John Horgan: Tough call in midfield for hurling All-Star selectors

Tony Kelly, Jamie Barron and Cian Lynch are in the mix for two positions
John Horgan: Tough call in midfield for hurling All-Star selectors

Cian Lynch of Limerick in action against Tadhg de Búrca of Waterford. Both were All-Star nominees for 2020. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

LIMERICK’S dominance of the hurling landscape last season will make it easy for the All-Star selectors when they sit down to finalise their 15 selections.

This is a special year in the history of the scheme as it marks the 50th year since it was first introduced.

In that time the All-Stars have been a topic for great debate at the end of the playing season and when there might not be a whole pile happening out on the pitches.

It has to be said at the outset that the scheme has proved to be hugely successful and for many players who did not get the opportunity to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand after winning an All-Ireland, All-Star recognition was the next best thing.

And if you came from one of the less fashionable counties and if by some chance you received an All-Star you were almost immortalised.

And in the past, it was wonderful to see great Antrim hurlers like Olcan McFetridge, Ciaran Barr, Sambo McNaughton, Dessie Donnelly and Paul Killeen recognised.

On many occasions, there was a lot of acrimony over some of the choices made by the selecting journalists.

A team might not get the recognition that many believed they should have got when it came to the final selection.

Back in the day, a player could only be selected in the position that he occupied but of course, things are much different now and a defender might get recognition as a midfielder.

Controversy raged often over the omission of a player and the greatest example of this occurred in 1994, the year that Offaly lifted the McCarthy Cup after a late, late comeback against Limerick.

Their standout player that year, the Faithful County’s greatest ever hurler, Brian Whelehan was seen as an automatic choice for a wing-back position.

Offaly legend Brian Whelehan won Hurler of the Year but not an All-Star in 1994. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Offaly legend Brian Whelehan won Hurler of the Year but not an All-Star in 1994. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

In fact, the Birr club man was and is recognised as one of the greatest players ever to don an inter-county jersey. In that year of ‘94 he was chosen as the Texaco Hurler of the Year but mind-bogglingly he did not receive an All-Star.

There was fury in the county and far beyond at his omission and years later that was brought further into focus when he was chosen in the Hurling Team of the Millenium.

The wing-backs chosen by the All-Star selectors in that year of ‘94 were Dave Clarke from Limerick and Offaly’s Kevin Martin.

Offaly got recognised for the position but not with one of the greatest players of all time and it was one of the great controversies of the All-Stars scheme.

It was and still is a scheme that can, as they say, ruffle feathers but in general, in the more modern era, there are far fewer talking points.

The selection is based very much on just a couple of games each year, the All-Ireland final and the two semi-finals.

You could star in the national league but you might not get an All-Star and everything really hinges on how a player performs at the latter end of the season.

There will be one exception, of course, this time when Clare’s Tony Kelly will be unanimously given the nod. He will get one of the two midfield berths and there won’t be a dissenting voice such was the huge contribution that he made during Clare’s involvement in the campaign.

In fact, at times it seemed he was doing it all on his own.

The goalkeeping position rests between Nicky Quaid and Stephen O’Keeffe and the choice here will be the Limerick netminder. Sean Finn is likely to be recognised too with Conor Prunty from Waterford and Daithí Burke from Galway alongside him.

Waterford’s Conor Prunty in action. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Waterford’s Conor Prunty in action. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The half-backs are likely to be Diarmuid Byrnes, Waterford’s Tadhg de Búrca and Kyle Hayes.

Jamie Barron from Waterford will be in strong contention to accompany Kelly in the midfield area. 

The dilemma is that Cian Lynch has been nominated here too, though the Limerick ace and Kelly both hurled for most of the season up front.

Limerick will dominate the forward choices on the selection with Gearoid Hegarty an automatic choice in the half-forward line, with Tom Morrissey another definite on the left.

TJ Reid from Kilkenny is going to be selected in the attack and Stephen Bennett from Waterford will be selected too.

For the other two spots, the likes of Aaron Gillane, Austin Gleeson, Cathal Mannion and maybe Joe Canning are strong contenders.

On the Hurler of the Year front there are three nominees, Gearoid Hegarty, Tony Kelly and Stephen Bennett, all three fully deserving of being the choices.

Kelly, a simply awesome hurler, would get the nod here but Hegarty will be the chosen one and that will brook no argument.

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