All-Star awards can often depend on All-Ireland final winners or performances, but this is how I think the team is shaping up at the moment.
The defence remains very competitive and it’s certain that the final will determine who gets in and who loses out. It’s hard to imagine that Limerick and Dublin won’t get some form of representation making some positions harder to call. Anyway here is how I think things are looking at the moment.
1. Anthony Nash
It will take something extra special from Patrick Kelly in the All-Ireland final to prevent Nash from picking up his second consecutive all-star award. If Nash has another huge bearing on a Cork victory, he is definitely in with a chance of winning Hurler of the Year.
2. Shane O’Neill / Stephen McDonnell / Paul Murphy
In my opinion Shane O’Neill is a certainty for an all-star and it will be a long overdue award for the Bishopstown man. For me, it’s just a case of whether he gets the corner-back or full-back berth. If McDonnell plays as well as he has against Kilkenny and Dublin, it will be very difficult to leave him out. Again, a lot depends of the outcomes of the final.
3. Shane O’Neill / David McInerney / Peter Kelly
Either of these three players would be worthy of the full-back position. All players have had outstanding seasons. Dublin definitely deserve places in this season’s team and Kelly was definitely one of their best performers. He may find the full-back position too competitive. This is one of the hardest positions to call. Richie McCarthy is another player who may have a chance.
4. Cian Dillon / Conor O’Sullivan / Jackie Tyrell
I think Cian Dillon must get the number four shirt. Conor O’Sullivan has had a great year and a good performance in the final will give him a chance. I think Dillon has been Clare’s most underrated player this season. He has been their main man-marker and has performed excellently in every game.
5 & 7. Brendan Bugler / William Egan / Gavin O’Mahony / Kieran Joyce / Pat O’ Connor
The wing-back positions are also very competitive. Again it’s hard to see a Limerick player not being selected and I think Gavin O’Mahony was their best performer this season but Clare pair, Brendan Bugler and Pat O’Connor, have been outstanding as has Cork’s William Egan. The two positions could easily go to the two best performers in the final. These are two tough calls.
6. Wayne McNamara / Pat Donnellan / Liam Rushe
These are the three contenders for centre-back and it’s tough to know who is in the best position. Wayne McNamara had a great year for Limerick and I think he was the best out and out number six in this year’s championship. Donnellan is a vital part of Clare’s side, and while he wears six on his back, but he plays as a free man in defence. Rushe had a good season for Dublin and I think he will be given serious consideration by the selection committee.
8 & 9. Tony Kelly, Colm Galvin, Lorcan McLoughlin, Daniel Kearney,
The two positions will be decided by the two best performers in the final. It could easily be a split between counties or if one pair were to dominate the final and influence a victory then both could be rewarded.
10 & 12. Conal Keaney / Danny Sutcliffe/ Colin Ryan / Seamus Harnedy
Colin Ryan is coming form at the right time for an all-star and if he has another big influence on the outcome of the final he will have a great chance of being rewarded. Other than that I think both Dublin wing-forwards, Danny Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney are the front runners after outstanding seasons. If Cork are to win the title, I think Seamus Harnedy must be included.
11. Seamus Harnedy / Patrick Cronin / James Ryan / Tony Kelly
While he hasn’t lined out as a natural centre-forward I think Harnedy could easily line out here. James Ryan had a very good year for Limerick and in terms of a specific centre-forward he has been very good. If both Cork midfielders have a good final, then Tony Kelly could easily be repositioned to number eleven; he wears eleven but lines out at midfield. Even though I don’t think he would be deserving of an award, Patrick Cronin will have a chance should he have a good final and be the man to lift Liam McCarthy.
13. Padraic Collins
I don’t think there is a contest for the number thirteen jersey. It hasn’t been a vintage year for inside forwards. Collins wears thirteen and while he isn’t an orthodox corner-forward, the competition in the half-forward line will see him get the number thirteen shirt.
14. Patrick Horgan
No contest here either. He has come of age this season. He is Cork’s main man in attack and is a real contender for Hurler of the Year.
15. Conor McGrath / Darach Honan / Luke O’Farrell / Conor Lehane / Jamie Coughlan / Graeme Mulcahy
This final position all depends on the winner of and best performer in the final. Any one of the five contenders has a chance of getting an all-star. Limerick’s Graeme Mulcahy has an outside chance.
Hurler of the Year
If Cork win – Patrick Horgan, Shane O’Neill or Anthony Nash
If Clare win – Brendan Bugler or Tony Kelly
The winner of this award will be determined by the team that wins the All-Ireland. Cork have three big contenders should they win and all three would be worthy winners. As for Clare, if they win the title, I think whoever performs better or has the greater influence on the result between Brendan Bugler and Tony Kelly will win the award. I think Cian Dillon may have an outside chance should he have a great All-Ireland final.
Young Hurler of the Year
Tony Kelly, Padraic Collins or Colm Galvin
There are three contenders. If Tony Kelly isn’t awarded the Hurler of the Year, I think he is a certainty for Young Hurler of the Year. Should Kelly win the Hurler of the Year award, it’s a straight contest betwenn Padraic Collins and Colm Galvin, with Collins being the favourite.
PLEASE COMMENT BELOW WITH YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHO SHOULD BE SELECTED