The 2013 All-Star awards ceremony had a new home on Friday night. It was in Croke Park for the first time.
GAA headquarters is one of the primary conferencing venues in Ireland, and in Dublin in particular, so why should the GAA not use its own facility? At the behest of the players, things were more informal.
Another difference was that the function was open to the public once the TV event had concluded. Fans got an opportunity to rub shoulders with the stars. That can work in two ways.
There is the genuine fan who is delighted at his fellow county man’s award. Then there in the fan who, perhaps unknowingly, overdoes the attention he gives some players. The new format worked well. It looks like the annual All-Star function has found a new permanent home.
For the seventh time the awards platform was a Kilkenny free zone. Expectations were modest but a National League title might have seen Kilkenny take one award. That is the least the Cats deserved.
Paul Murphy came closest to taking an award. He can feel particularly disappointed to have missed out.
I have two abiding memories of Friday’s awards. I recognised more Gaelic footballers than hurlers. The principal reason is that the hurlers’ faces are usually covered with a helmet and this time we had no Kilkenny player receiving an award.
In addition, we have yet to recognise most of the successful All-Ireland winning Clare side. Most significantly of all was the age profile of the 15 players who received the hurling awards. Many looked as if they had just moved out of minor ranks. The reality is that this is what has occurred in many instances.
The thought crossed my mind as the players walked up to the podium that hurling is fast becoming a younger man’s game. Are we witnessing the demise of the 30 years plus hurler?
When a young man wins the Young Player and overall Player of the Year awards (and deservedly so) something has changed. Maybe it’s a one-off but a lot will be revealed during the 2014 hurling championship.
All-Stars awards are ultimately a wonderful personal achievement for players but they can also be used to motivate teams for the following year. As Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway players watched the ceremony at home on Friday, I am sure their thoughts turned to 2014 and a determination that they would be in Croke Park the next time.
Following the live TV ceremony the winners of the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lorry Meagher awards received their trophies. Few of these young men are known outside their own county so it was a special occasion for them and their families.
During the league and championship their games get no more than a cursory mention in most national media outlets. Also, most received minimal coverage in their own counties. Imagine the excitement five young men who won the Lory Meagher final this year felt as they ascended the podium in Croke Park?
They were representing Warwickshire, their new home. In their wildest dreams could they ever have imagined firstly winning a final in Croke Park, and secondly winning a Lory Meagher award?
Kilkenny may have missed out on a major award, but one young man with strong Kilkenny links was the recipient of a Nicky Rackard award for Sligo.
In the late forties Liam Reidy was one of the many star players with Kilkenny. A young hurler with the same name (the late Liam’s grandson) was winning his second award. For a number of years now Liam Reidy has been a consistent and excellent performer for Sligo.
So, Croke Park was not really a Kilkenny free zone!