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The 5 key players Munster hurling's glory hunters can't afford to do without

Take these guys out of the equation and your hopes of claiming silverware are seriously diminished.

THE FABLED MUNSTER senior hurling championship bursts into life next Sunday when Tipperary tackle Cork at Semple Stadium in Thurles.

The winners of that clash face Limerick on 19 June while in the other half of the draw, it’s a straight shoot-out between League finalists Clare and Waterford for a place in the glamour final on 10 July.

Each of the five competing counties can boast proven match-winners on any given Sunday but here, we’ve picked out a player from each that they simply can’t afford to be without.

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1. Seamus Callanan (Tipperary)

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

We’ll start with the holders and favourites to retain their Munster crown.

Seamus Callanan’s brilliant form saw him nominated for the Hurler of the Year award in each of the last two seasons and Tipp will need him on top of his game again this summer to make a championship impact.

How opposition defences cope with him will make for fascinating viewing and Tipp, for their part, need to find a way to bypass likely sweeper systems and isolate their key man one-on-one with an opponent.

John McGrath’s emergence up front will help to ease the burden on Callanan but the Drom & Inch hitman remains the key man for the Premier County.

2. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Gleeson has been touted by many as the new Ken McGrath and while he still has a long way to go to meet those comparisons, the Mount Sion man is on the right track.

A graduate from the 2013 All-Ireland minor winning team, Gleeson has made the step up to the senior ranks with ease and is now arguably the most vital cog in Derek McGrath’s wheel.

He can still mix the erratic with the sublime and while Gleeson is capable of some brilliant cameo moments, his decision-making and shot selection from distance still needs working on, and will improve with time and further experience.

He was tried in attack and defence during both League finals with Clare and if Gleeson’s on-song this summer, Waterford will flourish.

3. Seamus Harnedy (Cork)

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Cork need Harnedy fit and firing if they’re to have a say in the Munster championship and make progress in the All-Ireland series.

Harnedy was injured for last year’s championship opener against Waterford and his absence was keenly-felt.

He returned for the qualifiers to form a potent two-man inside line with Conor Lehane but Harnedy brings much more than just a scoring touch.

He’s a ferocious worker while Cork have other marquee forwards in Lehane and Horgan, Harnedy is the one man they can’t do without.

4. Tony Kelly (Clare)

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Clare managed to claim promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz League but Kelly’s return transformed them into League champions outright.

He marked his comeback from injury in the semi-final against Kilkenny with two points, the first of those with his very first touch, and was influential in both games against Waterford.

The replay was a Kelly tour de force as he blazed a trail over Semple Stadium and finished with 1-6, including the two late points that snatched victory.

The Ballyea star is showing signs of recapturing his 2013 Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year form and a fresh injury blow would represent a catastrophic setback to Clare’s summer hopes.

5. James Ryan (Limerick)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

You could argue that Limerick would struggle without the likes of Shane Dowling and Declan Hannon up front, and they would, but James Ryan is the unsung hero for the Shannonsiders.

A powerful, abrasive ball-winner, Ryan provides drive and energy from the middle third of the field.

The Garryspillane dynamo was man of the match in the 2013 Munster final victory over Cork and while he’s fast approaching 30 years of age, he remains as vital as ever to the Limerick cause.

Ryan gets through an amount of work around the middle, either at centre-field or centre forward, and that selfless industry allows others around him to profit.

Do you agree with our selections? Leave your feedback in the comments section below. 

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