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AIB GAA Club Players Awards 2018 - Hurling Team of the Year

Mike Casey playing for Na Piarsaigh Limweick GAA Club

18 Apr 2018

Posted in:  Limerick GAA , Dublin GAA , Galway GAA , Derry GAA and Club

The first ever AIB GAA Club Players’ awards come after a long season of chasing #TheToughest title of all.

There were stars in every team but we’ve narrowed it down to the 15 who made it count most often on the big days.

All-Ireland champions Cuala became only the fifth hurling club to ever retain the title, following in the footsteps of Sarsfields (1992-94), Athenry (1999-2001), Birr (2001-2003) and Portumna (2007-2009) and have been rewarded with six gongs.

Given their breathtaking contribution to a championship that was decided by such narrow margins after such an epic two-game final, Munster champions Piarsaigh also have six players included and there is one apiece for Ballygunner, Slaughtneil and Liam Mellows.

Name: 1. Sean Brennan
County: Dublin
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Goalkeeper
Player's standout moment of club championship: Strong under the high ball and possessed of a particularly long strike, Brennan can hit puck-outs huge distances which is a vital weapon in Cuala's armoury. His accuracy also means he's a great man to get the ball to a moving teammate. Cuala may have cruised through Leinster at times but whenever danger lurked, like a 36th minute penalty to Kilcormac Killoughey in the provincial final, he stretched brilliantly to divert Ciaran Slevin's strike out for a 65.



Name: 2. Mike Casey
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Fullback
Player's standout moment of club championship: Na Piarsaigh's Casey is the most effective type of full-back, a quiet general who was always there to clear their defence whenever their goalmouth was crowded but his man-marking job to keep Con O'Callaghan scoreless in the drawn All-Ireland final also showed the huge range of his talents. Losing him to injury soon after half-time in the replayed All-Ireland was a massive blow. It seemed no coincidence that, within 10 minutes, the Munster champions had conceded two goals.


Name: 3. Cian O'Callaghan
County: Dublin
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Full-back
Player's standout moment of club championship: He may not grab the headlines as spectacularly as his younger brother Con but Cian O'Callaghan is all that you want in a full-back; always totally unflabbable when covering in front of goal and rarely making an error under pressure. Faced with the might of Na Piarsaigh's forwards he played a key man-marking role at times in the All-Ireland finals when the Limerick men rotated their powerful attack, especially helping to hold Kevin Downes to just 0-2 in the replay.

Name: 4. Alan Dempsey
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Wing half-back
Player's standout moment of club championship: A throw-back to old school wing-backs who haunt their man with tight marking, Dempsey is also capable of particularly well-placed clearances. He showed his versatility also on several big occasions, not least by playing a sweeper role in the All-Ireland replay and one moment in the drawn final, when he flicked the ball over Colum Sheanon's and collected and cleared it showed the huge variety of his skills.


Name: 5. Cathal King
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Centre-back
Player's standout moment of club championship: Captain by name and captain by nature, King's powerful presence at the pivot of Na Piarsaigh's defence was key to their brilliant run and his exceptional speed means he always seems to be ahead of his man. He was one of their key players when Ballygunner pushed Na Piarsaigh so hard in the Munster final but it was in the All-Ireland semi-final, when they trailed Loughiel at half-time and then lost two men, including one of their corner-backs, that his speedy ability to cover and clear with the minimum fuss really stood out.

Name: 6. Sean Moran
County: Dublin
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Centre-back
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 1-0 (penalty)
Player's standout moment of club championship: Moran will always be remember as the centre-back who goaled that 20m free in the 64th minute of the drawn All-Ireland final to complete Cuala's four-point injury-time comeback but his powerful centre-back role throughout the campaign was brilliant. It culminated with Man of the Match in the All-Ireland final replay but who could forget that magnificent hook on David Breen when he was bearing down on goal in the drawn final.

Name: 7. Philip Mahony
County: Waterford
Club: Ballygunner
Main Position: Left half-back
Player's standout moment of club championship: In some ways that Munster final scoreline of 3-15 to 2-10 flattered Na Piarsaigh as Ballygunner pushed them relentlessly, only letting them get away in the final 10 minutes. Throughout the Waterford side's tough campaign of eight games in eight weeks county star Philip Mahony was an absolute rock in their half-back line and particularly in their thrilling Munster quarter-final extra-time defeat of Thurles when he was selected as Man of the Match.


DARRAGH

Name: 8. Darragh O'Connell
County: Kerry
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Midfield
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 0-6 (1f)
Player's standout moment of club championship: The versatile Kerryman usually lines out in midfield yet still chipped in with scores in five of Cuala's six games and proved himself particularly versatile in this campaign, often at wing-back. In the replayed All-Ireland final, when Adrian Breen was running riot on Cuala's defence, he shifted back to help do a vital marking job at corner-back but not before he got one of his trademark points in the first half; a sensational catch inside his own half followed by a mazy run down the left wing and finished with a beautiful angled point straight off the bas.


