HOW quickly it all passes. It seems like only yesterday that Cork went into Semple Stadium and came away with a tremendous victory in the first major game of the hurling year.
And now it’s all over, Galway taking every piece of silverware available to them and Cork the only other county to have something tangible to show for their efforts.
So, what are we to make of the year that was? Can we apply the word vintage to the past few months, the months that really matter?
Apart from Galway’s wonderful innings and Cork’s return to the top table, Wexford’s reinvention under Davy Fitzgerald was the only show in town.
Waterford recovered magnificently after their poor showing against Cork in the Munster semi-final and to reverse that result two months later was a fine achievement.
However, are they anywhere nearer to ending that long quest for the Holy Grail?
Games you could describe as epics were not plentiful this year but three stand out for different reasons.
Cork’s 2-27 to 1-26 victory over Tipperary in May stood apart for the fact that, from 1 to 15, it was probably the most complete team performance of the entire season.
Meanwhile, Wexford Park shook to its foundations on the Saturday night that the home team finally put an end to years of domination by Kilkenny.
No county had suffered as much as the Model County had against their Leinster rivals and, for the first time since 1994, they overcame.
Lee Chin’s display that night was among the best in the individual returns for the year and that victory will get them through a lot of the winter.
And it must get mentioned, too, that Wexford were the only county to achieve a victory over Galway in the entire year when they secured the two league points in the league back in the spring.
The game of the year had to be the Galway, Tipperary All-Ireland semi-final, level 13 times before Joe Canning delivered one of the great Croke Park scores of all time.
So for what it’s worth, here are our accolades for the hurling year that was.
Team of the Year: That does not require too much intelligence or thinking about, Galway are on top of the pile and by a nice distance as well.
There might have been only a point between themselves and Kilkenny and three points against Waterford last Sunday but over the course of the year, they had more than everybody else, balance, physicality and an ability to shoot points from any distance or angle.
Player of the Year: The bookies have installed Gearoid McInerney as an almost unbackable choice. If he gets it, it will brook little argument but our choice is Joe Canning.
Galway don’t rely on him as they used but when they needed somebody to drag them over the line in that epic clash with Tipperary they had to turn to him again.
The last seven Galway points were secured by him that day, the winning one under the Cusack when he was hemmed in on all sides.
His flawless free-taking last Sunday gave the rest of the team that reassurance that’s needed in a final. Would Galway have won the All-Ireland without Canning?
Game of the Year: Galway-Tipp All-Ireland semi-final.
Young Player of the Year: The pundits will probably choose Galway’s Cathal Whelan but our choice is Mark Coleman.
He might not have had the greatest of games in the semi-final but in the three games in Munster, he was, for one so young, an inspirational presence in the half-backs. Throw in his efficiency and confidence from line-balls and it was a fantastic debut season.
Manager of the Year: A very strong argument could be put forward for Kieran Kingston for the manner with which he transformed Cork.
His courageous decision to give youth its fling yielded a fine dividend too but most of all, he has restored Cork’s hurling pride. However, at the end of the day, there cannot any dissenting voices when Galway’s Micheál O’Donoghue is named.