THE LIAM MACCARTHY cup found a new home in 2016 when Tipperary ended a six-year thirst and surprised holders Kilkenny.
It was also a year where Austin Gleeson ascended to new heights at just 21 years of age while at the other end of the age scale, Jackie Tyrrell withdrew from the inter-county game after a stellar career.
On the club circuit, we discovered a jewel in Clare. Ballyea’s journey from obscurity to Munster senior champions is laced with historical feats and they still have an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to after Christmas.
As always, some quality moments of score-taking were produced throughout 2016 and here’s a selection of them.
Conor Cooney (Galway) – Goal against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final
The 2015 All-Ireland semi-final produced a memorable encounter between Galway and Tipperary with the westerners clinching the tie by just one point to set up a final with Kilkenny.
This year’s semi-final however, was far from a repeat performance. But there was a nice spread of quality scores, one of which was a sublime goal from Galway’s Conor Cooney.
While thundering towards the Davin end with ball in hand, Johnny Coen spotted Cooney drifting into space and offloaded possession at the perfect moment to allow Cooney to unleash a stunning shot from distance.
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(Skip to 0.30 for Cooney’s goal)
Austin Gleeson (Waterford) – Point against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final replay
The Waterford player who can adapt his specialties to an attacking or defensive role, carved his name into the annals of hurling history with some of his solo performances this year.
He was duly awarded the GAA/GPA Player of the Year and this individual effort against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final replay, surely helped tilt the verdict in his direction.
Not only does Gleeson display the power and agility required to shake off the Kilkenny defenders, he also exhibits a rarely seen skill in hurling. After evading the initial challenges, Gleeson hops the ball (if such a term can be applied to hurling) off the ground with his hurl before catching it on the bounce and dinking to the left and slapping it over.
Joe Canning (Galway) – Goal against Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final
It wasn’t one of his highlight years but Joe Canning remains a special talent. His ability to emerge with a moment of skill that can change the trajectory of a game should never be undervalued.
It’s a talent that he produces intermittently, which is probably why we appreciate it even more. Against Clare in this year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, Canning treated us to another impromptu exhibition.
From the throw-in after half-time, Galway went on the offensive. Johnny Coen and David Burke sliced their way through the Banner’s defence with little retaliation from their opponents, in a move which resulted in a Canning goal.
Canning could have played it cautiously and popped the ball into his hand to avoid any chance of getting dispossessed.
But Canning backed his speed of wrist to tee up the shot with his hurl, before applying the swing. By the time a Clare body had arrived on the scene, the net was already swaying.
Tony Kelly (Clare/Ballyea) – Point in the Munster club final
While the Clare hurlers continue to seek their All-Ireland winning form from 2013, Tony Kelly has found some respite with his club Ballyea.
This unassuming parish has achieved a succession of historical achievements this year and Tony Kelly has been instrumental throughout.
His Munster final display against Glen Rovers of Cork was particularly noteworthy. Five points from play, incredible yards gained with his pace and some impressive stick work were the key points of his distinguished performance.
Ballyea’s Tony Kelly hitting a sensational score during his side’s first ever senior Munster final victory.
This first-half effort shows Kelly infuse all of these attributes in one movement.
John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (Tipperary) – Goal in the All-Ireland final.
It was turbulent season for ‘Bubbles.’ A sending off in the Munster semi-final victory over Limerick saw him cast out onto the peripheries for a number of weeks.
He served his suspension for the Munster final but found it difficult to reclaim a starting jersey after his time in exile was finished. He was named on the bench for the meeting against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final before finally getting the nod in the final.
He announced himself back to the stage with a stunning 1-05 as part of Tipperary’s comfortable win over Kilkenny.
Source: CR’s Video Vaults/YouTube
His second-half goal cooled the fire of Kilkenny’s comeback and was a joy to watch.
The precision of his shot is always worth a replay.
Colin Fennelly (Kilkenny) – Goal against Waterford in All-Ireland semi-final replay.
Kilkenny may have lost their crown this year but to talk of their impending demise after one setback would be foolish. Those who indulged in that notion six years ago soon learned the cost of prematurely ordering a gravestone for Kilkenny hurling.
Prior to their capitulation at the hands of Tipperary, they thrived in two tricky assignments against Waterford this year.
The replay saw the Cats prevail and this stunning goal from Colin Fennelly helped them on their way to edging the tie. (Fennelly’s goal can be found at the 0:14 mark)
Source: Ar an taobh líne/YouTube
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