Kilkenny and Galway decamp to Croke Park again this Sunday to do it all over again after a thrilling 2-13 to 0-19 draw two weeks ago.
GAA writer Sharon Whelton takes a closer look at the realistic participants of this year’s eagerly anticipated final, and predicts who may prove to be the key players for each side.
AFTER their absorbing clash in their recent All-Ireland senior hurling final encounter, this Sunday sees Galway and Kilkenny again do battle in their bid to bring the Liam McCarthy home in the All-Ireland replay at Croke Park.
The Tribesmen raced into an early lead thanks to none other than clinical forward Joe Canning, but Henry Shefflin and the Cats brought it back to bring the game back on level terms.
Hurling fans should again be treated to a fantastic battle between two passionate sides, with another electric encounter surely on the cards.
David Herity (Goalkeeper): The former intercounty dual star has been in top form all summer, and another strong performance is needed by the net-minder on Sunday, with the Galway full-forward line in particular capable of notching up a high tally. The shot-stopper, who plays his club hurling with Kilmoganny, has been in inspirational form all year for the Kilkenny men, and will need a similar 70 minutes in this year’s final. Herity first joined the senior panel back in 2009, but only became first-choice goalkeeper last year, when he replaced PJ Ryan. He was very solid between the posts in their bout in the All-Ireland final earlier this month, and couldn’t be faulted for Joe Canning’s stunning goal early on.
Paul Murphy (right corner-back): Murphy has impressed in defence this year for the Cats, with the Danesfort man proving to be very difficult to beat thus far in this year’s championship. Murphy has certainly made his mark on this Kilkenny team since his introduction during the 2011 championship, and should be a sure candidate for this year’s All-Star nominations, which will be announced in the aftermath of Sunday’s final. The corner-back had featured prominently with Kilkenny during his underage hurling years, and has already secured a number of titles both with club and county prior to his introduction at senior level. Murphy will need to be that bit sharper this Sunday to cope with such a lethal full-forward line.
JJ Delaney (full-back): Delaney has been one of the stalwarts in Kilkenny senior hurling since his introduction to the panel back in 2001. The Fenians clubman is widely regarded by many GAA enthusiasts as among the greatest hurlers of all time, with the 30-year-old defender wanting to add to his array of All-Ireland titles again this Sunday. Delaney was given his first taste of intercounty hurling in the late 1990’s, thanks to his involvement with the Kilkenny minor team, and joined up with the senior panel a few years later. Already a holder of five All-Star awards, as well as a number of individual accolades, Delaney also has seven All-Ireland senior hurling titles. Will he add to this tally this Sunday? If Delaney is put marking Joe Canning, then the experienced defender will undoubtedly need to put in an inspired performance at GAA headquarters.
Jackie Tyrrell (left corner-back): Like Delaney, Jackie Tyrell as been involved with the senior panel for the last number of years. Since his introduction to the senior team during the 2005 championship, the James Stephen’s defender has become the first choice left corner-back, and also captained his side to All-Ireland glory back in 2006. He has also achieved success at club level in recent years, winning two Leinster club titles as well as three county championship winner’s medals with James Stephens. The same club also won the 2005 All-Ireland club final in Croke Park, defeating Athenry. As with fellow corner-back Murphy, Tyrrell will need a confident and assured 70 minutes this Sunday.
Tommy Walsh (right wing-back): The 29-year-old wing-back has become a regular part of the Kilkenny starting 15 since his introduction during the 2002 championship, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest hurlers in history. Walsh plays his club hurling with Tullaroan, who are the all-time roll of honour leaders in Kilkenny club hurling. However, the same club have failed to reach the summit of club hurling since Walsh’s involvement. The star hurler has won six All-Ireland senior titles, eight Leinster titles and five National League winner’s medals during his time with Kilkenny thus far, as well as bagging a number of personal achievements. Walsh is the only player in GAA history to win nine consecutive All-Star awards, and in 2009 won all possible individual awards, having won the All-Star, Texaco and GPA Hurler of the Year accolades. Walsh was relatively quiet in their clash earlier this month, and manager Brian Cody will surely need an improvement from one of the best hurlers in living history.
