Killian Doyle has been rewarded for his sharpshooting exploits during the Leinster SHC round-robin series by making the 45-man long-list for this year’s PwC All-Stars hurling team.
And while Limerick predictably lead the way with 12 nominations, the inclusion of Doyle is sure to grab the headlines.
The Raharney clubman, 25, becomes the first Westmeath hurler since David Kilcoyne in 1986 to earn an All-Star nomination.
Kilcoyne went on to claim the award at right corner-forward and remains his county’s solitary All-Star in hurling.
Doyle was one of seven Lake County hurlers named on the 2021 Joe McDonagh Cup team of the year, and he has forced his way into the premier rankings after amassing 0-58 in five provincial outings as Westmeath preserved their top-flight status.
The chances of Doyle emulating Kilcoyne’s unique feat are probably minuscule, given the ferocious competition from a phalanx of forwards – principally from three-in-a-row champions Limerick, but also from Munster runners-up Clare and beaten All-Ireland finalists Kilkenny.
Among the contenders from the Cats, TJ Reid is a shoo-in to win his sixth All-Star after being nominated, alongside Limerick defenders Barry Nash and Diarmaid Byrnes, for the PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year.
The Kilkenny talisman faces stiff competition – especially from Byrnes, The Sunday Game’s choice in July – in his bid to become the oldest ever winner of the All-Stars’ top hurling accolade. Reid turns 35 in mid-November, just a few short weeks after the winner is announced at this year’s Convention Centre banquet on Friday, October 28.
The three candidates were selected by a panel of GAA journalists (who also pick the All-Stars team) but the overall decision will now go to a vote of their inter-county playing peers.
Reid is the only previous winner – in 2015 – but he continued to roll back the years this summer, finishing as the championship’s top scorer with 2-65 from eight appearances.
Their inclusion on the three-man shortlist effectively guarantees a second consecutive All-Star for corner-back Nash and a third successive award for prolific wing-back Byrnes.
Meanwhile, the vote for Young Hurler of the Year will be between exciting Cork rookie Ciarán Joyce, Kilkenny’s breakout defensive star Mikey Butler and his forward colleague Eoin Cody.
As expected, Limerick’s three-year monopoly of the Liam MacCarthy Cup is rewarded with four more nominations (12) than a trio of rivals – Kilkenny, Clare and Galway (eight each).
Limerick’s three All-Ireland final starters who don’t make the list are Dan Morrissey, Darragh O’Donovan and Graeme Mulcahy. Far tighter victory margins explain why there is no repeat of last year’s 15 nominations, which yielded a record 12 All-Stars.
Overall, there is a far more democratic spread with nominees from 10 of the 11 counties who competed in the tier one championship, relegated Laois being the exception. This eclipses any figure in recent memory.
The full breakdown is Limerick (12); Kilkenny, Clare and Galway (eight); Cork (three); Wexford (two) and one apiece for Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson, Tipperary’s Noel McGrath, Dublin’s Dónal Burke and Westmeath trailblazer Doyle.
Goalkeepers –Éanna Murphy (Galway), Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny), Nickie Quaid (Limerick).
Defenders – Seán Finn, Barry Nash, Mike Casey, Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon (Limerick); Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Richie Reid, Paddy Deegan (Kilkenny); Paul Flanagan, John Conlon, Diarmuid Ryan, David McInerney (Clare); Daithí Burke, Fintan Burke, Pádraic Mannion (Galway), Ciarán Joyce (Cork), Damien Reck (Wexford).
Midfielders –David Fitzgerald, Ryan Taylor (Clare); Tom Monaghan (Galway), Darragh Fitzgibbon (Cork), William O’Donoghue (Limerick), Adrian Mullen (Kilkenny).
Forwards – Gearóid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey, Aaron Gillane, Séamus Flanagan (Limerick); TJ Reid, Eoin Cody (Kilkenny); Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion, Joseph Cooney (Galway); Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell (Clare); Robbie O’Flynn (Cork), Dessie Hutchinson (Waterford), Noel McGrath (Tipperary), Lee Chin (Wexford), Dónal Burke (Dublin), Killian Doyle (Westmeath).
PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year Nominees – TJ Reid (Kilkenny), Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick), Barry Nash (Limerick).
PwC GAA/GPA Young Hurler of the Year Nominees – Ciarán Joyce (Cork), Mikey Butler (Kilkenny), Eoin Cody (Kilkenny).