Dream team: The best 15 Cork hurlers overlooked as All-Stars

Dream team: The best 15 Cork hurlers overlooked as All-Stars
Teddy McCarthy in the latter stages of his career as a Cork hurler. Picture: INPHO/Tom Honan

CORK hurlers have won 111 All-Stars since the inception of the award scheme back in 1971 with Jimmy Barry-Murphy, John Fenton and Tony O’Sullivan being the top recipients with five awards each.

Here we look at the nearly men, as we look at the best Cork players never to win an All-Star.

There are some surprises in there.

1 Martin Coleman (Ballinhassig): You would expect that Cork’s No. 1 for every single minute of the three-in-a-row run from 1976 to 1978 would have won one, but strangely Coleman never got an All-Star. 

Noel Skehan in ’76 and Clare’s Seamus Durack in ’77 and ’78 got the nod ahead of him. Cork only conceded four goals in ’78, so Coleman can feel very unlucky then.

2 Shane O’Neill (Bishopstown): O’Neill’s timing as a defender was exemplary, but his career timing certainly wasn’t. 

He made his championship debut in 2007, as Cork’s last glorious period came to an end, and in nine seasons he only had one real crack at an All-Ireland, when Cork lost the All-Ireland Final replay to Clare in 2013.

3 Pat McDonnell (Inniscarra): McDonnell was the Texaco Hurler of the Year when Cork won the All-Ireland in 1970, but as the All-Star awards did not commence until 1971 he would end his distinguished career without one. He was full-back in 1976, although Martin O’Doherty would occupy the full-back berth for the remainder of the three-in-a-row run.

4 John Browne (Blackrock): The youngest of the three Browne brothers that played for Cork was an integral part of the All-Ireland winning sides that beat Kilkenny in 1999 and 2004. He came off the bench early to steady the ship in ‘04, putting in his usual effective, understated performance at the back, which meant he never caught the eye of the All-Star selectors.

5 Pat Hartnett (Midleton): A classy operator at wing-back, he was a key part of the Cork half-back line that helped secure All-Irelands in 1984 and 1986. He was still involved in the set up for Munster and League triumphs in ’92 and ’93, but despite plenty trophies, there would be no All-Star.

6 Mark Ellis (Millstreet): It’s tough to fill a jersey worn by the likes of the Cashman’s, Crowley, Corcoran and Curran, but Ellis has made the best fist of it since 2014 and remains a live option today. 2018 was his best year for Cork and had they held on against Limerick in the semi-final he may have nabbed one.

7 Denis Walsh (St Catherine’s): Despite a wonderful dual career, Walsh is often considered the nearly man of Cork GAA, mainly because he should have joined Teddy McCarthy in winning two All-Ireland medals in 1990, but he was cruelly dropped from the football side prior to the final against Meath. 

He also failed to get the nod from either the football or hurling All-Star selectors, but as he won pretty much everything else, that won’t hurt too much.

8 Tom Kenny (Grenagh): The inspiration for this article, as I was genuinely shocked to see that the Grenagh man never won an All-Star in the 11 years he graced the Cork jersey. Kenny was a wonderful athlete and his midfield partnership with Jerry O’Connor was key to the way that the great Cork team of 2004 – 2006 played. 

Tom Kenny strikes home his goal against Wexford in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Tom Kenny strikes home his goal against Wexford in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Jerry obviously was the more eye-catching, as he won three All-Stars in a wonderful career, but it was very much a partnership of equals.

9 Teddy McCarthy (Sarsfields):

Possibly the biggest shock of all is that Teddy never won a hurling All-Star. He did win a football one in 1989, but it is a surprise that someone as swashbuckling as McCarthy was looked over, and especially in 1990, when he won the double and scored three points in the Final.

10 Conor Lehane (Midleton): Still not 28, 2020 would have been Lehane’s 10th championship campaign for Cork, yet despite his undoubted talents, he has always been overlooked on All-Star night. Perhaps that is an indicator of the Midleton attacker’s perceived inconsistency. 

Who can forget those Croke Park goals against Clare and Limerick in 2013 and 2018? It is probably days like those that can frustrate Cork fans, as they know just how good he can be.

11 Mark Foley (Argideen Rangers): You win the All-Ireland, you score 2-7 from play in the Munster final and 1-1 from play in the All-Ireland Final, yet you get overlooked for an All-Star. That is exactly what happened Foley in 1990.

This was an era when you were in direct competition with players in the exact same position on opposition teams and Foley was just unfortunate to play the same role as Galway’s Joe Cooney, who was arguably the finest hurler in the country at the time. Today both would be accommodated.

12 Timmy McCarthy (Castlelyons): A player who sacrificed himself for the cause, he must have come very close to winning an All-Star in his debut year of 1999. He was brilliant in the opening win over Waterford, and his move to midfield in the torrential rain in the final against Kilkenny in Croke Park was a key move by manager JBM. One of those players not truly appreciated until he was gone.

14 Ger Fitzgerald (Midleton): Tony O’Sullivan, Tomas Mulcahy, John Fitzgibbon and Kevin Hennessy all won All-Star, yet Fitzgerald got none, despite being an integral part of that brilliant attack. 

Perhaps it is because he never shot the lights out in an All-Ireland Final where the others had their moments, but he played his part in the ’86 and ’90 triumphs.

15 Alan Browne (Blackrock): The Browne brothers all won All-Ireland’s, yet none of them received an All-Star, despite them all performing extremely important roles for Cork in these triumphs. 

Alan, the only forward of the three, was often the unheralded go-to man on Cork teams, with him being expected to win ball from a wing forward berth or inside closer to goal.

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