Padraic Maher in action against Colin Fennelly - a priceless defender for Tipperary.
Fantasy hurling - who would you buy to hurl for Tipperary?
News this week that Liverpool FC have just broken the world record by spending some £75m on Southampton defender Virgil Van Dyjk, prompts the questions - where is all this spending on soccer players going to end up? The £100m mark has already been broken as the gap between the top clubs in the Premiership and the bottom clubs gets bigger and bigger.
But, suppose the same transfer possibilities were to apply to hurling and specifically to the inter county scene - how much would Tipperary captain Padraic Maher be worth? It is likely that Seamus Callanan would sell for more because forwards just tend to, but as illustrated by The Tipperary Star in 2016, Maher should have won the Hurler of the Year Award due to his sheer influence on the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup. He didn't and neither did Callanan, though both were nominated. Instead, the credibility of the award was undermined due to Waterfords Austin Gleeson winning both the Young Hurler of the Year and the Hurler of the Year Award, despite the fact that he didn't play in an All-Ireland Final.
See you next year - Tipp Manager Michael Ryan greets Galways Michéal Donoghue after the final whistle in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park last August.
Maher won his fifth All-Star award for the 2017 season, and that makes him the standout defender of the current generation - he is the Virgil Van Dyjk of hurling right now. That might even be a bit generous to the new Liverpool man, since he still has a lot to prove at the highest level. But, Maher has nothing left to prove. So, how much is he worth? Well, to Tipperary he is priceless for his workrate, his intensity, his influence and his ability to snuff out danger. In recent seasons he has added the tremendous ability to pick off long range scores and they tend to be of the inspirational variety - what Tipperary person will ever forget that second half point against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Final of 2017, when he plucked the ball from above the head of Kilkenny giant Walter Walsh, and lashed it over the bar from under the Cusack Stand in Croke Park.
So, how much for Maher then? Well, most counties would pay anything to have him, but that's not the way it works in the GAA. Here, you play for club and county; you play for honour and glory; you play for pride and parish. Thurles Sarsfields and Tipperary would not sell Padraic Maher for all the tea in china, and Maher wouldn't go either. GAA players are not slaves to mercenary suitors and long may that be the situation.
But, suppose there was a transfer system in place. Suppose Michael Ryan could pick one player from all the others in the country - who would it be? It depends on which sector of the field he is most concerned about. However, the vast majority of Tipperary people would feel that a big ball winner is necessary in the forward division and therefore the likes of Jonathan Glynn or Joseph Cooney of Galway would be on the hit list. The feeling would probably be that there are enough Joe Canning/ TJ Reid/ Austin Gleesons/Patrick Horgan/ Tony Kelly's in the Tipperary set-up - natural, pacy hurlers who can flash over scores through the eye of an needle. But, having somebody to win the ball and feed these predators , well, those type of players are in far shorter supply right now.
So, we're not going to buy, Reid, Canning, Gleeson or Kelly - all former Hurlers of the Year remember. But, we are going to invest and our money would be on Glynn. Remember, he caused Padraic Maher a bit of bother in a qualifier tie in Semple Stadium back in 2014 and his sheer physicality and ability to score makes him a really special player. He can win ball and distribute it too - just what the doctor ordered for the Premier panel. Travels have taken him out of the starting fifteen for Galway but Manager Michéal Donoghue recognises his importance to the squad and has maintained interest in him.
With Michéal and Lukasz Kirszenstein moving from the Tipperary stable to the Tribsemen in recent seasons, perhaps Glynn might come this way in exchange. Not a chance - this isn't the Premiership.
Who would you chose for Tipp if there was a hurling transfer market?
Let us know.