Name: 9. Ronan Lynch
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Midfield
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 0-32 (20f, 3 '65s, 3 S/lines).
Player's standout moment of club championship: While Na Piarsaigh were without regular freetaker Shane Dowling for most of the campaign they had an ample replacement in young Ronan Lynch, the big man with the delicate touch and the competition's second highest scorer whose bag of tricks includes a prodigious ability to score sideline balls. He slotteded one of those, two 65s and nine frees in his whopping 0-15 tally against Blackrock in their Munster semi-final, the highest individual score of this year's competition, and almost matched that in the All-Ireland semi-final against Slaughtneil when he bagged 0-14 (11frees).


Name: 10. David Treacy
County: Dublin
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Right half-forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 0-53 (44f, 4 65s)
Player's standout moment of club championship: The championship's topscorer has long been regarded as 'Mr Dependable' for Cuala and Dublin, especially with placed balls and was particularly invaluable and metronomic this season. Six points was actually his lowest score in Cuala's run to All-Ireland glory. His '12 from 12' frees in baltic, windy conditions in the drawn All-Ireland final caught the spotlight yet it was his combative leadership, layoffs and assists that day to help the Dubliners repeatedly fight back from deficits that day was even more impressive than his masterclass in free-taking.

Name: 11. Brendan Rogers
County: Derry
Club: Slaughtneil
Main Position: Centre-forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 1-5.
Player's standout moment of club championship: Brendan is not the only dual player in a Slaughtneil team loaded with them but what makes him unique is that he plays full-back for their footballers and full-forward for their hurlers. He scored 0-7 (6fs) when Slaughtneil beat Banagher to win their fifth Derry title in-a-row and another 1-2 in the Ulster semi-final. He move out to the centre-forward line as well as his brace of points was crucial to helping Loughiel retain their Ulster title against Balygalget and in the All-Ireland semi-final he proved a real thorn in Na Piarsaigh's side, setting up goals for others and unlucky not to get one himself.


Name: 12. Adrian Morrissey
County: Galway
Club: Liam Mellows
Main Position: Full or corner-forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 0-7 (7f)
Player's standout moment of club championship: Liam Mellows were undoubtedly the story of the Galway championship in 2017. Despite not having a single player on Galway's All-Ireland winning senior panel, they won their quarter-final in a replay, pipped Cappataggle by a point in the semis and then shocked Gort to win their first county SHC title in 47 years. Adrian Morrissey's metronomic free-taking (0-8fs) was vital in the county final but, though he scored one point less in the All-semi-final against Cuala, that was arguably even better as he scored five of Mellow's six first-half scores to keep them within two points of the reigning champions at the break and still in contention.


MORRISEY

Name: 13.Adrian Breen
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Right corner-forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 1-17
Player's standout moment of club championship: The younger of the rangey Breen brothers scored 1-17 in the provincial and All-Ireland series - all from play. No matter how tightly he is marked and with apparently extra 'hang-time', he has a marvellous ability to win his own aerial ball and, once he lands, seamlessly accelerate out of the turn, with an ability to score off either side. Breen proved a real handful for Cuala in both All-Ireland finals, scoring 0-4 and 0-5 in them respectively, yet it was his performance in the Munster final, when he scored 1-5 from play to break Ballygunner's spirit, that was arguably his most outstanding performance.


Name: 14. Kevin Downes
County: Limerick
Club: Na Piarsaigh
Main Position: Full-Forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 1-9
Player's standout moment of club championship: An imposing figure with skills to match, Downes is one of those players who can magic up a score with several men hanging off him. When Na Piarsaigh had leaked two goals and badly needed a life-line in the All-Ireland replay Downes made a magnificent catch and shot a bullet off the run from 20 metres out. Only the cross-bar foiled his effort but it was the spark that ignited their comeback. Another moment of individual brilliance was his great surging run in the Munster final, when Na Piarsaigh trailed Ballygunner by four. Having carved open the defence he laid off the ball for David Breen to goal and suddenly Na Piarsaigh were right in the game.


Name: 15. Con O'Callaghan
County: Dublin
Club: Cuala
Main Position: Left corner-forward
Total scored in provincial and All-Ireland series: 3-15

Player's standout moment of club championship: The second of the O'Callaghan brothers to be included had a phenomenal 12 months that included winning two club All-Irelands with Cuala as well as a senior football All-Ireland, Allstar and Young Player of the Year with Dublin. His 3-15 in the provincial and club series with Cuala all came from play and his scoring rate only abated in the All-Ireland finals when Na Piarsaigh double and triple-teamed him. In the dying minutes of the replayed final, with the game still in the melting pot, O'Callaghan showed his class by bagging one vital point and winning a free as they inched clear. His other highlights this season came against St Martins – three points in 90 seconds before setting up a Colm Cronin and then his own beautifully bounced goal - and that tour de force against Liam Mellows when he scored three points with his first four touches and won a free with his fifth.

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