Brian Hogan (centre-back): Hogan has been rock solid at centre-back for Kilkenny for the last number of years, but has unfortunately been plagued by injury in recent times; thankfully, the former All-Ireland captain seems to have fully recovered from a recent leg injury and is sure to be named in the heart of the Kilkenny defence for Sunday’s final. Hogan made his first senior appearance for the Cats back in 2004, and has since become another regular in the Kilkenny half-back line. The O’Loughlin Gaels clubman captained his side to All-Ireland glory last year, beating Tipperary in another pulsating encounter at Croke Park to bring Liam McCarthy back to Kilkenny. The centre-back was solid in their first clash in the All-Ireland final, but again an improvement will be required to curb the threat that the Galway forward line possesses.
Kieran Joyce (left corner-back): The 25-year-old wing-back is enjoying his first season as part of the Kilkenny senior hurling panel, and has quickly become a firm fixture in Brian Cody’s starting 15. Joyce is also a two-time All-Ireland medallist at u21 level with the Cats. The Rower-Inistioge clubman has already secured a National Hurling League medal with Kilkenny, following their comprehensive win over Cork earlier this year, and is hoping to add to his medal tally this Sunday. Joyce, like his fellow defenders, will need to improve ahead of Sunday’s replay, with the Galway attack showing their potential earlier this month.
Michael Fennelly (midfield): Fennelly has been in inspirational form so far this year at midfield for Kilkenny, with Cats fans hoping for more of the same again this Sunday. The Ballyhale Shamrocks star made his first senior appearance back in 2006, but has only secured his place in recent years. Fennelly captained his Kilkenny side to All-Ireland glory in 2009, and is a member of the Fennelly hurling dynasty. The midfielder has won a number of club and county titles, as well as some personal accolades, including two All-Stars. The Ballyhale man was also crowned both the All-Star and Texaco Hurler of the Year in 2011. Fennelly was one of the few to impress overall for the Cats in GAA headquarters earlier this month, and is unquestionably in line to secure an All-Star award later this year.
Michael Rice (midfield): Rice was in outstanding from in this year’s championship, but a nasty hand injury suffered in this year’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Tipperary has ruled out any involvement in Sunday’s final for the Carrickshock hurler. Rice was struck following a wild one-handed pull by Padraic Maher, with manager Brian Cody incensed by the injury. It is a bitter blow for Rice, who has been involved in the Kilkenny senior set-up since 2005. Rice was replaced by Richie Hogan, who performed quite well in the middle of the park for the Cats, and looks likely to retain his place ahead of Sunday’s replay.
Henry Shefflin (right wing-forward): Just like Tyrrell and Delaney, Henry Shefflin has become one of the household names in Kilkenny hurler for the past number of years, and is indeed widely regarded as one of the greatest players in hurling history. Shefflin has been a firm part of the Kilkenny senior set-up since 1999, and captained his side to an All-Ireland win in 2007. The star free-taker is holder of a host of hurling records, including being one of the most decorated players in GAA history. The Ballyhale hurler’s intercounty championship tally has seen him surpass the legendary Christy Ring in recent years as the highest scorer in championship history. As well as being the holder of a number of medal titles, Shefflin has also been awarded an array of personal accolades, including a record ten All-Star awards, as well as the Vodafone, Texaco and Gaelic Players’ Association Hurler of the Year awards. Shefflin almost single-handedly brought his side back into contention in their clash earlier this month, with his free-taking simply impeccable; manager Brian Cody will be hoping for more of the same from the skilful hurler this Sunday.
TJ Reid (centre-forward): The 24-year-old Ballyhale hurler has been involved with the Kilkenny senior hurling team since 2007, but didn’t make his championship debut until the following year. Reid was appointed captain of his side back in 2010, which came as a surprise to some, with many regarding the young hurler as a fringe player for the years prior to his appointment as captain. The centre-forward has been in scintillating form thus far for the Cats, with some of his scores (particularly against Tipperary in their recent All-Ireland semi-final encounter) simply a joy to watch, with fans praying for a similar performance this Sunday in GAA headquarters. Reid notched a few vital scores in an attempt to inspire his side against Galway, and will again need to attack from the very start this Sunday.
