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Open thread: who will be the unsung hero in this year’s All-Ireland hurling final?

We know the star names — but can one of Kilkenny or Tipp’s lesser lights steal the show on Sunday?

Few people outside of Clare knew the name Shane O'Donnell before the teen hit a fairytale 3-3 in last year's All-Ireland final replay.
Few people outside of Clare knew the name Shane O'Donnell before the teen hit a fairytale 3-3 in last year's All-Ireland final replay.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THEY SAY YOU need your big players for the big days but it’s not unusual for an unsung hero to step out of the shadows in the All-Ireland hurling final.

Take last year. Nineteen-year-old Shane O’Donnell played no part in the epic drawn final between Clare and Cork, and didn’t even know that he was to start the replay until Davy Fitzgerald pulled him aside two hours before throw-in.

O’Donnell hit a hattrick inside the first 20 minutes, finished with 3-3, and was named Man of the Match as Clare claimed their first All-Ireland title since 1997.

Twelve months earlier, Kilkenny boss Brian Cody rolled the dice and handed 21-year-old Walter Walsh his senior championship debut in the Cats’ All-Ireland final replay against Galway.

Walsh finished with 1-3, Kilkenny won All-Ireland number 34, and Cody’s gamble didn’t really seem so risky after all.

It’s not just a recent phenomenon either. In 1995 Fergie Tuohy finished with a vital 0-4 as Clare beat Offaly while in 2001, Mark O’Leary’s 2-1 proved decisive as Tipperary beat Galway.

Who will be the unsung hero in this year’s All-Ireland hurling final? Let us know in the comments section.

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