John Kiely’s indomitable three-in-a-row champions have won seven awards, eclipsing a trio of rivals who were all (eventually) put to the sword by Limerick. All-Ireland runners-up Kilkenny take home four All-Stars, vanquished Munster final opponents Clare have three, and beaten semi-finalists Galway must be satisfied with one.
However, the exclusion of an eighth Limerick candidate warrants perhaps the biggest talking point of an otherwise uncontentious selection announced tonight. Corner-back Seán Finn, gunning for a fifth consecutive award, was ultimately pipped by impressive Kilkenny rookie Mikey Butler.
Finn had been named on The Sunday Game Team of the Year but, in the only change from RTÉ’s July line-up, Limerick’s marquee man-marker loses out.
Instead, the No 2 berth is filled by 22-year-old Butler – reward for a brilliant breakthrough campaign crowned by keeping Clare’s Tony Kelly scoreless from play in their All-Ireland semi-final.
Finn remains the most-decorated All-Star in the current Limerick dressing room, but five team-mates have now become three-time winners: Diarmaid Byrnes, skipper Declan Hannon, Gearóid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes and Aaron Gillane.
Meanwhile, there’s a second gong for corner-back Barry Nash as well as Nickie Quaid, who has dislodged Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy as the reigning All-Star ‘keeper.
Butler is joined on this year’s team by fellow first-time winners Huw Lawlor at full-back and Adrian Mullen, alongside Kilkenny’s enduring talisman TJ Reid at full-forward.
Reid’s Indian summer is reflected in the fact that three of his six All-Stars have been garnered in his thirties, although he’s running out of years to catch several fellow Cats, notably Henry Shefflin on 11 plus Tommy Walsh and DJ Carey on nine, whatever about emulating the seven won by former colleague JJ Delaney.
After a summer that promised so much only to wither on the vine of a semi-final implosion against Kilkenny, Clare still take home three awards – David Fitzgerald and Shane O’Donnell are honoured for the first time, whereas Kelly joins his manager Brian Lohan and Jamesie O’Connor as the Banner’s most-decorated All-Stars with four apiece.
The Ballyea wizard may have endured a Butler shut-out, but he had already banked enough credit from his earlier mesmeric form.
Fitzgerald is named at midfield, despite spending much of his championship in the half-forwards while amassing 2-18 from play.
O’Donnell finally becomes an All-Star, nine years after being parachuted into the 2013 All-Ireland final replay to become an unlikely man-of-the-match hat-trick hero.
The team is completed by Pádraic Mannion, a defensive rock during Galway’s run to the semi-finals where he typically carried the fight to Limerick.
Meanwhile, the moment of the banquet saw Kerry’s David Clifford crowned as the PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year while Diarmaid Byrnes, Limerick’s point-scoring wing-back extraordinaire, was voted Hurler of the Year.
The young player of the year awards went to Galway’s Jack Glynn in football and Mikey Butler in hurling.