Dymanic Hogan drove Cats throughout the year
THE year ends with those familiar black-and-amber ribbons festooning Liam MacCarthy and last year's giddy pronouncements of a Banner-led revolution to last a decade sounding ever so slightly daft. The Cats are back, and the rest of us better get used to it. Well, until next summer at least ...
HURLER OF THE YEAR
1. RICHIE HOGAN
Being subbed on the last day does not debar you from membership of this elite club - especially when you have been so majestic for almost everything that preceded it. Here's our litmus test: The Herald doesn't throw out 'nine out of tens', willy-nilly, yet Hogan achieved this standout player rating four times this summer: the draw against Galway, the Leinster final against Dublin, the semi-final against Limerick and drawn decider against Tipperary. Whether as a ball-magnet midfielder or a prolific point machine - or both - the Danesfort dynamo was irrepressible.
2. SÉAMUS CALLANAN
If Tipp had gone home with the canister, it would have been hard to overlook Callanan's pretty compelling claims. Metronomic is the only word to describe his summer stats; to score nine goals and 50 points (9-16 from play) in seven games is positively Shefflinesque.
3 TJ REID
A handful of players from the two finalists had claims on third spot ... but ultimately we plump for TJ, who has grown into a true Kilkenny leader this year.
YOUNG HURLER OF THE YEAR
1 SHANE DOWLING
Only had four matches to make his case, but the Limerick marksman still amassed a monstrous 4-36. A year-three 'veteran' and still only 21.
2 CONOR McDONALD
No one player epitomised the rebirth of Wexford more than their swashbuckling, goal-hungry, teenage tearaway full-forward.
3 CATHAL BARRETT
It's not all about the forwards. The Tipp corner-back has been a revelation, never more so than in the drawn All-Ireland.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
1. AUSTIN GLEESON (Waterford v Cork)
A long-lost treasure from the back end of May - but still a clear winner. Pounces on a miscued sideline cut, 65 metres from goal, and embarks on a mazy solo past three Corkmen before angling a sumptuous high finish past Anthony Nash.
2. SÉAMUS CALLANAN (Tipperary v Cork)
Bonner Maher does the spadework, Callanan does the rest with a 20-metre bullet for his second goal of the semi-final. Game over.
3 RICHIE HOGAN (Kilkenny v Limerick)
A stunning strike - and also a crucial one - sees Kilkenny edge ahead for the first time on the cusp of half-time. Colin Fennelly passes to Hogan (inset right), who stands up to a crunching shoulder and then buries the chance.
POINT OF THE YEAR
1 JOE CANNING (Galway v Kilkenny)
Shades our vote for technique but also context. In the last play of this drawn Leinster semi-final, running away from goal, 'Big Joe' simply had to score from the left touchline in Tullamore. And he did.
2 SHANE McGRATH (Tipperary v Kilkenny)
His second of three points last Saturday - and arguably even more spectacular than Canning's effort. McGrath took off from inside his own '45', skipping past two Cats before firing over off his stick from 65 metres.
3 HENRY SHEFFLIN (Kilkenny v Galway)
Canning had to deliver the above equaliser simply because, just seconds earlier, Shefflin had produced his own moment of touchline genius.
SAVE OF THE YEAR
EOIN MURPHY (Kilkenny v Galway)
From the same game - Canning's sumptuous strike is fizzing towards the bottom corner until Murphy flings himself to his left and tips it around the post.
HOOK OF THE CENTURY
(Kilkenny v Tipperary)
JJ on Callanan last Saturday. No further words required.
MATCH OF THE YEAR
KILKENNY v TIPPERARY DRAW
Brian Cody may prefer his All-Irelands played on last Saturday's terms - and yes, you cannot but marvel at the hooks, the blocks, the savage intensity of it all. That won't change our minds, though: September 7 was a bona fide all-time classic.
SAGA OF THE YEAR
1. KILKENNY v TIPPERARY: The NHL final going to extra-time, the epic All-Ireland deadlock, and another rip-roaring sequel.
2. WEXFORD v CLARE: Two qualifiers, two bouts of extra-time, three red cards, God knows how many twists ... and one vanquished champion.
3. KILKENNY v GALWAY: Two days in Tullamore that won't be forgotten.
FLOP OF THE YEAR
1. CORK (v TIPPERARY): Rarely has one team of which so much was expected delivered so little on the big stage. They made it easy for Tipp.
2. DUBLIN (v TIPPERARY): You could toss a coin between this and the Leinster final ... but a Sky Blue backlash was demanded and it never happened.
RAN OUT OF JUICE AWARD
WEXFORD (v LIMERICK): Statistically, this was a bigger collapse than either of the above, but the Slaneysiders deserve sympathy because of their leg-sapping prior schedule.
WHERE TO NOW AWARD
THE DUBS: After a tame end to the roller-coaster 'Dalo' era, the new incumbent has a big repair job on his hands. Can he shake up a tired team and keep Dublin among the top-six elite?
TIPPERARY v GALWAY: From six points down to win by nine, a 15-point turnaround in barely 20 minutes. Great craic if you're a Tipp man; galling for all Galwegians.
SUSPENSE OF THE YEAR
HAWK-EYE: John O'Dwyer was initially convinced he had won the All-Ireland for Tipp; after a heart-stopping wait, technology would prove otherwise.
ONGOING MESS OF THE YEAR
PENALTIES: From 13m health-hazard bullets to penalties that can't be scored, then to shots on goal that won't even be attempted (see Séamus Callanan tap over the bar above) ... time for a rule change to sort it out: namely one-on-one, poacher versus 'keeper.