Eoin Larkin (left wing-forward): The James Stephens hurler made his Kilkenny senior debut during the 2005 championship, and immediately became a regular on Brian Cody’s team. The 28-year-old soldier revels in his customary left wing-forward berth, and has won five All-Ireland medals since his introduction to the senior panel. The two-time All-Star winner was also awarded the three most prestigious Hurler of the Year awards in 2008. The current Kilkenny captain was also involved in both the Kilkenny minor and u21 sides before his call-up to senior level. Larkin is also an All-Ireland medallist with his club, and also plays football for James Stephens. Larkin, like Reid, scored a few important points to bring the Cats back into the race to bring the Liam McCarthy home, but will need to bring an improved performance to proceedings this Sunday.
Colin Fennelly (right corner-forward): The young corner-forward has been in blistering form so far in this year’s championship for Kilkenny, and is expected to be named for this Sunday’s final. Brother of midfielder Michael, the 22-year-old Ballyhale student first became involved in the senior set-up during last year’s championship campaign, and is now one of the regulars on Brian Cody’s starting 15. Last year’s win over Tipperary was Fennelly’s first All-Ireland senior title, and is undoubtedly hoping to add to his collection this Sunday. Fennelly was quiet in his side’s clash with Galway earlier this month, and was substituted during the game. If chosen again at corner-forward, the Ballyhale man will need to prove his worth to both Brian Cody and his team-mates.
Richie Power (full-forward): Power has lined out at both centre-forward and full-forward during this year’s campaign, and has thrived in both positions, scoring at ease in every game thus far. Power first joined Cody’s panel back in 2005, and has become a regular forward in recent years. The 26-year-old sales representative, who plays his club hurling with Carrickshock, has been one of the Cats’ top forwards in the last number of years, and has already won five All-Ireland winners’ medals during his time on the senior team. Power is the son of former All-Ireland medallist Richie Power Snr, and fans are hoping that he can follow in the footsteps of his father and claim another medal this Sunday. Power was another talented hurler to not showcase his ability, and will undoubtedly be eager to prove critics wrong this Sunday.
Aidan Fogarty (left corner-forward): The 30-year-old Emeralds clubman first joined the senior panel during the 2003 championship, and usually lines out at left corner-forward, where he has been instrumental to his side’s success in recent years. Fogarty has already amassed an impressive medal tally, including four All-Ireland winners’ medals, three Leinster titles and two National League winners’ medals. ‘Taggy’, as he is more affectionately known as, currently works as an electronics engineer, and was awarded the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ accolade following his side’s 2006 All-Ireland win over Cork. Fogarty threatened in the corner against Galway, with his pace proving to be quite a handful at times. Cody will be hopeful for another strong 70 minutes from the Emeralds hurler this Sunday.
James Skehill (goalkeeper): Skehill has quickly established himself as Galway’s first-choice goalkeeper since his first appearance for the Tribesmen during their 2008 championship campaign. The net-minder, who plays his club hurling with Cappataggle, has won one Leinster title (earlier this year with their impressive win over Kilkenny), and has won two intermediate medals with his club. Skehill has also enjoyed success at underage level with Galway, winning the coveted All-Ireland medal following his side’s victory over Limerick, where he kept a clean sheet during that particular final. He also was part of the Galway u21 team who brought more All-Ireland success when they defeated Dublin in the 2007 final. Skehill was impressive against Kilkenny and manager Anthony Cunningham is hopeful of another assured performance from the Cappataggle goalkeeper this Sunday.
David Collins (corner-back): The tenacious corner-back has been a regular part of the Galway senior panel since 2004, and has been a stalwart for his team for almost a decade. The 28-year-old Liam Mellows clubman already has an All-Ireland u21 medal from his involvement in that grade, but would surely love to add a senior title to his tally. Collins was also awarded the Vodafone Young Hurler of the Year award a few years back, and also had the honour of captaining the Galway senior hurlers for the 2007 season. The defender also has two National League medals, as well as a Leinster senior title following their defeat of Kilkenny in early July. Collins did well to curb the threat of the inside Kilkenny forward line and is sure to retain his berth for Sunday’s clash.
