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Monday 18 December 2017

Cat laughs cut short as Tipp shade All Stars

Hurling Allstars
Hurling Allstars

BRIAN CODY has always espoused the power of the collective but one cannot help but wonder what he makes of the individual breakdown of this year's GAA/GPA All Stars hurling team.

For the second time in three years, Kilkenny have been crowned champions and finished with less All Stars than the team they put to the All-Ireland replay sword.

In a team dominated by our two September protagonists, Tipperary lead the way with seven awards despite losing league and All-Ireland finals to Kilkenny, who must settle for six gongs.

The only other county represented are Limerick, who claim two All Stars in the guise of first-time winners Séamus Hickey and Shane Dowling.

Whatever about Limerick's brace, one suspects the Kilkenny hierarchy will look at Tipp's haul and privately seethe over this perceived snub - even more so since it also happened in 2012.

Then, Kilkenny eventually crushed Galway in an All-Ireland replay yet had to settle for just five All Stars, one less than the vanquished finalists.

MADNESS

Yet, on closer inspection, there is method to this year's apparent madness. Cody and his fellow selectors chopped and changed their starting team all summer, with the result that several of their contenders had less game time to prove their credentials.

For example, Kieran Joyce was Man of the Match in last month's final replay but didn't even make the nominations cut - hardly a surprise given he hadn't played a single minute since Kilkenny's draw with Galway in June.

The six chosen Cats range from the multi-decorated JJ Delaney, earning his seventh award, to a brace of first-time winners, Cillian Buckley and Colin Fennelly. They were joined on the Convention Centre stage last night by corner-back Paul Murphy (winning his third All Star) along with Richie Hogan and TJ Reid (their second).

The latter duo were also nominated for Hurler of the Year along with Tipperary scoring machine Séamus Callanan ... predictably the prize, as voted by the players, went to Hogan after a season of sustained excellence.

Callanan was a shoo-in at full-forward, one of four maiden Tipp All Stars - the others being 'keeper Darren Gleeson plus attackers John O'Dwyer and Patrick 'Bonner' Maher. Completing their magnificent seven were half-back namesakes Brendan and Pádraic Maher and midfielder Shane McGrath.

A notable feature is Cork's blank despite their Munster success - whereas beaten finalists Limerick get two. That said, Hickey's magnificent semi-final defiance against Kilkenny was hard to ignore and likewise with Shane Dowling's consistently prolific returns.

Dowling's selection meant there was no place for All-Ireland hero Richie Power while the other strong Kilkenny candidate to lose out was 'keeper Eoin Murphy, who made a late burst following his recall for the drawn final but ultimately was pipped by Gleeson.

On the flip side, Cathal Barrett was unlucky to be squeezed out of the full-back line - but still finished the night as a winner after the Tipp corner-back was named Young Hurler of the Year.

Meanwhile, the Footballer of the Year was also revealed last night, with Kerry ace James O'Donoghue beating Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly and Donegal's Neil McGee to the prize. The Young Footballer award went to Donegal's Ryan McHugh.

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