Some of the greatest hurlers to grace the modern game were midfielders

Some of the greatest hurlers to grace the modern game were midfielders
Tommy Dunne of Tipperary tries to tackle Colin Lynch of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Patrick Bolger

THE basic requirement for any footballing midfielder is to have the ability to pluck the ball out of the skies and distribute it intelligently.

There was a time too when that attribute was required in hurling — but the modern game has moved away from a lot of that, and now it’s more about having bundles of energy and being very versatile,

Once upon a time, when a player was selected in midfield, he occupied that position for the game’s entirety and if he wasn’t measuring up, he was replaced.

Now a player can be moved out of the position and placed at wing-back or wing-forward.

A lot of players who won awards at midfield down the years were also successful in other positions.

Over the past half century or so some of the greatest players to grace the game were midfielders and once more, and to emphatically state, it’s impossible to come up with the best two.

In fact, you could select 22 whose presence would be justified.

Anyway, at the end of the week, we’ll come up with two and they’ll be selected from a lengthy list which we’ll go through here.

Going back long before our time, Jack Lynch was a mighty Cork midfielder, and he has been ably succeeded by Gerald McCarthy, Pat Moylan, John Fenton, Justin McCarthy, and, more recently, Jerry O’Connor and Tom Kenny.

Tipperary too have had some fine midfielders in the past and of a more recent vintage.

Brendan Maher. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Brendan Maher. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Brendan Maher is currently one of the best — if not the best — hurlers in the country while before him you had Tommy Dunne, a very decorated midfielder with three All-Stars in 1997, 1999, and 2001, captaining the team in the last of those years.

And to another Premier County icon, Mick Roche, who was one of the greatest hurlers of his time, starring at midfield and at times centre-back.

He has to be a leading contender.

Kilkenny’s Michael Fennelly has a bagful of Celtic Crosses, one of the great midfielders of the modern era.

Before him you had Liam ‘Chunky’ O’Brien who so often in his bursts forward split defences and nailed some big scores.

Then you had Frank Cummins, one of the game’s great midfielders. He had everything, as tough as nails alongside being a quality hurler.

He had many great jousts with Gerald McCarthy at club and county level, and the two of them might well end up alongside each other at the end of week selection.

Two other Kilkenny players who made valuable contributions in the area were Andy Comerford and Derek Lyng and, of course, there was Cha Fitzpatrick.

Jerry O'Connor, Cork, in action against James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Kilkenny, in the 2010 All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Jerry O'Connor, Cork, in action against James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Kilkenny, in the 2010 All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Galway have produced some fine players too in the two midfield slots. Michael Coleman was a supreme hurling artist and you had Pat Malone too.

Another Galway midfielder of note was Steve Mahon while John Connolly was right up there alongside the best of them.

Those Galway players played key roles in the All-Ireland wins of 1987 and 1988 while more recently David Burke has been outstanding in the maroon jersey.

Offaly had a few fine players too in the position in the ’80s, among them Liam Currams and Joachim Kelly.

They deserve mention as do Johnny Dooley who won an All-Star in 2000.

Johnny Dooley in action.
Johnny Dooley in action.

In Clare’s golden years of 1995 and 1997, you had two top-notch midfielders in Colin Lynch and Ollie Baker and they were fearless in their duties in that sector.

Jamesie O’Connor was very capable too when called upon in the sector.

We have already nominated Waterford’s Tony Browne for a defensive position but he was a very capable midfielder too.

Waterford’s Jamie Barron deserves a mention too as a fine midfield player while in the green of Limerick you had Ciarán Carey being equally as strong at midfield as he was at centre-back. Of the present generation, Cian Lynch has been superb in the green jersey.

Jamie Barron on the ball.
Jamie Barron on the ball.

No doubt, we have omitted some big names with the passage of time but the aforementioned players would give the best of selection committees plenty of headaches.

Some might say that midfield in hurling is not as vital as it once was because of the length of the goalkeepers puck-outs which bypasses the area.

That’s neither here nor there because, without the energy and versatility that we have already mentioned, a lot of games might well have been lost.

The list of midfielders that we will choose two from is as follows:

Gerald McCarthy, John Fenton, Michael Fennelly, Frank Cummins, Ciarán Carey, Tommy Dunne, Brendan Maher, John Connolly, Michael Coleman, David Burke, Jerry O’Connor, Cha Fitzpatrick, Mick Roche, Colin Lynch.

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