The 13 best men to catch a high ball in hurling 2 weeks ago

The 13 best men to catch a high ball in hurling

There were only four seconds on the clock in last year's All-Ireland final but Limerick had already laid down a marker.

A vicious, booming marker.

After Darragh O'Donovan won the throw-in, he had only one thing on his mind.

Aaron Gillane. Gillane was after cleaning Cork out of it in the air in the All-Ireland semi-final and he'd ruled the skies above hurling pitches all year long.

O'Donovan lumped a high ball up to him and before it even got near him Gillane was sprinting towards it like a plane on a runway. Then he took flight and there was no way a Galway man was going to get even a sniff of that ball.

It was beautiful to watch. The Limerick crowd roared. Standard set.

There's no better sight in hurling. There's no skill more valuable in hurling.

That ability to soar above the rest of them and win primary possession, to turn the whole game in your team's favour.

Here are hurling's most efficient skyscrapers.

Padraig Walsh (Kilkenny)

It takes a brave man to stick his hand on the chopping board with everyone in the vicinity pulling their hurls but Walsh always goes up for it he usually comes down with it too.

His brother Tommy was one of the best men hurling has ever seen under a dropping ball and Padraig, despite not being the biggest or the tallest, isn't far off him.

Clip credit: TG4.

Seamus Harnedy (Cork)

The target for most Cork puckouts and he should be the target for every one of them. The Rebels can always bank on the St Ita's/Imokilly man to win a hard ball for them when they need it.

Has a glorious pair of hands and he's old school tough enough to use them.

Aaron Gillane (Limerick)

Gillane made a massive dent on inter-county hurling last season and he would have got an All-Star were it not for a silly red card in Munster.

The best thing about him, his ability to win any kind of ball that the Limerick backs send his way. Often it was a 50:50 one between him and his marker, and he nearly always came out on top.

Most notably against Kilkenny, when marking the aerially adept Paddy Deegan.

Gillane explained his approach to winning high balls earlier in the year.

"I'm not sure really, just judgment - waiting for the ball to land. There's no point being stuck in between five or six people and trying to catch the ball. I just come in at the last minute and try to catch it. It's working at the minute but after saying this now people are going to know," he laughed.

Jack O'Connor (Wexford)

Well over six foot in height but he's well able to use it too.

Aidan Harte is still having nightmares about Jack O'Connor after their Pearse Stadium run-in last year and Wexford should be bombarding his wing with puckouts every day out.

Glides in the air, attacks the ball.

h

It's a simple game.

Does it for the club too.

Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)

Inch for inch, there's nobody better. He'll catch high balls over the biggest of them and in between the lot of them. The Danesfort man may be small in stature but he's astute in his timing, he has the spring of a kangaroo and he has the eyes for the ball and the steel to risk a belt.

Paudie Maher (Tipperary)

Any team that goes out against Tipperary without a plan for keeping the ball away from Paudie Maher needs their heads examined.

Above head height and a Tipperary attack has already begun.

Austin Gleeson (Waterford)

The most stylish ball-winner in the country. Soars into the sky like a gazelle with rockets in his boots and he usually brings the ball down with him too.

Sends the crowd wild. Inspires Waterford.

Watch that.

Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny)

No matter what sort of ball rains in on top of him, Kilkenny fans know he's going to catch it and they know he's going to be sprinting out the field with it and launching an attack within a matter of seconds.

The spring heeled Murphy denied a Waterford point with his reaching left hand in 2016 and any player aiming for a point knows it needs to be more than a foot over the crossbar against Kilkenny.

TJ Reid (Kilkenny)

Rarely will you see TJ Reid's marker winning a high ball. Has the power to hold his man off and the ability keep his eyes on the prize at the same time.

Most Kilkenny puckouts go his way, Kilkenny win most of their puckouts.

John Conlon (Clare)

The whole Clare forward line revolves around Conlon's ability to win primary possession. The higher, the better for him.

Johnny Glynn (Galway)

The man with hands like the bucket of a JCB says Cheddar Plunkett. It's one thing having hands like buckets, it's another being able to catch a ball and if a Galway ball is high and handsome it's already in Johnny Glynn's paws.

Chris Crummey (Dublin)

One of the largest physical specimens in hurling, the long-limbed Lucan half back has a fair leap in him too and any puckouts sent his wing will be sent back with interest.

Aron Shanagher (Clare)

He was one of the most impactful subs in the championship this year and he made his presence felt by horsing backs out of the way and leaping into the sky to catch balls in dangerous positions.

Like this one against Galway.