Category: Mark Townsend

HurlingMark TownsendSportsTop Articles

Who’s the best hurler in the country right now?

Ok I know. The whole idea of a “best player” in hurling right now is a bit of a misnomer. What is right now anyway? Does it mean if there was a game tomorrow? If so, who would be fit enough to play? And did we not already have a best player award given at the end of last year and it was given to Joe Canning? So that should be the end of argument right?

Well, not really, no. You see, it’s obvious that Galway were the best team last year, but maybe that individual award was directed more towards the team, than the individual player. This is not soccer, where the amount of goals scored or money paid for someone (except if his name is Paul Pogba) dictates a players worth. It just so happens that the best player in the country, might play, for say, the eighth best team. So while Joe Canning won the gong last year  does it mean he’s the undisputed kingpin of the game? Is he more important to Galway, than TJ Reid is to Kilkenny, or Lee Chin is to Wexford?

And yeah maybe it is a bit of a pointless argument but it’s a bank holiday Monday evening, and if you’re not either working or heading back from a match…well, you can spare a few minutes to read a frivolous article on hurling can’t you? Go on, go on, go on, go on….And so the nominees are:

TJ Reid (Kilkenny)

Hurler of the year in 2015, and a good shout for hurler of the year in any other, provided Kilkenny do well of course. Reid’s importance to the cause can be measured by the results of the team during the league. Without him, the side lost their first two games. With him, they won the next 4. Now, those victories weren’t solely attributable to him. But they were a pretty important component of it. Strong as an ox, almost unbeatable in the air, and with a level of vision and skill that would put most other inter county players to shame, it’s impossible to imagine a Kilkenny side functioning without him.

Joe Canning (Galway)

Ok. I know there were some people who weren’t overly supportive of Joe winning hurler of the year last year, and I may have been one of them. And it’s not the case that he’s as crucial to the Galway team as he was a few years ago, but conversely, the reason that they won the All-Ireland is almost precisely that. It’s no longer the case that Joe Canning IS the Galway team. He’s just a fiercely important part of it. And even for those of us who thought, I don’t know, Gearoid McInerney or Conor Whelan, had a better year in maroon last year, the fact remains, when the chips were facing southwards in the last 15 minutes of that semi-final against Tipp, Joe stood up. And the fact that he had not just the ability to do it, but also the courage, marks him out as someone truly special.

Lee Chin (Wexford)

One of, if not, the best athlete, in the game today. Maybe that’s what you get for being a full time inter county hurler! But let not the impressive strength and physique overshadow the silken touch. Certainly the Kilkenny game in the championship last year, was probably the best individual performance by any player in last year’s championship. He still hasn’t got the hang of taking those frees though. Maybe sometimes you need to know your own limits. But he’s got everything else.

David Reidy (Clare)

A curved ball, but then there’s nothing wrong with throwing a curved ball in every now and then. You could say Tony Kelly or Colm Galvin, but Reidy is the man who makes Clare tick. Ok, admittedly he didn’t have his best game against Limerick today, but in terms of skill, in terms of work rate, he’s probably the most influential Clare player at the moment. And considering Clare are one of the best teams in the country, that’s no mean feat.

Jason Forde (Tipperary)

You weren’t expecting that one were you? Seamus Callanan, John McGrath, maybe even Bubbles. But Jason Forde? Why, he’s hardly been on the Tipperary team for the last few years! But I direct you towards the headline of the article and particularly the wording “right now”. And right now, the silvermines man just happens to be one of the best hurlers in the country. He’s the top scorer per game in the league, a bull of a man with the ball in hand, and well capable of netting a goal too. As the song goes, well, who could ask for anything more?

Aaron Gillane (Limerick)

Hasn’t been an inter county player for long, but by god, he’s made a hell of an impact since he came in. The Clare game today was a classic illustration of that. His first goal demonstrated his strength. The second, the subtletly of his touch. The second in particular brought to mind the economy of stickwork of a Richie Hogan or a Joe Deane. And he’s a hell of a freetaker as well. Has a long inter country career ahead of him. Will be a lot of fun finding out how he does.

Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

Yes I know. I can already hear the howls of derision as I see the words on the page “You’ve got a guy who’s never played inter-county championship hurling, as one of the best hurlers in the country????!!!” Well, yes, it’s a bit of a hand grenade in the argument, but answer me this. Have you ever seen anyone dominate Cillian Buckley quite like Con O’Callaghan did in the Leinster club championship last year? Did you ever see anyone own a club All-Ireland as much as this man did last year?

And yes, he didn’t have his best game last Saturday, but then it was obvious the Na Piarsaigh defensive set up was designed just to stop him. And sure, it’s probably all wasted because it’s easier to win 5 footballing All-Irelands with Dublin than one with the hurlers, but if Pat Gilroy and co could just convince Con and a couple of the other footballers to join up with them, well, a hurling All-Ireland wouldn’t seem so far fetched all of a sudden.

So what do you think of that then? Who have we left out? Well Seamus Callanan, John McGrath,  Cian Lynch, Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron, Conor Lehane, a whole host of defenders….yeah, yeah, we know. But hey, the fun is in the conversation right? So why don’t you let us know if you can think of anyone better.

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