Galway’s ‘magnificent seven’ but Harte unlucky not to make team

GALWAY DOUBLE: Hurler of the Year, Joe Canning, and Young Hurler of the Year, Conor Whelan, at the PwC All Stars banquet in the Convention Centre, Dublin on Friday night.
GALWAY DOUBLE: Hurler of the Year, Joe Canning, and Young Hurler of the Year, Conor Whelan, at the PwC All Stars banquet in the Convention Centre, Dublin on Friday night.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Ahead of last week’s announcement of the 2017 hurling All Stars, I was concerned that David Burke mightn’t make the line-up. After all, he had been left out of the Sunday Game’s ‘Team of the Year’ on the night of the All-Ireland final and an exaggerated credence was being given to an admittedly disjointed display from the Galway captain in the championship semi-final against Tipperary.

Other than epic high-wire August clash, Burke had been in regal form all season. Last March he scored six points from play against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds after Galway had a difficult opening, while his Man of the Match performance in the All-Ireland final against Waterford played a huge role in the Tribesmen bringing the McCarthy Cup West for the first time in 29 years.

Reflecting on his overall performances in 2017, Burke ought to have been an automatic choice on the All Stars despite a couple of experts in Sunday newspapers also leaving him out of their selections as well. The St Thomas’ clubman led from the front this year helping to steer Galway to an unprecedented haul of league, Leinster and All-Ireland titles in the space of a few months.

Burke was one of seven Galway players to make the All-Stars team, with the inclusion of Padraic Mannion, Daithí Burke, Gearóid McInerney, Joe Canning, who was deservedly acclaimed the ‘Hurler of the Year’ at the presentation banquet in Dublin last Friday, Conor Whelan and Conor Cooney a fitting reward for their individual exploits during a magnificent season.

However, it’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for one Galway player whose strong claims for an All Star were ignored. Defender Aidan Harte took his all-round game to new levels in 2017. And though he was employed as a sweeper some days, the Gort man thrived in the responsibility and he also scored two crucial points in that season-changing comeback league quarter-final win over Waterford at Pearse Stadium last March. Harte would have been on my team at the expense of Cork’s Mark Coleman, who admittedly was having a fine season until he was blown away by Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Surprisingly, Harte is the only one of Galway’s starting team against Waterford who can add to his medal haul ahead of Sunday’s county semi-finals at Kenny Park. Champions in 2011 and ’14, his club Gort will be aiming to justify pre-match favourtism against Craughwell in a repeat of last year’s semi-final which went down to the wire.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.