one nomination apiece - Dublin's Mark Schutte, Cork's Séamus Harnedy and Clare's Tony Kelly.
Is this a case of so-called also-rans being forgotten or, worse, ignored by the All Stars committee? We don't think so - and this observer (whose selection duties are confined to football) cannot claim any conflict of interest.
In truth, it has been a mundane bordering on drab hurling championship where shocks were as rare as Sepp Blatter mea culpas, and this is reflected in the absence of any contenders from some of the lesser lights.
Meanwhile, the erratic form graph - both individually and collectively - of quarter-finalists Dublin and Cork plus 2013 champions Clare can be seen in their solitary nominations.
Schutte, to his credit, crowned a fine season by scoring 1-2 from play as Ger Cunningham's Dubs fell short against Waterford in Thurles.
The Cuala man had excelled during the league and followed up with some prolific summer flourishes, albeit without the same level of consistency.
As for the leading lights, it's probably easier to name-check the players who don't make the cut.
Three of Brian's Cody's All-Ireland final starters are omitted - defender Seamus Prendergast, Walter Walsh and fellow forward Colin Fennelly, a first-time All Star in 2014.
Ditto with Galway, who will derive very little consolation from matching Kilkenny's dozen nominations: their three absentees are defenders John Hanbury and Aidan Harte plus centre-forward Cyril Donnellan.
Some may find it curious that Waterford - with 11 - claim four more nominations than their Munster final conquerors from Tipperary.
Then again, schemes that honour individuals as opposed to collectives frequently throw up these apparent anomalies ... and clearly the selectors haven't forgotten the sustained brilliance of the Deise as they blazed a trail from Division 1B all the way to the Allianz League summit, beating Tipp (at the semi-final stage) along the way.
Waterford's defensive system was a season-long talking point, and all six of their regular backs are included - among them sweeper Tadhg de Búrca, a strong contender for Young Hurler of the Year against Galway duo Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion.
Tipp scoring machine Séamus Callanan is the one outsider to gatecrash Kilkenny's Hurler of the Year party, with TJ Reid and Richie Hogan also nominated but Reid widely perceived as the likely winner.
Unlike the team itself, selected by journalists, GPA members will ultimately decide who is announced as player of the year at the All Stars banquet in the Convention Centre on November 6.
GAA GPA ALL STAR HURLING NOMINATIONS
GOALKEEPERS (3): Colm Callanan (Galway), Darren Gleeson (Tipperary), Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny).
DEFENDERS (18): Paul Murphy, Joey Holden, Pádraig Walsh, Kieran Joyce, Cillian Buckley (all Kilkenny), Padraig Mannion, Johnny Coen, Daithí Burke, Iarla Tannian (all Galway), Noel Connors, Barry Coughlan, Shane Fives, Tadhg de Búrca, Austin Gleeson, Philip Mahony (all Waterford), Cathal Barrett, James Barry, Pádraig Maher (all Tipperary).
MIDFIELD (6): Michael Fennelly, Conor Fogarty (both Kilkenny), David Burke, Andy Smith (both Galway), Kevin Moran, Jamie Barron (both Waterford).
FORWARDS (18): Ger Aylward, Richie Hogan, Eoin Larkin, TJ Reid (all Kilkenny), Joe Canning, Jason Flynn, Jonathan Glynn, Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan (all Galway), Seamus Callanan, Brendan Maher, John O’Dwyer (all Tipperary), Colin Dunford, Maurice Shanahan, Michael Walsh (all Waterford), Seamus Harnedy (Cork), Tony Kelly (Clare), Mark Schutte (Dublin).
COUNTY BREAKDOWN: Kilkenny 12, Galway 12, Waterford 11, Tipperary 7, Cork 1, Clare 1, Dublin 1.
HURLER OF THE YEAR (3): Richie Hogan, TJ Reid (both Kilkenny), Séamus Callanan (Tipperary).
YOUNG HURLER OF THE YEAR (3): Jason Flynn, Cathal Mannion (both Galway), Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford).