With the All-Star awards now behind us, a chapter has been closed on the 2017 season which saw Galway reign supreme for the first time since 1988.
Galway, alongside beaten finalists Waterford, were heavily rewarded for stellar seasons at the awards bash in the Dublin Convention Centre, coming away with twelve out of the 15 All-Star awards.
Furthermore, Joe Canning and Conor Whelan of Galway walked away with Player and Young Player of the Year awards respectively.
However, as with the nature of these awards, the team with the best records usually are rewarded accordingly. Yet, if we were to remove Galway and Waterford players from the equation, who would make the All-Star team.
1. Anthony Nash
Nash was named in the Sunday Game Team of the Year and nominated for the PwC award after another stellar season. The Kanturk man is one of the real leaders in this Cork team that enjoyed a resurgence this year.
Deadly accurate from puck-outs as well as being a fine shot-stopper, on his day, Nash is one of the best in the country.
2. Colm Spillane
After tearing his ACL two years ago, Spillane has made a remarkable recovery and slotted in seamlessly to the Cork full-back line. Spillane made his debut against Tipperary this year as a fresh-looking Cork side took out the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Tenacious in the tackle with pace to burn, Spillane is every corner forwards nightmare. At 24 and with a full season under his belt, he is bound to continue to improve his game.
3. Damien Cahalane
Like his Cork side, the often criticised Cahalane made a real improvement this year. Set out his stall from the opening game, getting to grips with Seamus Callanan, winning their duel which has been proven extremely difficult against the Tipp powerhouse.
From there, he continued to prove doubters wrong. A former dual star, he has been justified in his decision to focus solely on hurling with many impressive performances particularly in 2017.
It looks like Cork have filled a problem position at full-back with the talented youngster.
4. Donagh Maher
Another man to have a breakout season in the last line of defence, Maher made his debut in 2012 against Limerick but enjoyed a torrid time and was replaced shortly after. Five years later, he made his second start against Westmeath in the qualifiers and hasn’t looked back since.
Helped eased the loss of All-Star corner back Cathal Barrett and will hope to improve into next season as Tipp hope to regain the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
5. Diarmuid O’Keeffe
The half-back division enjoyed a tremendous year in the championship with the likes of Mark Coleman, Paudie Maher, Gearoid McInerny, Tadgh de Búrca and Conor Gleeson among others standing out.
However, Wexford’s Diarmuid O’Keefe was right up there with the best of them. A stereotypical wing-back that does everything so well, he is a good man marker and is even better going forward. Chipped in with a score in every game during the campaign.
6. Paudie Maher (All-Star)
Maher is the best half-back in the country by a long way. Imperious in the air and a beautiful striker of the ball, Maher helped steady the Tipp ship after a shaky start to the championship campaign.
Although, he isn’t blessed with blistering speed, he more than makes up for it with his physicality. The Thurles Sarsfields man now has five All-Stars to add to a couple of All-Ireland medals in his already illustrious career.
7. Mark Coleman (All-Star)
The 19-year-old Blarney man’s incredible rookie season was recognised on Friday as he collected an All-Star. A dashing and elegant wing-back, Coleman popped up with several scores throughout the year and was a Hurler of the Year candidate until Cork’s semi-final loss.
In only his second championship start, he was man of the match in the Munster semi-final as Cork progressed past Waterford. He also showcased his ability from dead-balls with a couple of outrageous sideline cuts.
8. Darragh Fitzgibbon
Another one of Cork’s new brigade to make an immediate impression. The Charleville youngster shower fearlessness in every game as his direct running caused opponents major problems.
He was a colossus with Bill Cooper in midfield as Cork delivered a first Munster title since 2014. He has an huge engine which he uses to devastating effect. Unlucky to be in the same position as Hurler of the Year candidates Jamie Barron and Galway captain David Burke which led to some over-looking his efforts all year.
9. Colm Galvin
Galvin burst onto the scene during Clare’s historic run to the All-Ireland in 2013. At just 20 years of age, Galvin was one of the key men in Clare’s young squad.
An All-Star at the end of the year signalled what should have been the start of years of dominance in midfield. However, his form as been akin to his county side as they have failed to emulate their heroics of four years ago, but was back to being close to his best this year.
10. Conor Lehane
Had Cork reached an All-Ireland final, Lehane would have been a guaranteed All-Star given his performances in Munster. He opened his campaign with 0-10 against Tipperary, 0-04 from play against Waterford and a point in the final against Clare.
Ever since his arrival a number of years ago, the Midleton man has flashed glimpses of his talent. It wasn’t until this year that he was able to put a number of clinical displays back-to-back. On his day he is virtually unmarkable as he demonstrated against Tipp.
11. Lee Chin
Although Chin wears 11, he usually operates around midfield. After a couple of memorable seasons for Chin, he really stood up as Wexford’s leader this summer as they beat Kilkenny in Leinster for the first time since 2004.
Chin will be key if Wexford are to continue their growth under Davy Fitz next summer.
12. Noel McGrath
Since his return to action in the first of the epic Tipperary-Galway trilogy in 2015, Noel McGrath has demonstrated how he has the best wrists in the country.
Everything is so effortless to the Loughmore-Castleiney man. He has incredible vision and is different class at bringing teammates into the game. Also possesses a great work-ethic and is useful for a couple of scores a game.
13. John McGrath
From one McGrath to another. John can match the stickwork of his brother but betters him when it comes to scoring.
Rarely is he contained for 70 minutes and is always a good bet to score a goal. Started the year with 1-01 against Cork in Munster before winning man of the match against Clare scoring 0-06 from play. He added 1-01 against Galway in the semi-final to highlight his prowess.
14. Patrick Horgan (All-Star)
In a year where he passed Christy Ring as Cork’s all-time top scorer, Patrick Horgan was named an All-Star. This was deserved recognition for the Glen Rovers man who has been a stalwart for Cork for a number of years now.
He was relieved of free-taking duty in the opening game but fired back to take control of the Cork attack once more and was mesmerising throughout the campaign.
15. Alan Cadogan
A toss-up between Seamus Harnedy and Cadogan here. The Douglas man edges it purely on his clinical nature in front of goal. He is always out in front of his man and a constant outlet for Cork when beginning attacks.
He often goes under the radar due to Horgan and Lehane’s exploit’s but his Munster final goal just showed how crucial he is to their cause.
Jack Neville, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we spoke with Wexford camogie star Mags D’Arcy and discussed the latest club hurling and football action.