After two barren seasons for large parts of 2015 and 2016, hurling came back with a bang in 2017. The Wexford revival along with Cork’s triumphs in Munster really kicked off what would prove to be a highly entertaining season. The decline of Kilkenny and Tipperary, at stages, added to a year of drama where many great games occurred.
The year would end in triumph for the Tribe as Galway got their hands on Liam McCarthy for the first time since 1988. The novel final pairing of Galway and Waterford did not disappoint as both teams played out a cracking finale in Croke Park. Galway’s attack saw them just edge an encounter where Waterford put up a very brave display.
A major theme of this year’s championship was the emphasis on the collective. Team performances were key in teams’ successes this year. While individuals had their moments, it was very much a case of the sum of the parts being more important than any one individual.
Galway’s depth, particularly in attack, was evident and played a major role in their All-Ireland glory. Waterford were the second best team as their collective defensive effort brought them all the way to the All-Ireland while their players around the middle third created their attacking platform.
Picking three single standout players from the 2017 championship was not as easy as other years, but here is who we feel are in the running for 2017 Hurler of the Year.
Track back to 2015, and this man was highlighted as the most impressive performer of that season. It was a call that was laughed at by many, but 2016 saw Jamie Barron awarded with an all-star and 2017 has seen him take his performances to another level. Back in 2015, Barron’s energy was a key element of Waterford’s system and his importance to it has grown as the years have gone on.
His goal against Kilkenny was added to by an impressive brace against Cork. He continued this with another very good performance in the All-Ireland final. His finishing has improved significantly and he is the key link between Waterford’s defence and attack.
Galway’s biggest failing over the years has been a lack of stability at the heart of their defence. And the last two seasons have seen Daithí Burke fill that position with utmost quality and utmost consistency. He has been a rock in the last line of the Tribe’s defence and played a pivotal role in their run to winning the All-Ireland title.
The quality of his defending has been very high. He has capably dealt with all opponents that have come towards him, most notably Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan. His high catch in the final minutes against Tipp was a huge play in killing the Tipp attack and it led to the subsequent free out and winning score.
He has been ‘Mr. Consistency’ for two years and really solved what has been a massive problem for Galway.
It could be classed as a sentimental call, but Canning was brilliant for Galway this year. The fact that he received such a sufficient level of support has meant, he is no longer is indispensable to the Galway team as he once was, but the Portumna man displayed all the credentials of a great player at multiple stages in 2017.
His new role in the half-forward line saw him display some real leadership and playmaking in bringing his teammates into the game. The fact that he scored Galway’s last five points against Tipperary cannot be forgotten about, including an incredible winner from the right hand touchline.
He will no longer be the best player to not have an All-Ireland medal. It may not stand out as his best season, but he played a major role in Galway’s victories.