Irish Examiner GAA Correspondent John Fogarty writes that the game from the gods with a Championship to boot, selecting All-Stars right now is a difficult exercise.
There’s the increased quality obviously; so too the additional number of games from last year’s competition.
Eight of the 10 Leinster and Munster SHC counties feature in our 45 nominations but as regards the best 15 bar a most outstanding goalkeeper we can’t look outside the All-Ireland semi-finalists:
1. Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)
Another matchwinning intervention like the one the last day and Nickie Quaid could sneak ahead but Murphy’s all-round performances have been extraordinarily good this year that it really would take something to oust him.
Nominees: Nickie Quaid (Limerick), Anthony Nash (Cork)
2. Seán Finn (Limerick)
Limerick haven’t lost a game when he has been on the field at the final whistle. Injured early against Clare in Ennis and recovering for the Carlow game, he has been the typically tigerish Limerick full-back.
3. Daithí Burke (Galway)
Undoubtedly the best full-back in the business and while John Conlon managed to free himself from him to score a few points the last day it was honours even as Burke claimed some great high ball. A force of a hurler.
4. Colm Spillane (Cork)
Aaron Gillane gave him a fine test on Sunday and the fact he can’t make amends should oust him come November but Spillane was a star performer in the Munster championship and will get a nod.
5. Pádraic Mannion (Galway)
His brother Cathal has crept ahead of him in terms of Galway’s strongest candidate for hurler of the year. However, the composure of the wing-back is even more evident than it was when he claimed an All-Star last year.
6. Declan Hannon (Limerick)
Limerick have several strong candidates in defence but their captain’s hand is highest right now. We’ve mentioned before how he looks like Brian Whelahan at times, his reading of the game is that good.
7. Mark Coleman (Cork)
Another Cork player who may miss out come the final decision but last year’s young hurler of the year was again outstanding in Munster, his distribution and calmness things of beauty.
Nominees: Diarmuid Byrnes (Limerick), Mike Casey (Limerick), Chris Crummey (Dublin), Richie English (Limerick), John Hanbury (Galway), Aidan Harte (Galway), Christopher Joyce (Cork), Patrick O’Connor (Clare), Dan Morrissey (Limerick), Jamie Shanahan (Clare), Liam Ryan (Wexford), Pádraig Walsh (Kilkenny).
8. Cian Lynch (Limerick)
It’s been obvious for several years now that the Patrickswell man has skill to burn but it’s in the engine room where he has put them to most use thanks to the conditioning work he has done.
9. Darragh Fitzgibbon
Freewheeling is the word assigned to Limerick right now but Coleman and the Charleville starlet are cut from that same cloth. Fitzgibbon’s audacity and direct running were highlights during the province and again last Sunday.
Nominees: David Burke (Galway), Johnny Coen (Galway), Colm Galvin (Clare), James Maher (Kilkenny), Aidan Nolan (Wexford), Darragh O’Donovan (Limerick).
10. Peter Duggan (Clare)
Man of the match against Tipperary and again against Galway, Duggan has compensated for some of his other forwards when they have been lacking. The consistency he has brought to his game must be commended.
11. Joe Canning (Galway)
Playing better now than 2017 when he claimed what appeared to be a career hurler of the year gong. The standard setter not for himself but everyone else and he was missed in the closing stages last Saturday.
12. Gearóid Hegatry (Limerick)
Again, Limerick have big shouts in Kyle Hayes and Tom Morrissey but this marauding monster was still going strong in extratime on Sunday and besides Ennis he has been terrific for his county this summer.
13. Patrick Horgan (Cork)
His team-mate Seamus Harnedy has led by example and it was difficult to exclude him but there has been more reliance on Horgan to come up with the goods this year and yet again he delivered.
14. John Conlon (Clare)
Possibly the first name in the 15, he’s been that exemplary as the spearhead of the Clare attack. Every fullback the Banner have faced has felt his fury and he isn’t finished yet.
15. Cathal Mannion (Galway)
That Mannion has been scoring freely stands to him but maybe not as much as the serious graft he is putting in around the centre. He’s been less unselfish, which is no bad thing.Nominees: Conor Cooney (Galway), Seamus Flanagan (Limerick), Jason Forde (Tipperary), Seamus Harnedy (Cork), Tony Kelly (Clare), Tom Morrissey (Limerick), Graeme Mulcahy (Limerick), Rory O’Connor (Wexford), T.J. Reid (Kilkenny), Conor Whelan (Galway).