The All Star nominees for the 2020 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship will be announced tomorrow with a huge number of Limerick players expected to make the list of 45.
When Limerick won the All-Ireland in 2018, each of the fifteen men that started the final that day were nominated, with six picking up an award.
That night, Cian Lynch was also named as Limerick’s first ever Hurler of the Year award with Kyle Hayes picking up the Young Hurler of the Year.
Already we have predicted our All Star team for 2020 with no fewer than 10 Limerick players making the cut.
Ahead of the All Star nominations being released, Power Ranked below are those who are in the running for the Hurler of the Year Award.
Unlucky to miss out.
Tony Kelly (Clare)
An incredible season that saw him average 14 points a game. However, Clare crashing out in the quarter-finals hampers his case. Nonetheless, an exceptional year and arguably better on the field than he was in 2013 where he was crowned both YHOTY and HOTY.
Cian Lynch & Aaron Gillne (Limerick)
The Patrickswell duo are so instrumental to everything Limerick do and are arguably John Kiely’s most important pair with Lynch the key link man and Gillane the focal point of the attack.
Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick)
Like his clubmates, Byrnes was phenomenal in 2020 and will be rewarded with a first All Star.
Callum Lyons (Waterford)
Kept quiet in both games against Limerick but was fantastic in Waterford’s three victories, including a stunning solo goal in the win over Cork.
6. Stephen Bennett
Waterford & Ballysaggart
Many will have Bennett higher in the list but for me he was the sixth best in the land last winter. That is still some achievement for Bennett who has struggled to nail down a place in the side since bursting onto the scene as a minor in 2013.
His finest moments came in the All-Ireland semi-final comeback win over Kilkenny as he lead the fightback with a string of solo scores and a brilliantly taken goal. He topped the scoring charts for 2020 with 1-54, coming in at nearly 12 points a game.
A huge breakout year for the Ballysaggart man that will see him earn a first All Star.
5. Tadhg de Burca
Waterford & Clashmore-Kinsalebeg
While it would be foolish to suggest that had he stayed on the field for the duration of the All-Ireland final the outcome would be different, Tadhg de Burca was immense for Waterford in their first four games before injury cruelly ended his season.
As a more orthodox centre-back for Liam Cahill, de Burca was dominant against Cork in helping Waterford into the Munster final before helping to nullify the threat of the Limerick half-forward line for large portions of the game. He continued in similar fashion against Clare before controlling the second half against Kilkenny.
Didn’t see enough of him in the All-Ireland final but up until that point, he was right at the top of the list as frontrunner for Hurler of the Year. Hopefully, his injury will clear and we can see him in full flight once again in 2021.
4. Kyle Hayes
Limerick & Kildimo Pallaskenry
Captained the minors to an All-Ireland final as a full forward in 2016, All Star centre-back en route to winning the U21 All-Ireland in ’17, Young Hurler of the Year and All-Ireland final man of the match at centre-forward in 2018 and now a certain All Star and HOTY contender from wing back in 2020, there is nothing Kyle Hayes cannot do.
Began the year by clipping over three points from centre-forward against Clare but was redeployed to wing back for the semi-final with Tipperary. Grew in stature in each game at Seven and was superb in the All-Ireland where only a stunning Stephen O’Keeffe prevented him from goaling.
2020 was not only his finest hour thus far for the county but he also helped his club side to the Senior ranks for the first time since the 1940’s.
An incredible talent and very unlucky to miss out on the top three.
3. Sean Finn
Limerick & Bruff
For a corner back to garner Hurler of the Year plaudits is an indicator as to how they good they are. Sean Finn is so far ahead of the chasing pack when it comes to elite corner backs and is certain to earn a third successive All Star award.
The Bruff man routinely picks up the opposition’s most vaunted forward and puts the shackles on them every time. Not only is he an exceptional corner back, Jackie Tyrrell singled him out as the games best defender overall. Usually once he has disposed his man, he will pick out the right option and is so often the first man to start the Limerick attack.
In a year where he was without his usual full and corner back partners, Finn would steady the ship and help his new teammates settle in at their new positions.
Another outstanding year from hurling’s most consistent player. However, he is edged out by a pair of Treaty men.
2. Tom Morrissey
Limerick & Ahane
Just missing out on the award is Limerick’s Tom Morrissey who would be a shoo-in for the award in any other year.
After a somewhat slow start to the campaign, Morrissey would come alive in Croke Park and almost single handily dragged Limerick into the All-Ireland final with 0-6 against Galway. On that day he grabbed Limerick’s opening pair of scores and finished with three of the final four when the game was in the melting pot.
He continued in that vein in the All-Ireland final where he grabbed 0-5 from play and added several assists, a number to the man that tops this list.
Morrissey’s reaction to a subdued performance in the Munster final where he was pulled ashore midway through the second half, speaks volume to his character as he will add a first All-Star to what is quickly becoming an incredible resumé.
Limerick & St Patricks
Hegarty has been on another level this year and pips his wing forward team mate to the post. He begin his championship campaign with a statement of intent in a five-point man of the match display in the Munster quarter/League final win over Clare.
From there he hasn’t let up and concluded his stellar campaign with 0-7 from play in the All-Ireland final where he was again named Man of the Match. He finished the year with 0-20 from play in five championship games.
He was the unanimous selection for the Sunday Game Hurler of the Year and there is little doubt he will become Limerick’s second ever Hurler of the Year when the awards are announced in February.