Hurling’s greats: Where does Henry Shefflin rank?
Seán Moran’s six of the best
Cork’s Christy Ring. Photo: Connolly Collection/Sportsfile
Wexford’s Nickey Rackard on this 2001 stamp[
Tipperary captain Jimmy Doyle in 1965. Photo: Connolly Collection/Sportsfile
Kilkenny’s JJ Delaney, who recently retired. Photo: Inpho/Cathal Noonan
Limerick’s Mick Mackey
1 CHRISTY RING (Cork) – He remains the most iconic of hurlers, possessed of everything from talent and ferocious application to longevity and a string of records, including the first to reach eight All-Ireland medals. Obsessive about the game, he worked relentlessly to sustain a formidable array of techniques, complemented by great vision and anticipation. Physically resilient, he played senior intercounty between 1939 and ‘63.
2 HENRY SHEFFLIN (Kilkenny) – The central personality on the field of Kilkenny’s golden generation, he broke all records: 10 All-Irelands, 11 All Stars and a career championship total of 27-483. Intimidating in his reliability on the biggest of occasions. Above all an inspiring leader, his abilities combined power and fearlessness in winning ball with subtlety and accuracy in its use.
3 MICK MACKEY (Limerick) – Mackey was integral to Limerick’s pre-eminent status in the late 1930s. In de Búrca’s GAA history he is described as being “accepted as the most colourful player the game has produced”. Powerful and skilled enough to switch from centre forward where he captained the All-Ireland winning teams of 1936 and ‘40, to centrefield and centre back when required.
4 NICKEY RACKARD (Wexford) – Of the famous brothers, Billy was the most successful and Bobby the most gifted but Nickey’s charisma defined Wexford as the most popular team during the game’s most storied era in the 1950s. Though past his prime by the time he inspired the county to the Holy Grail, he adapted his game to become a colossus, a full forward of extraordinary power and prolific scores.
5 JIMMY DOYLE (Tipperary) – A sublime forward with pace, skill and phenomenal accuracy. A slight frame in days when that could be a liability, he also possessed dauntless courage, playing the 1961 All-Ireland with six pain-killing injections in an ankle. Ring once told Babs Keating that had Doyle the physique of either of them “there would have been no doubt about who was the best hurler ever”.
6 JJ DELANEY (Kilkenny) – All of the others have been forwards but in the most successful generation of hurlers in the game, Delaney was a magnificent defender. He retired last December, getting out at the top as an All Star. Brilliant at wing back and comfortable at full back, he was unbeatable in the air, had exceptional positional sense and ability to hook and block.