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Who are the Hurler of the Year contenders?

Richie Hogan, Seamus Callanan, Patrick Horgan and TJ Reid are among the front-runners for the big individual prize.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM STATES that the Hurler of the Year is usually hand-picked from the All-Ireland champions. On just one occasion in the last 15 years has the award gone to a player not on the winning side in September — Dan Shanahan in 2007.

With that in mind and two games still to play in this year’s championship, there’s still plenty of time for players from Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork to stake a claim for the coveted prize, but here are the main contenders.

The Frontrunners

Richie Hogan, Midfield (Kilkenny)

Hogan’s reinvention at midfield has been one of the highlights of the 2014 championship. Despite having only hurled in centre-field on one previous occasion for the Cats in the championship (in the drawn All-Ireland final against Galway in 2012), the 26-year-old is leading the chase to win Hurler of the Year.

With Michael Rice ruled out for the season with a cruciate injury and Michael Fennelly also struggling with his fitness, Hogan has made light of their absences with a serious of impressive performances in Kilkenny’s engine room.

Source: Paddy O'Paddy/YouTube

Cody had plenty of options to slot into that midfield sector, namely Pádraig Walsh, Lester Ryan or even Tommy Walsh, but Cody’s faith in Hogan has been richly rewarded. Hogan may well have been used to operating much closer to goal, but his scoring instincts haven’t abandoned him and he’s chipped in with 1-12 (1-11 from play).

Odds: 5/6

Seamus Callanan, Full-Forward (Tipperary)

2014 will be remembered as the year Seamus Callanan finally cashed in on his potential. After a quiet display in Tipp’s Munster semi-final defeat to Limerick, Callanan repayed the faith shown in him by Eamon O’Shea and has been in electric form ever since.

Lining out at the edge of the square, Callanan has hit 5-34 in the championship so far – in addition to the 5-62 he bagged in the league. His hat-trick display against Galway was one of, if not the, best individual performances of the summer and he is virtually nailed on to win an All-Star in the full-forward line.

Source: The Gaelic Gospel/YouTube

Odds: 6/1

Patrick Horgan, Corner-Forward (Cork)

Horgan has efficiently gone about his business this season, notching up 2-41 in just four games as the Rebels delivered a first Munster title since 2006. The corner-forward has long been the vocal point of Cork’s attack and his dead-ball skills continue to be critical feature of their play.

The Glen Rovers man’s big-game pedigree can’t be understated, which means he is liable to bag a goal or two between now and the first Sunday in September. Do that and he has every chance of becoming the first Cork hurler since Jerry O’Connor in 2005 to be named Hurler of the Year.

Odds: 6/1

TJ Reid TJ Reid has taken over the mantle of free-taker for Kilkenny Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

TJ Reid, Wing-Forward (Kilkenny)

Reid is the second of Kilkenny’s stand-out candidates for Hurler of the Year. Reid was forced to bide his time in recent seasons before finally nailing down a starting position in Cody’s plans.

He has shrugged off issues of inconsistency and has become Kilkenny’s chief attacking threat this year, where a 2-11 haul in the League final set out his intentions for the summer. Having chalked up 3-40 in five games to become the joint-top scorer remaining in the championship, Reid has flourished while assuming free-taking duties from Henry Shefflin. The wing-forward’s eye for a goal could well see him claim the individual prize.

Odds: 7/1

The Chasing Pack

Patrick Maher Patrick Bonner Maher: One of Tipp's key men Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

For all the game-changing scores Seamus Callanan has racked up, Patrick Bonner Maher (10/1) has been a critical factor in their resurgence in 2014. His work-rate and ball-winning ability has made Maher Tipp’s most important player outside of Callanan. Stationed at centre-forward, Maher has provided countless assists for Tipp’s free-scoring full-forwards to capitalise on.

Elsewhere, Cork’s Seamus Harnedy (14/1) has had a terrific season so far. Man of the match in the Munster final, his 54th minute goal was the crucial break-through and he looks to coming into a rich vein of form at the perfect time.

Source: Saint Itas/YouTube

 

The Dark Horses

Aidan Walsh 13/7/2014 Aidan Walsh has enjoyed a fine debut campaign for the Cork hurlers Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Aidan Walsh (33/1) could be a tasty outside bet for the big award. The 2010 Young Footballer of the Yearhas excelled in his midfield partnership with Daniel Kearney this season. Although he won’t admit it, the exit of Cork’s footballers from the championship will only benefit his hurling and a couple of powerful displays could see him move to the head of the queue.

Kilkenny’s Colin Fennelly (10/1) has notched 2-16 from play and only failed to score once this season. He delivered 4-14 in a fine league campaign and as history shows, a magical display on All-Ireland final day would do his chances no harm.

Finally, Conor Lehane (20/1) has chipped in with some vital scores in the Rebels’ march to Croke Park, no more so than his five points from play in the Munster final.

Who do you think will win Hurler of the Year? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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