Opinion: Making the case for Graeme Mulcahy as HOTY

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Graeme Mulcahy of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side's first goal with team-mate Kyle Hayes during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Opinion: Making the case for Graeme Mulcahy as HOTY.

He may not win the award. He might not even be nominated for it. Some pundits do not even name the Kilmallock man in their respective Team of the Year. However, Graeme Mulcahy is unquestionably the 2018 Hurler of the Year.

While the Limerick team as a whole was brilliant throughout the summer, Mulcahy was their most consistent performer. He only failed to score in one game, the heavy loss to Clare in Ennis where the ball into the forwards left an awful lot to be desired. A veteran at 28 in such a young team, Mulcahy had himself a season for the ages.

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In the eight games played this year, Mulcahy accounted for 3-16, all from play. The breakdown is as follows,

  • 0-4 vs. Tipperary
  • 0-2 vs. Cork
  • 1-0 vs. Waterford
  • 0-0 vs. Clare
  • 1-1 vs. Carlow
  • 0-3 vs. Kilkenny (Quarter-Final)
  • 0-4 vs. Cork (Semi-Final)
  • 1-2 vs. Galway (Final)

It’s not just the volume of the scores that separates Mulcahy from the rest but the importance of these scores. All of his scores against Tipp came in the first half with Mulcahy leading by example in an extremely young side. His points against Kilkenny were further indication of his leadership as Limerick bridged a near half century gap since their last victory over the Cats.

The scores against Cork in the semi came in rapid succession has Mulcahy helped Limerick settle in Croke Park. Against Galway on the grandest stage of all, Mulcahy got Limerick’s first goal as well as adding Limerick’s final score of the year, fitting for the man.

Graeme Mulcahy celebrates Limerick’s All Ireland triumph with Tom Condon, Peter Casey, Darragh O’Donovan and Tom Morrissey. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

But in a Limerick side that contains over a dozen forwards who could claim they deserve a starting berth, it is Mulcahy’s selflessness and work rate that set him apart. Named at corner forward, he alongside Seamus Flanagan are a constant source of movement inside the opposition 45′. This creates space for Mulcahy but also for his teammates, something that was evident in the semi-final with Aaron Gillane isolated one on one with a defender on the edge of the square to Limericks advantage.

In their post-match celebrations, the Limerick forwards consisting of Tom Morrissey, Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty, Seamus Flanagan and Mulcahy, began to refer to themselves as the ‘Tackle Squad”. (Aaron Gillane was exempt so he could focus solely on his scoring duties according to the players). The workrate of the Limerick forwards was something of note throughout the summer and Mulcahy led the pack.

In Pairc Ui Chaoimh, after Gillane saw red, Limerick responded well but it wasn’t until Mulcahy physically took on Mark Coleman along the sideline that John Kiely’s troops began to realise they could take the game to Cork despite their numerical disadvantage.

Setting the tone for those around him, in the first minute of the All Ireland final, Mulcahy would be instrumental in overturning Padraic Mannion and winning a free for his side. By the fifth minute, he had his opening score of the game. Ten minutes later he had the games opening goal. In the final, Limerick completely nullified Galway’s puckout strategy and a large part of this was down to the workrate of Mulcahy and co up front who ensured there was no easy out-ball.

As a corner forward, ones primary task is to keep the scoreboard ticking over and few are better than Graeme Mulcahy at doing just that. Yet, Mulcahy’s game is so much more than simply scoring but creating for others and leading the first line of defence.

With nearly a decade of championship experience under his belt, Graeme Mulcahy had his best year in the green of Limerick in 2018 and was the best hurler in Ireland throughout the greatest hurling championship of all time.

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