After a weekend of surprises Sean Cremin looks at Hurling Team of the Week for the 28th of July.
Anthony Nash – Cork
It was another excellent performance from Nash in the Cork goal. He is fully justifying Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s decision to drop Donal Óg Cusack from the Cork panel. The non-presence of Cusack has allowed new leaders to thrive in the Cork set-up and having an excellent replacement in his position also made it a correct decision. Nash’s puck-out’s and saves were vital to Cork yesterday. The double save from the penalty just after half-time was huge to stopping a potential Kilkenny comeback.
2. Stephen McDonnell – Cork
It was a very close call between McDonnell and Paul Murphy of Kilkenny. Murphy is probably the best corner-back playing the game at the moment, and he had a good game yesterday, even scoring a point from play but McDonnell deserves recognition for his performance against Kilkenny. To be honest I thought he could have been the weak link in the Cork defence but he had a great game. He didn’t allow Colin Fennelly to run with the ball and he got some vital tackles and clearances in. This game should see him grow in confidence.
3. Shane O’Neill – Cork
O’Neill was absolutely outstanding for Cork yesterday. I was mystified as to how he did not receive the ‘man of the match award’. His defending was impeccable. His tackling and pressurising was an example to any young defender watching the game. His skill levels were also excellent, his first touch and striking allowed him to relieve a lot of pressure. I said in the lead up to the game that his fitness was essential to a Cork win and I certainly feel justified in that statement after yesterday.
4. Cian Dillon – Clare
Dillon was given the job of dealing with Joe Canning yesterday and I think it’s fair to say that he came out on top. He did receive great support from Patrick Donnelan who was deployed as a sweeper in front of him but Dillon stood out more as a direct opponent on Canning. He has had a good season for the Banner so far. He is a big presence at the back and his style of play certainly helps the team as a whole.
5. Tom Kenny – Cork
Cork needed a few experienced heads on the pitch yesterday and along with Shane O’Neill, Tom Kenny had a very good game. He was the one elder player to survive the winter clear-out on Leeside and he showed his worth yesterday. He started the game by marking Henry Shefflin and he dominated. His use of the ball was very intelligent and he showed his experience when the pressure was coming on in the second-half.
6. Pat O’Connor – Clare
Any of the Clare half-backs could have been selected to accompany both of the Cork wing-backs. Patrick Donnelan was played as a sweeper very effectively, Brendan Bugler had a very good outing but I think O’Connor had a great game against Galway. I know he played on the wing but his performance deserves inclusion. He really has kicked on from winning and under-21 All-Ireland last season and now looks like a very assured intercounty half-back. Christopher Joyce also had a fine game for Cork at centre-back but I think a Clare half-back had to be included.
7. William Egan – Cork
This man is the best example of a player who has thrived under the new regime in Cork. The clear-out of players like John Gardiner, Eoin Cadogan and Seán Óg ó hAilpín has allowed Egan to make the number seven shirt his own and Cork are now reaping the rewards. Cork needed new leaders and Egan is a great example of this. He is not short on confidence and a continuous run of games has seen him grow more and more. He was outstanding against Kilkenny. This could be the game that really instils him in the Cork side and he has the potential to be a huge player for Cork in the years to come.
8. Daniel Kearney – Cork
To people outside of Cork, Kearney may have been an unknown until last season but he has always been a very talented hurler and he is repaying the faith that the Cork management have put in him. He has had a very good season and the run of games and the experience he has acquired have seen him improve continuously. He has a great engine that allows him to attack and defend. His skill levels and ability to run with the ball are also valuable to the modern day midfielder. His start to the game yesterday really set the tone for Cork’s win. In the first twenty minutes he dominated the middle third and Cork drove on from there.
9. Michael Fennelly – Kilkenny
It was a very poor day for Kilkenny but Fennelly still showed what a class act he really is. Especially taking into account that it was his first start for a number of months, his standard of performance was very high. While Kilkenny were full of tired legs, Fennelly still had a bundle of energy and despite Kearney’s excellent performance, Fennelly was probably the most impressive midfielder on show.
10. Seamus Harnedy – Cork
If Kearney was an unknown, than Harnedy was a complete unknown to certain people both inside and outside of Cork. Only followers of the Fitzgibbon Cup may have really heard of Harnedy before Cork’s game with Clare but he has been thriving at third-level hurling for a few years now and he has made the step up to the Cork senior team very well. The fact that he never played minor or under-21 with Cork says a lot about the selection process in Cork.
He has had an excellent season so far. He was very good yesterday. He won as many puck-outs as any player has against this awesome Kilkenny half-back line. His movement off the ball must be a nightmare to mark and he carries a strong scoring threat. He can win ball and he is very direct in his play. He has been the forward that Cork have been looking for recently and I am sure that a certain Seán Óg ó hAilpíin may now have heard of a club called St. Ita’s.
11. Jamie Coughlan – Cork
This was a very shrewd move by the Cork management. While he wore number 15 on his back the positioning of Coughlan at centre-forward was very effective. He dragged Brian Hogan everywhere and he did not allow Hogan to dominate. He chipped with a huge point in the first-half that really drove Cork forward. He is a good player and he is coming back to full fitness after a long injury lay off. Still under-21, he is a young player that is still learning and he could have a big impact on the business end of the season for Cork.
12. Tony Kelly – Clare
The final spot here was really between Kelly and Colin Ryan of Clare. Ryan had a great game and was given the ‘man of the match’ award on The Sunday Game. I thought Kelly got through an awful lot of work against Galway. He worked like a trojan all over the pitch. He was key to Clare gaining possession and launching attacks. I felt the defining moment of the game was Kelly’s dispossession of Joe Canning at midfield, followed directly by a great long range point that gave Clare an extra bit of breathing space. He is usually known for his point scoring but it was his other attributes that really impressed me yesterday.
13. Padraic Collins – Clare
This player has been outstanding this season. It was great to see him earn so many plaudits on The Sunday Game. He covers almost every blade of grass on whatever field he takes to. His work rate and skill levels are very high and he compliments this Clare system perfectly. I would love to have a full list of statistics on his performance but scores from play, ground covered, hooks, blocks, passes were all on show in a complete performance. Like the first game, I am struggling to see how he wasn’t selected as ‘man of the match’.
14. Patrick Horgan – Cork
There will be a sense of justice for Horgan following his red card against Limerick and I think yesterday showed yet again how valuable he is to this Cork team. He is their main forward. He plays very intelligently, he stays close to goal and gets himself in scoring positions. His skill is as good as any in the country and he can finish efficiently. He had a great battle with J.J Delaney yesterday, but a return of four points from play and seven pointed frees accounting for more than half of Cork’s scores, saw Horgan win this battle. If Cork are to win the All-Ireland, Horgan must be on form.
15. Conor McGrath – Clare
It wasn’t a vintage weekend for forwards, especially inside forwards. None of the Kilkenny of Galway forwards really functioned, while Cork’s inside forwards struggled at times so Clare’s Conor McGrath gets the nod. It wasn’t a great outing by any means but a return of 1-2 from play was very useful. The first-half goal was a reflection of McGrath at his best and he did carry a big threat throughout the game. He has been struggling for form, but he is returning from injury and seems to be getting fitter and sharper with every game.