07 NOVEMBER 2013 02:30 PM
THEY don’t have Liam MacCarthy but the Dublin hurlers are today celebrating a record haul of All Stars.
Three of the team that created Leinster final history in July have been honoured with positions on the GAA GPA All Stars hurling team for 2013 – full-back Peter Kelly, centre-back Liam Rushe and wing-forward Danny Sutcliffe.
This beats Dublin’s previous best haul – the two awarded to goalkeeper Gary Maguire and Rushe, as a midfielder, in 2011.
Not surprisingly, though, they are eclipsed by All-Ireland champions Clare with a whopping eight: David McInerney, Brendan Bugler, Pat Donnellan, Colm Galvin, Conor Ryan, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Conor McGrath.
The other Kelly – Dublin’s jet-heeled No 3 – is a richly deserving winner after the Lucan Sarsfields clubman, 24, consistently excelled during their six-match championship odyssey. It’s also belated recognition for a player who was desperately unlucky to lose out in 2011.
Rushe actually endured a relatively rocky summer start but from half-time in their drawn Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny, the Palmerstown ball magnet took flight with some inspirational displays at the heart of Dublin’s defence – none better than in the Kilkenny replay.
Sutcliffe rifled home the all-important goal in that replay but it’s fair to surmise that his herculean performance in defeat – crowned by four brilliant points in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork – would have swung the jury in his favour.
Yet while Dublin should be reasonably pleased with their hat-trick of awards – the same number that went to vanquished finalists Cork – the year belongs to Clare.
The Banner’s thrilling ‘back door’ run to the summit has been recognised with the highest representation since Kilkennny won nine awards in 2008.
Speaking of which, how the mighty have fallen: Brian Cody’s erstwhile Invincibles are marked totally absent from a team that includes those eight Claremen, three Dubs, three Rebels (goalkeeper Anthony Nash, Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan) and a solitary representative (Richie McCarthy) from Munster champions Limerick.
That said, this was always going to be a year of radical All Star upheaval after the most shock-filled, thrill-a-minute hurling championship in memory. This is reflected in a necklace of standout statistics relating to this year’s team.
It’s the first time since 1996, when former GAA president Nickey Brennan was manager, that Kilkenny have failed to win even a solitary award.
The demise of the so-called pre-championship Big Three is completed by the absence of any Tipperary or Galway men on the team … albeit the latter pair didn’t even receive a nomination between them.
There are a staggering 12 first-time winners. The three odd men out are Rushe, Nash and Bugler, who will each receive their second award at tomorrow night’s Croke Park banquet.
Just two of last year’s team, Nash and Bugler, are retained.
In what surely ranks as the most youthful ever All Star team, five U21s make the cut: Sutcliffe along with the Clare quartet of McInerney, Galvin, Kelly and Collins. Nash, at 29, is the eldest, while 12 of the team are 25 or under.
The team was selected by a committee of national media journalists and – as ever – it will elicit some heated arguments over individual selections/omissions.
And yet, despite or maybe because of the rollercoaster summer just gone, it doesn’t qualify as overly controversial. Cork’s Shane O’Neill and Paul Murphy, one of four Kilkenny nominees, would have challenged Limerick full-back McCarthy for the No 2 jersey … but Murphy was hindered by the Cats’ relatively early exit (at the quarter-final stage) while O’Neill’s previously rock-solid credentials took an All-Ireland replay battering in the slipstream of hat-trick hero Shane O’Donnell.
However, arguably the unluckiest ‘loser’ is Clare freetaker Colin Ryan, summer’s top scorer with 0-70.
In retrospect, Ryan’s chances were diluted by his nomination in the half-forward instead of midfield, where the competition was less intense and the two places went to Banner duo Galvin and Conor Ryan – the latter was nominated at centrefield despite excelling as a half-back through the business end of the championship.
The All Star teams, sponsored by Opel, will be honoured at a Croke Park banquet on Friday evening. The football team will be revealed on RTE television that night while the Hurler and Footballer of the Year winners along with the young player prizes – all voted on by the players – will also be announced.