In last week’s blog we have selected the teams we feel are in contention for All-Ireland glory in 2020.
On that basis, I have selected players who I feel could come into contention for Hurler of the Year award this year. It’s worth noting I’m looking outside the obvious contenders and certainly there is some eye-catching odds on offer.
The players I have selected are consistent with their performances and game-after-game step up to the mark.
First up, Cathal Mannion, a player who has grown into this Galway team and looked exceptional in recent times. He was strong candidate for player of the league and he gave some fantastic performances, which shows he has no problem with wintry conditions.
A fine athlete, Mannion is now reaching his prime and if Galway are to go on a run he will be pivotal to their cause. His brother Padraic Mannion has All Star awards and was nominated for Hurler of the Year 2018 and Cathal can follow in his brother’s footsteps.
He is very versatile, in that he can play in numerous positions and he excelled in midfield role during the National League. Cathal Mannion has become a major player for his manager Shane O Neill.
John McGrath is player who can mix it both ways in terms of class and physicality. He was outstanding in Tipperary’s run to All-Ireland glory in 2019, he just doesn’t know how to play a bad game and is ultra-consistent.
Tipp are once again a major force for outright honours with Liam Sheedy at the helm and McGrath is one of his main players. He also showed in the National League this year that there is no hangover and gave an exhibition against Galway in the first half this season scoring a couple of goals.
With winter hurling in mind, he will relish conditions as his positional sense and McGrath awareness are top class. He is excellent also under the high ball and his all-round ability sets him up nicely for a huge Championship.
These are crazy odds for a player who is an integral part of this great Limerick team. When the Treaty County play it long, he seems to be the go to man in the half-forward line.
Like all of this Limerick team, he has an incredible first touch and he can be the link between backs and forwards in John Kiely’s running game. Hegarty goes about his business in a quiet way and he epitomises his manager with a huge work ethic.
Another player who will relish winter conditions and soft ground in a team who could go all the way.
Padraig Walsh doesn’t get the credit he deserves for me, and that’s somewhat down to the fact he is the brother of one of the greatest hurlers of all time in Tommy Wals . Make no mistake Padraig is not far off his illustrious brother.
He has had some outstanding individual performances in recent years in the black and amber, and he is one of the first players on Brian Cody’s team sheet. The odds are far too big for a player who is consistently mentioned in Man Of the Match terms. Winter conditions won’t be a problem for Walsh and he is one of the best man markers in the country – but equally exceptional in a free role.
At times in games he seems to be under every ball and pops up with some incredible scores also. If Kilkenny are to be contendere, Padraig Walsh once again will be one of the leaders for Cody’s outfit.
These are massive odds for an All-Star winner in 2019. His performances in last year’s Championship were top notch and he gave an exhibition in terms of midfield play. O’Keffee’s energy levels make him a nightmare for any opposing midfielders as he is up and down the pitch and he will always stand out in any game.
He is a crucial part of this Wexford team and with Davy Fitzgerald’s running style, he seems to be on the ball every minute of every game . Winter hurling will be demanding, especially if games come thick and fast. However, it will suit this Wexford team and in particular a player like Diarmuid O’Keeffe. He was due to take a year out travelling, but that was cut short when news broke that Davy was staying on.
He did get the chance to take a small break though and that will help him recover last season. The current situation will also have him ready for the Championship when it eventually starts.
Outside of the county’s in contention for All-Ireland glory in 2020, there is the possibility of a surprise package and if Waterford are to put a run together, Jamie Barron will need to be at his best.
I tipped Jamie up in 2017 at similar odds and he was just denied that year by the great Joe Canning.
The possible knockout championship may suit this Waterford team and good strides were made in the National League under Liam Cahill. Like all of the players mentioned above, he has everything and on his day is one of the best in the country. At the odds he is certainly worth mentioning and I have to give a shout to one of my own countymen.
- Colm O Rourke: My top 5 Footballer of the Year candidates for 2020
- John Mullane: 5 hurling teams to watch for winter All-Ireland glory
- Colm O’Rourke: Dublin still have all the answers in these uncertain times