Selecting the best hurling forwards of the modern era is an impossible task

Selecting the best hurling forwards of the modern era is an impossible task
Joe Canning points a sideline puck for Galway against Cork. Picture: Ray Ryan/SPORTSFILE

OVER the past 50 years all the leading hurling counties have had their names inscribed on the Liam McCarthy Cup.

Some, of course, a lot more often than others, Kilkenny certainly leading the way in that regard.

All of those All-Ireland winning counties have had some outstanding attacking material at their disposal, some of the greatest players ever to don a jersey.

So, it goes without saying, that trying to select six forwards in that time span is beyond impossible!

But, to reiterate, it’s just an exercise right now when the playing fields are silent to merit a bit of debate and to stress as well, it’s just an opinion that the vast majority will probably disagree with anyway, something, of course, which is their right.

We’ll start with the county that leads the way in the honours list and Kilkenny lead the way here without any argument whatsoever.

They have 36 All-Ireland titles to their credit and in the list of forward contributors you have iconic names like Eddie Keher, DJ Carey, Henry Shefflin, Charlie Carter, Eddie Brennan, Richie Power, Mick Brennan, and so on.

DJ Carey celebrates an All-Ireland victory over Cork.
DJ Carey celebrates an All-Ireland victory over Cork.

When you are selecting the best team from any era a lot of them have to be included.

Wexford are one of the counties that have suffered their fair share at the hands of the Cats but they produced great forwards too, none more so than Tony Doran.

Then you had Martin Storey, John and Martin Quigley and Christy Kehoe, the latter’s shot being brilliantly stopped by our own Martin Coleman in Cork’s three-in-a-row.

During Offaly’s very good years in the ’80s and ’90s, you had Pat Carroll, Johnny Flaherty, Padraigh Horan, Joe Dooley, and Pat Carroll all making major scoring contributions.

Going into Munster and starting here on Leeside there’s a list as long as your arm of great forward material over the past half century.

The names are all household, Ray Cummins, Charlie McCarthy, Seanie O’Leary, Timmy Crowley, Mick Malone, JBM, Willie Walsh and so on, all heroic figures during the three-in-a-row tea.

Of more recent vintage you have to include Ben O’Connor, Joe Deane, Seanie McGrath, Timmy McCarthy, John Fitzgibbon, Fergal McCormack and of the current crop, Patrick Horgan who would have starred in any era with some of the aforementioned names around him.

Ben O'Connor, Cork, takes on Adrian Cullinane, Galway, in the 2011 hurling qualifier at the Gaelic Grounds. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE
Ben O'Connor, Cork, takes on Adrian Cullinane, Galway, in the 2011 hurling qualifier at the Gaelic Grounds. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Clare too gave the game some top quality forwards down the years, players like Johnny Callanan from the ‘70s national league winning sides, Colm Honan, Noel Casey, Ger O’Loughlin, PJ O’Connell, and more recently Podge Collins and Tony Kelly.

Tipperary always had good, scoring forwards going back to Jimmy Doyle and Babs Keating and three of the best were Nicky English, Lar Corbett and Pat Fox.

John Leahy too was an outstanding hurler while Michael Cleary would have to figure very prominently in any attacker list.

Lar Corbett, Tipperary, celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Kilkenny in 2010. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Lar Corbett, Tipperary, celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Kilkenny in 2010. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

In 1971, you had Francis Loughnane making a major contribution while Cormac Bonnar gave opposing defenders plenty of problems.

And more recently, Eoin Kelly and Seamus Callanan.

Galway’s Joe Canning is, quite rightly, rated as one of the best forwards of all time and before him you had Noel Lane, Joe Cooney, Bernie Forde, PJ Molloy, Joe Rabbitte among others.

Waterford have not won an All-Ireland since 1959 but produced top notch forwards in Paul Flynn, John Mullane, Eoin Kelly and Dan Shanahan.

Antrim should get mention too with hurlers like Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton and Ciaran Barr.

On to Limerick and you have to include at the very top of the list, Eamon Cregan. His 3-5 against Tipperary in 1966 was one of the outstanding returns from a forward of any era.

Richie Bennis was another forward of the highest quality and on the edge of the square you had Joe McKenna.

Ned Rea, Liam O’Donoghue, Frankie Nolan and Eamon Grimes were terrific hurlers too as was Gary Kirby, one of the finest forwards of his generation, a player who deserved to win a Celtic Cross but didn’t You could say that is a sample list of the great forwards over the past 50 years.

There are others too who we probably forgot to mention. So try to come up with six from that lot!

The list from which we will choose from is:

Ray Cummins, JBM, Charlie McCarthy, Seanie O’Leary, Ben O’Connor, Joe Deane, Patrick Horgan, DJ Carey, Eddie Keher, Henry Shefflin, Joe Canning, Eamon Cregan, Tony Doran, Richie Bennis, Nicky English, Pat Fox, John Leahy, Lar Corbett, Mick Cleary, Tony Kelly, Johnny Callanan, Padraig Horan, PJ Molloy.

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