Cham­pi­ons Lim­er­ick sweep the boards

County’s his­toric break­through is recog­nised with six first-time awards

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Seán Mo­ran GAA Cor­re­spon­dent

All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons Lim­er­ick equalled the county’s best re­turn with six PwC All Star awards at last night’s pre­sen­ta­tion ban­quet in Dublin’s Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. De­feated fi­nal­ists Gal­way re­ceived three as did Mun­ster cham­pi­ons Cork. The bal­ance is made up of two Clare and one Kilkenny award.

The PwC All Stars Hurler of the Year award also went to Lim­er­ick with Cian Lynch adding to last week’s Gaelic Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion Hurl­ing Per­son­al­ity of the Year ci­ta­tion.

There was fur­ther good news for the county with the nam­ing of Kyle Hayes as Young Hurler of the Year.

Lynch, whose tech­ni­cal abil­ity was har­nessed to the op­ti­mum by Lim­er­ick this year, shone at cen­tre­field and beat Gal­way pair, Joe Canning (last year’s award win­ner) and Pádraic Man­nion.

The All Star teams are cho­sen by a panel of jour­nal­ists whereas the in­di­vid­ual awards are voted on by in­ter-county play­ers un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Gaelic Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Suc­cess­ful

This year’s team doesn’t ap­pear to have been much af­fected by the suc­cess­ful in­tro­duc­tion of round-robin cham­pi­onships in the prov­inces – five coun­ties rep­re­sented as against four last year – and won’t cre­ate much con­tro­versy.

Lim­er­ick wing for­ward Tom Morrissey may have a griev­ance given his per­for­mances in so many of the big matches this sum­mer. He scored 0-21 from play plus an­other four from frees when he took over in an emer­gency ca­pac­ity against Cork in the Mun­ster cham­pi­onship after the send­ing-off of Aaron Gil­lane as well as a crit­i­cal point at the end of the de­feat of Kilkenny in the All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal and a goal in the fi­nal.

Then again, Pa­trick Hor­gan who would have been the most ob­vi­ous ex­clu­sion had Morrissey – whose brother Dan is in­cluded at left wing back – been selected had a marginally higher scor­ing av­er­age from play per match.

After draw­ing a com­plete blank in 2017, Kilkenny are back in the All Stars line-up with the county’s ex­cep­tional goal­keeper Eoin Mur­phy win­ning his sec­ond award.

The high point of his sea­son was prob­a­bly the All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal in which he thwarted four clear-cut goal chances for Lim­er­ick.

The All Stars team, an­nounced live on RTÉ tele­vi­sion, fea­tured nine new award win­ners – equalling the num­ber of two years ago but short of the 2013 record of 12 new­com­ers.

Lim­er­ick’s de­fen­sive ex­cel­lence was recog­nised with four of the back six, in­clud­ing both cor­ner backs, Seán Finn and Richie English and in the half backs, cap­tain and cen­tre back Declan Han­non and Dan Morrissey.

The backs were com­pleted by Gal­way full back, Daithí Burke – whose cousin and All-Ire­land club foot­ball-win­ning Co­rofin team-mate Ian, was also pre­sented with his All Star on the night – and an­other Gal­way man Pádraic Man­nion.

Burke and Man­nion to­gether with last year’s HOTY Joe Canning and Cork’s Pa­trick Hor­gan are the only play­ers to have sur­vived from last year’s All Stars.

Cork match Gal­way’s con­tin­gent of three. As well as Hor­gan, Dar­ragh Fitzgib­bon at cen­tre­field and team cap­tain Séa­mus Harnedy at wing for­ward are recog­nised.

The cham­pi­ons’ half dozen in­cludes unusu­ally just one for­ward, Graeme Mulc­ahy, who in the eyes of many was un­lucky not to be nom­i­nated for HOTY after an im­mense sea­son in which his work rate, con­sis­tent scor­ing and tackle counts were a huge con­trib­u­tory fac­tor in the county’s first All-Ire­land since 1973.

The bal­ance of the team is made up by Clare for­wards, on the right wing Peter Dug­gan and at full for­ward John Con­lon.

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