Whether it be at inter-county level or the club, 2018 served up a hurling year to remember. For the club campaign, four remain after countless thrills and spills.
A 'Team of the Year' for the club campaign is difficult to qualify for as great players often have limited opportunity to impress as they bow out early in their own county championship structures. What is striking across this team is the sheer number of skilful hurlers currently operating across the country.
1- Stephen Corcoran (Coolderry, Offaly)
A long-range free master. After an impressive showing the county championship, Corcoran hit 0-5 against Carlow champions Mount Leinster Rangers before his side lost out in a thriller against Ballyboden St. Enda's. Just pips Stephen O'Keeffe to the number one spot, although he will still have a big say in the destination of the All-Ireland club title.
2- Eddie Hayden (Ballygunner, Waterford)
Hayden gave an exhibition in man-marking in this year's Munster final as he limited Adrian Breen to no score from play.
3- Joey Holden (Ballyhale Shamrocks, Kilkenny)
A teak-tough no-nonsense defender who put the shackles on Paul Ryan in the Leinster final to limit him to no score from play. Holden is a fundamental part of Henry Shefflin's finely balanced team, skill up front and steel at the back.
4- Paddy Burke (Cushendall, Antrim)
The rooming cornerback is also Cushendall's captain. Well able to chip in with a score as he demonstrated with a fine goal against Loughgiel Shamrocks.
5- Phillip Mahony (Ballygunnar, Waterford)
Mahony had a superb year for Fergal Hartley's side, but his stand-out and one of the best moments of the club year was that last-gasp stunner that brought their semi-final against Ballyea to extra-time and ultimately allowed the Waterford kingpins to prevail.
GOAL for Ballygunner’s Philip Mahony to level the game and bring it to extra time! pic.twitter.com/3ZTqi9yU0l
— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 4, 2018
6 - Michael Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks, Kilkenny)
Injury forced Fennelly away from the inter-county game but he has thrived in the less-demanding club scene. A versatile and skilful hurler, Fennelly is spearheading Ballyhale's quest for a fourth All-Ireland club title.
7- Fintan Burke (St Thomas, Galway)
Micheál Donoghue knows he will need to unearth a new player or two if he is to bring another Liam McCarthy trophy back to Galway, and thus the form of U21 star Fintan Burke in this year's County Championship will provide cause for optimism.
8- Padraig Doyle (Naomh Eanna, Wexford)
Doyle was an integral part of Naomh Eanna's historic first-ever county title. An energetic midfielder with brilliant finishing ability both from play and placed ball, the Wexford man hit 0-4 in the county final and 0-9 against Camross.
9- Neil McManus (Cushendall, Antrim)
Renowned for his inter-county exploits but McManus has been outstanding for his club in recent months. Despite enduring a mixed year with his frees, he landed 0-7 against Ballycran and lorded it at centrefield. McManus wears 11 on his back but drifts out the field to operate as a crucial link between attack and defence.
Hurlers!! They put their hands where the sticks are flying. Listen to the crack in the slow-motion part of this superb point by Neil McManus in Cushendall's Bathshack @AontroimGAA SHC Final win on Sunday.. @RuairiOgCdall @DonalOgC @buff_egan #courage pic.twitter.com/ojR4nwriJU
— Jerome Quinn (@JeromeQuinn) October 30, 2018
10- Brian Carroll (Coolderry, Offaly)
The craziest game of hurling all year saw ten goals, 53 points, two bouts of extra-time and a remarkable 2-16 for Brian Carroll. Unfortunately, for the Offaly man, he was on the losing side that day against Ballyboden St. Enda's and was sent off at the very end but his form was a key reason Coolderry, a team that was initially tipped for relegation in their own county, managed to muster a Leinster championship run.
11 - Pauric Mahony (Ballygunnar, Waterford)
Familiar to the hurling public for his exploits at inter-county level. Mahony is in a rich vein of form for his club, as he hit 0-12 during their Munster quarter-final victory over Midleton and 0-13 before that in the county final. 1-6 against Na Piarsaigh helped the club to their first Munster title since 2001.
12- Colin Fennelly (Ballyhale Shamrocks, Kilkenny)
The Kilkenny man gave one of the best individual performances of the year at Innovate Wexford Park when he hit a stunning 4-4, all from play, against Naomh Éanna.
13- Darragh Burke (St Thomas, Galway)
Traditionally played along the half-forward line but as many a Galway man will attest to, Burke fully deserves to be in this team. He made national headlines when he hit 1-7 against Liam Mellows but that is only part of the story as his movement and tireless running provides a constant outlet for his club.
14- Paul Ryan (Ballyboden St. Enda's, Dublin)
The Dublin inter-county star finished with 0-14 in that epic shootout against Coolderry and although he showed signs of fatigue against Ballyhale less than two weeks later, they would not have even been in the Leinster championship if not for a last-gasp equalising free from Ryan to force their Dublin final against Kilmacud Crokes to a replay. Also landed 0-15 against Clonkill.
15- Conal Keaney (Ballyboden St. Enda's, Dublin)
Widely praised for his warrior-drive during the Dublin county final victory over Kilmacud Crokes in Parnell Park and never let that standard slip thereafter. 36 and only getting better.