SEÁN MORAN Gaelic Games Correspondent
GAELIC GAMES: TIPPERARY’S status as All-Ireland champions, acquired earlier this month, has been recognised in the list of nominations for this year’s GAA hurling All Stars, sponsored by Vodafone.
With 14 nominations, Tipp are at the top of the list for next month’s awards, with defeated finalists Kilkenny next in line with 11.
Munster champions Waterford, league winners Galway and the team they beat in the final, Cork, who also lost the Munster final after a replay, get six each.
Two counties are allocated one single nomination, Offaly and Antrim.
Henry Shefflin, whose place in Kilkenny’s pursuit of a fifth successive All-Ireland was unfortunately taken away by injury in the 13th minute of the final, is nominated despite limited game time in the All-Ireland series and is on the verge of what would be a record 10th award, moving him past fellow countyman DJ Carey and Kerry footballer Pat Spillane.
Another record in the offing is the possibility of Cork goalkeeper Donal Cusack becoming the first player to win an All Star in three successive decades, having been honoured in 1999 and 2006. He is joined in that category by Waterford’s Tony Browne, who was Hurler of the Year as well as an All Star in 1998 and added awards in 2006 and ’07.
Another goalkeeper, Tipperary’s Brendan Cummins, misses out on the possibility by a year, having won his first All Star in 2000.
Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh, the reigning Hurler of the Year, is in line to receive his eighth successive All Star, having been nominated and almost certain to be selected.
His award would further extend a remarkable record for his county, who have all four leading award winners in hurling, with Walsh himself, Shefflin, Carey and 1970s and ’80s goalkeeper Noel Skehan.
Waterford’s Munster title places a number of their players in position for recognition. John Mullane is almost certain to hold the All Star he won last year, whereas Michael “Brick” Walsh, having been the frontrunner for centre back for a lot of the summer, will be under pressure from Tipperary’s under-21 captain Pádraic Maher, whose tour de force in the All-Ireland final catapults him into the reckoning.
Noel Connors will also have his backers at corner back.
League winners Galway are short of certainties, although Damien Hayes is the nearest to that category. Cork, also with six nominations, don’t have any obvious candidates beyond Cusack.
Three of last year’s team have not received nominations: Conor O’Mahony, the only one of the starting Tipperary side from this month’s All-Ireland final not to make the short list; Dublin’s Alan McCrabbe, reflecting a disappointing year for Anthony Daly’s team; and Kilkenny goalkeeper PJ Ryan, who wasn’t in the form of last season when he was a Hurler of the Year candidate.
The list is short on controversy after a season of strong individual performers, in contrast to the football nominations which reflect the fact all four senior semi-finalists came through the qualifiers and that eventual champions Cork had very few players who shone consistently during the season.
Their hurling counterparts, Tipperary, also had to overcome an early defeat by Cork, but during the qualifier series and the All-Ireland stages a number of players developed outstanding levels of consistency.
All-Ireland winning captain Eoin Kelly is nominated for what would be his sixth All-Star, putting him level with the county’s leading award winner, former manager Nicky English. Lar Corbett, who hit three goals in the final, will be hoping to pick up his second gong.
Twenty-one of the 45 nominees will be going for their first award, seven more than last year.
Their All Stars from last year, with the exception of O’Mahony, Pádraic Maher, Lar Corbett and Noel McGrath are all nominated again, although Maher and McGrath are on different lines.
Of the rest of the 2009 line-up, Kilkenny’s Jackie Tyrrell, Walsh, JJ Delaney, Corbett, McGrath and Waterford’s Mullane are odds-on to retain their awards, whereas the prospects of Kilkenny pair Shefflin and Michael Rice are complicated by injury, which kept them from most of the All-Ireland stages.
Liam Watson’s nomination gives the Antrim forward the chance of becoming the county’s first award winner in the 19 years since Terence McNaughton picked up a centrefield position in the 1991 team.
Offaly’s Shane Dooley, recognised for an exceptionally high-scoring year, will be considered for what would be his county’s first since his uncle Johnny Dooley 10 years ago.
The county breakdown is: Tipperary 14, Kilkenny 11, Waterford, Galway and Cork 6 each, Offaly and Antrim one apiece.
Broken down on a provincial basis the 45 nominees divide as follows: Munster 26 and Leinster 19, allowing that Galway and Antrim now compete in the latter championship.
Brendan Cummins Tipperary
Donal Óg Cusack Cork
Clinton Hennessy Waterford
Jackie Tyrrell Kilkenny
Noel Connors Waterford
Ollie Canning Galway
Paddy Stapleton Tipperary
Paul Curran Tipperary
John Dalton Kilkenny
Shane Kavanagh Galway
Shane O’Neill Cork
Michael Cahill Tipperary
Tommy Walsh Kilkenny
JJ Delaney Kilkenny
Michael Walsh Waterford
Tony Browne Waterford
Pádraic Maher Tipperary
Tony Óg Regan Galway
Ronan Curran Cork
Declan Fanning Tipperary
John Gardiner Cork
Michael Fennelly Kilkenny
Shane McGrath Tipperary
Brendan Maher Tipperary
Ger Farragher Galway
Shane O’Sullivan Waterford
Michael Rice Kilkenny
Noel McGrath Tipperary
Eoin Larkin Kilkenny
Gearóid Ryan Tipperary
Henry Shefflin Kilkenny
Niall McCarthy Cork
Damien Hayes Galway
TJ Reid Kilkenny
Lar Corbett Tipperary
John Mullane Waterford
Eoin Kelly Tipperary
Richie Power Kilkenny
Shane Dooley Offaly
Patrick Horgan Cork
Joe Canning Galway
Liam Watson Antrim
Aidan Fogarty Kilkenny
John O’Brien Tipperary
Breakdown by county
Awards presented on Friday, October 15th