Picking the best hurling 15 since 1995 with a strong Cork flavour

Picking the best hurling 15 since 1995 with a strong Cork flavour
UCC's Tommy Walsh takes on CIT's John Gardiner. Picture: Neil Danton

IN The Sunday Times recently, they looked back on the last 25 years of the hurling championship. 

Clare's breakthrough was the catalyst for a special era where even though Brian Cody's Cats dominated for long spells the game evolved, while the Banner, Wexford, Galway, Offaly and Limerick all lifted Liam McCarthy as well as the big three of Kilkenny (a staggering 11 times), Cork (3) and Tipp (4). 

Eoin Kelly of Tipperary tackled by Cork's Mark Prendergast. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Eoin Kelly of Tipperary tackled by Cork's Mark Prendergast. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

The writers were given a task even Tom Cruise would have deemed a genuine Mission Impossible, selecting an All-Star hurling 15 from those 25 years. There was a bit of shuffling to accommodate players out of position, Tommy Walsh was corner-back in Christy O'Connor's line-up, Brian Whelehan at four in Denis Walsh's, while Michael Foley redeployed JJ Delaney there.

All three opted for Brian Corcoran as the other corner-back though he only really played there at the outset of his career, albeit collecting a Hurler of the Year gong for his efforts. The only other Leesiders to feature were Donal Óg Cusack, as chosen by Denis Walsh and Ben O'Connor, picked by Christy O'Connor.

My effort below is heavily biased in favour of Cork, but what else would you expect in these pages.

Interestingly, The Sunday Times crew all had Corcoran, Whelehan, JJ, Seanie McMahon, Tommy Walsh, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid, Joe Canning, Henry Shefflin, Eoin Kelly and DJ Carey in their teams. Seamus Callanan, Brendan Cummins and Brian Lohan were in two of the three.

McMahon, Lohan, Callanan and Cummins aren't in my team. None of the Clare contingent made it, as I've gone with Diarmuid O'Sullivan in the three geansaí and Ken McGrath at centre-back.

Brian Corcoran, Cork, in action against Liam Cahill, Tipperary, in 2000. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Brian Corcoran, Cork, in action against Liam Cahill, Tipperary, in 2000. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

That means Corcoran is in the corner, which isn't ideal and neither is Delaney on the left of The Rock but it's still a formidable last line of defence, with Tommy Walsh, McGrath and Pádraic Maher outside them. Seán Óg Ó hAilpín just missing out at seven. 

Donal Óg is between the posts because even though Cummins was a better shot-stopper, Cusack completely changed how puck-outs were used and a seismic impact off the field too. The keeper as quarterback started in Cloyne.

The abrasiveness of Michael Fennelly makes him an automatic at midfield and while Jerry O'Connor would have made a dynamic foil, Brian Whelehan was too wristy and influential to omit. I've slipped him in alongside the Kilkenny tank.

Narrowing it down to six forwards is tricky on one hand when you consider the sheer number of brilliant attackers in the modern era. Really though, five spots are automatic: Henry Shefflin, Joe Canning, TJ Reid, DJ Carey and Eoin Kelly. All genuine legends.

I came close to leaving DJ Carey out to get two from John Mullane, Patrick Horgan and Seamus Callanan in the full-forward line either side of Eoin Kelly, but a couple of quiet All-Ireland final appearances against Cork in 2003 and '04 weren't enough to justify doing that to DJ. 

Horgan, who in the past three years has been breathtakingly brilliant, is at 15. Yep, we're back to that Cork bias as the case for Callanan is probably more compelling.

Patrick Horgan, Cork, in action against Niall Donoghue, Galway, in the 2012 All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Dáire Brennan/SPORTSFILE
Patrick Horgan, Cork, in action against Niall Donoghue, Galway, in the 2012 All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Dáire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

Even at that, Jamsie O'Connor, Ben O'Connor, Joe Deane, Dan Shanahan, Richie Hogan, Eddie Brennan, Tony Kelly, Lar Corbett, Dan Shanahan and Damien Hayes haven't even been mentioned! 

Truly a fool's errand.

1995-2020 All-Star hurling 15:

1. Donal Óg Cusack (Cork); 

2. Brian Corcoran (Cork), 3. Diarmuid O'Sullivan (Cork), 4. JJ Delaney (Kilkenny); 

5. Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny), 6. Ken McGrath (Waterford), 7. Pádraic Maher (Tipperary); 

8. Brian Whelehan (Offaly), 9. Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny); 

10. TJ Reid (Kilkenny), 11. Joe Canning (Galway), 12. Henry Shefflin (Kilkenny); 

13. DJ Carey (Kilkenny), 14. Eoin Kelly (Tipperary), 15. Patrick Horgan (Cork).

DJ Carey and Diarmuid O'Sullivan are in my All-Star hurling 15.
DJ Carey and Diarmuid O'Sullivan are in my All-Star hurling 15.

More in this section

Sponsored Content