Kevin Hynes (full-back): Hynes is relatively new to the Galway senior panel following his introduction during the 2009 championship. However, he has now established himself as their solid full-back. The 26-year-old plays his club hurling with Sarsfield’s, and has had the prestigious honour of captaining his Galway side to All-Ireland glory at u21 level. At senior level, he has already amassed both National League and Leinster medals, and has represented his county at senior level 18 times so far. The Sarsfield’s full-back kept Richie Power very quiet in their earlier clash, and another inspired performance is required by the seasoned campaigner.
Fergal Moore (corner-back): Moore first broke into this Galway senior panel back during the 2004 National League campaign, and the corner-back has certainly become a regular in the defensive set-up over the past number of seasons. Brother of former Galway hurling star Cathal, Fergal has already won one National League medal, as well as his recent Leinster title. The 30-year-old Turloughmore clubman first came to prominence with the Galway minor hurling team in the late 1990’s, with Moore lucky enough to collect an All-Ireland medal in 1999, and followed that with a second successive title in 2000. The current senior captain has already guided his side to Leinster glory, and will be hoping to go that final step this Sunday in Croke Park. Moore, like his team-mates in the full-back line, impressively dealt with the threat of the Kilkenny full forward line, with a similar showing needed this Sunday by all three.
Niall Donoghue (wing-back): The 21-year-old Kilbeacanty hurler is enjoying his first year being part of the Galway senior set-up, and made his first appearance earlier this year during his side’s National League campaign. Donoghue is already an All-Ireland medallist at u21 level in recent years, with the student already a firm fixture in Anthony Cunningham’s team. The young star is surely hoping to win his first senior All-Ireland medal in this Sunday’s final. Donoghue really impressed in their encounter in early September, bursting through from wing-back to score an inspirational point to further bolster his side’s performance.
Tony Og Regan (centre-back): The 28-year-old centre-back has been an integral part of the Galway senior panel since 2004, and his ability to attack as well as defend intelligently has been vital thus far for the Tribesmen. The Rahoon-Newcastle clubman has certainly established himself as his side’s regular centre-back, and is almost certain to be nominated for a coveted All-Star award later this year. Boss Anthony Cunningham will no doubt be hoping for another confident and strong performance from Regan this Sunday. Regan did well to keep the lively TJ Reid to just two points in their earlier clash, with the experienced defender the fulcrum of the Galway defence.
Johnny Coen (wing-back): The young wing-back has only been involved with the Galway senior panel since 2011, but has quickly become a firm part of Anthony Cunningham’s side. The Loughrea hurler was involved with the Galway minor hurlers in 2009, as they swept aside the challenge of Kilkenny to win the All-Ireland final. The following year saw Coen link up with the u21 panel, but were defeated comprehensively in their All-Ireland final. The up-and-coming defender has already won one Leinster title this year, and will undoubtedly want to taste more success this Sunday. Despite being one of the youngest members of the team, Coen did well in the half-back line, and played his part in quietening what is usually a very threatening Kilkenny attack.
Iarla Tannian (midfield): The 28-year-old Ardrahan clubman has been an integral part of this senior panel since his first appearance during the 2007 championship. Since then, he has enjoyed little success apart from one National League title, as well as this year’s Leinster title. Tannian has been unfortunate with injuries this year, but is sure to be named on the starting 15 for Sunday’s encounter if deemed fit. The manufacturing technician has been one of the driving forces behind Galway’s success so far this year, and would only love to secure his first All-Ireland title this Sunday in Croke Park. Tannian was relatively quiet against the Cats earlier this month, with manager Cunningham hoping for a substantial improvement in this Sunday’s encounter.
Andy Smith (Midfield): Smith first came to notice during Portumna’s club success in recent years, which resulted in his deserved call up to the Galway senior panel in recent years. The 29-year-old was first introduced during the 2005 championship, but it was taken a number of seasons to establish himself on this Galway panel. However, he is now almost certain to be named at midfield for Sunday’s clash, with the three-time All-Ireland club medallist in inspirational form in the middle of the park for the Tribesmen so far this year. Smith did massive work around the middle of the field to eliminate the threat of the Kilkenny midfield pairing, and even more is needed this Sunday.
