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Were Cork right to be angry about not getting a single player on the hurling All-Star selection?

Seán O'Donoghue of Cork celebrates with his father Paddy after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final win over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Listen, it wouldn’t feel right if the announcement of the All-Star team wasn’t greeted by some degree of moral outrage.

It is usually the minnows of the GAA world who have the most to complain about.

This time around it was one of the hurling’s superpowers - Cork - who have a bone to pick with the All-Star selectors after they snubbed their hurlers.

It was a historic snub as well. For the first time since the inauguration of the award scheme in 1971 the beaten All-Ireland finalists failed to get a single player on the team.

When news broke around Wednesday lunchtime that the Rebel hurlers have been ignored I had to look up the record books to check whether it had happened before.

I was convinced that Galway footballers had been ignored after their infamous All-Ireland final loss to a 12-man Dublin side in 1983. I was wrong.

Full-back Stephen Kinneavy has honoured. And there were just four Dubs selected: Pat Canavan, Tommy Drumm, Barney Rock and Joe McNally.

In those days the sportsmanship rule applied which meant that Brian Mullins, Kieran Duff, and Ray Hazley who were sent off in the final – along with Galway’s Tomas Tierney – were all ineligible.

I digress. All the Cork hurlers were eligible but none of them made the cut. So, was their omission justified?

I’m not a hurling selector so I’m free to comment.

Obviously, I’m not privy to what transpired at the meeting, but I do know it went on longer than usual.

And the selectors would not have taken the decision lightly. My guess is that they agonised over it, and I doubt if it was unanimous.

But it is credible to suggest they made a dog’s dinner of the team by omitting all the Cork contenders. Granted the Rebels reached the All-Ireland final, but they were humiliated.

As a contest the game was over at half time and Limerick’s 16-point winning margin reflected their overall superiority. They scarcely had to break sweat in the second half. And don’t forget that Limerick also beat Cork by eight points in the Munster semi-final.

Sean O’Donoghue, Jack O’Connor, Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan were all live All-Star contenders going into the final. But like their colleagues, they all struggled to make on impact.

One of the legitimate criticisms levelled at the All-Star selection process is that there is too much emphasis placed on performances in the All-Ireland final.

On the other hand, which one of the actual team selected should be dropped to accommodate a Cork player. Unless critics address this question then their opinion doesn’t count. Only 15 players can be chosen.

The Cork controversy has overshadowed the astonishing achievement of All-Ireland champions Limerick, whose haul of 12 winners breaks the record in both codes.

The previous benchmark of nine All-Stars was jointly held by Limerick hurlers (2020), Kilkenny hurlers – on three occasions – Dublin – two occasions – and Kerry (1981).

But the funny thing is Limerick fans will wonder why full-back Dan Morrissey, corner-forward Arron Gillane and in particular, goalkeeper Tommy Quaid did not make the cut.

Quaid lost out to Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy. Waterford’s Conor Prunty got the nod for the full-back position, while Clare’s Tony Kelly was chosen at corner-forward.

Though he played most of his hurling in the middle of the park, obviously the selectors felt Kelly merited a place on the team but not ahead of the Limerick midfield duo of William O’Donoghue and Darragh O’Donovan.

Between them, the game’s three superpowers, Kilkenny, Cork, and Tipperary have won 94 All-Ireland titles. Ten other counties, Limerick, Wexford, Dublin, Galway, Offaly, Clare, Waterford, London, Laois, and Kerry have shared a miserly 40 titles between them.

Of course, they won’t even acknowledge it, but it will rankle with the top trio that a team outside the golden triangle has set the benchmark in the All-Star scheme on its 50 th anniversary.

John Kiely and his Limerick management team are long enough around to know that their team has set itself up for a spectacular fall in 2022. Their standards will have to be even higher next season if they are to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

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