It goes without saying that hurling is an incredibly difficult sport to master, and whoever is awarded our big individual prize of Hurler of the Year in association with Ulster GAA, will be thoroughly deserving of the plaudits.

Last year’s winner was Dunloy’s Ryan Elliott, the first ever time a goalkeeper has got his hands on the prize. Others to receive the awards in recent years include players of the stature of Cushendall’s Neil McManus and Sleacht Néill’s Chrissy McKaigue and Gerald Bradley.

The winner on this occasion will be plucked from our recently named Hurling Team of the Year. Unsurprisingly there is a healthy Cushendall representation; Paddy Burke was immense in the fullback line and makes the grade, midfielder Ryan McCambridge is another, Neil McManus could pick up his second Hurler of the Year award, while Joseph McLaughlin is an awesome young talent.

Others to make the team include Portaferry duo Caolan Taggart and Eoghan Sands, and beaten Ulster finalists Sleacht Néill are represented by Meehaul McGrath, who had one of his best ever seasons in terms of his own personal performances.

Ulster Intermediate Hurling Champions Setanta have three men in with a chance, namely Bernard Lafferty, teak-tough marker Steven McBride and talented forward Gerard Gilmore. Éire Óg, Carrickmore man Dean Rafferty, a top Tyrone hurler, also makes the grade.

Then at junior level, we have two fine hurlers representing provincial winners Castleblayney, Thomas Hughes and Leo Moloney, two fine attacking players. They overcame St Eunan’s in the final, who have one player in our team selection, midfielder Brian McIntyre.

It’s a tough choice for our panel and it’s hard to avoid the achievements of the men from Cushendall, but the likes of Setanta and Castleblayney also had phenomenal years so you can’t rule anyone out.

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