David Burke: (wing-forward): The promising St Thomas’s hurler first linked up with the senior panel during the 2010 campaign, and has been hugely influential so far this year in Galway’s success. The talismatic wing-forward was in inspired form during their recent championship encounters over Kilkenny and Cork, and is going to be very difficult to stop this Sunday. The 22-year-old was also involved with the Galway minor and u21 teams in recent years, but was unfortunate to lose out on a medal. Burke is regarded as one of the most versatile hurlers on this panel, and has also lined out in midfield in recent times. Burke’s tiring runs and tackling worked wonders in the Galway attack, with the young hurler showing his potential at times on the wing.
Niall Burke (centre-forward): Burke is in his first year with the Galway senior panel, with his first appearance coming earlier this year during their National League campaign. The 21-year-old hurler is already an All-Ireland medallist at both minor and u21 levels, as well as winning his first senior medal earlier this year following his side’s Leinster success. The Oranmore-Maree clubman has quickly established himself on this senior team, and is tipped to be handed the number 11 jersey for this Sunday’s clash. The student has impressed in the Galway attack thus far this year, and fans will be hoping for more of the same against Kilkenny in Croke Park. Niall Burke was instrumental in pushing Galway on in their clash earlier this month against the Cats, with the centre-forward notching up an impressive tally of 1-2.
James Regan (wing-forward): Regan is another new recruit to this Galway side, with the Loughrea first introduced during last year’s championship campaign. The 21-year-old hurler has also tasted success at underage level for the Tribesmen, following their All-Ireland win at minor level in 2009. Regan was also part of the Galway u21 side that lost out to Tipperary in their All-Ireland final encounter. His first involvement with the senior panel came during their All-Ireland qualifier with Clare last year. The Loughrea man made his senior club debut back in 2006 when he was still underage, and in 2011 his side qualified for their second consecutive county championship final, but unfortunately victory went to Clarinbridge in their replay. Regan was substituted in their first clash in the All-Ireland final in early September, and a much-improved 70 minutes is needed this Sunday by the young Loughrea hurler.
Conor Cooney (corner-forward): The young student is also new to this Galway senior panel, following his first appearance for the Tribesmen earlier this year during the 2012 Walsh Cup. His performances have certainly impressed boss Anthony Cunningham, who quickly established him as a firm part of the inside forward line in this year’s championship. Cooney is already an All-Ireland medallist at u21 level, with the St Thomas’s clubman eager to add to his medal tally. The sharp-shooter has looked enthusiastic and indeed threatening in the Galway attack so far this year, and is tipped to be named at corner-forward for Sunday’s encounter. Cooney didn’t in fact start his side’s clash with Kilkenny earlier this month, with Cyril Donnellan taking his place. However, the St Thomas’s hurler was introduced and did well, and is certainly pushing for his place ahead of this Sunday’s replay.
Joe Canning (full-forward): The talented full-forward seems to be able to do no wrong! His sidelines, free-taking, and general play leaves supporters and onlookers simply speechless at times, and his unselfish play is a joy to witness. Canning is undoubtedly the fulcrum of this Galway attack, and his much-improved fitness and work rate has been one of the keys to his side’s success so far in this year’s championship. Canning was first introduced to the Galway senior panel during the 2008 National League campaign, and quickly established himself as their full-forward. The Portumna clubman is without question regarded as one of the greatest hurlers in modern times, and has already amassed a wide array of achievements, including the Vodafone Young Hurler of the Year, two All-Star awards, and was this year named on the Fitzgibbon Cup Team of the Century. Canning yet again showed his abundance of talent, notching up a fantastic 1-9 overall against the Cats. The Portumna hurler is simply unstoppable at times, with no defender seeming capable of curbing the threat that this young man brings.
Damien Hayes (corner-forward): Hayes has been one of the stalwarts of this Galway senior panel for the past number of years, with the seasoned corner-forward involved with this side since 2004. The Portumna star has enjoyed much success in hurling over the years. Hayes has amassed two All-Ireland minor medals, as well an All-Star award. His club, Portumna, have also been hugely successful, winning five Galway senior hurling titles, as well as three All-Ireland titles. Many may not be aware of the forward’s love for rugby, and he has previously won an All-Ireland u18 medal with Nenagh. Hayes has been inspirational for his side so far in this year’s championship, with another strong performance needed this Sunday. Yet again, Hayes was a vital cog in the Galway attack earlier this month against the Cats. Despite not scoring, his work ethic and never-say-die attitude put the Kilkenny defence under pressure at all times.