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Ranking the top 10 wing backs in hurling

Wing backs are getting bigger, stronger and faster than ever, and it’s extremely hard to separate those at the very top level. We’ve tried to rank the top ten currently dominating the inter-county scene.

1. Pádraic Mannion (Galway)

It’s still flabbergasting to think that Galway’s championship campaign is over, and Pádraic Mannion is highly unlikely not to build upon his Player of the Year calibre year from 2018. Regardless of Galway’s form, he’s an outstanding dual All Star wing back with the defensive stout and attacking ability to make him an all round threat from the half-back line, and it’s a shame we won’t see him in action later on this summer.

2. Brendan Maher (Tipperary)

Injury ended his 2018 season early, but the Borrisileigh man has returned to action in sublime fashion this year at a right half-back position, having ran the show in midfield the past few seasons. Maher has always seemed more at home in the wing back line though, where he can pounce on the ball and attack from deep. He’s an accurate long range shooter, tremendous in the air, and accurate in the pass. He’s well on pace for an All Star year at #5, so this ranking may seem too low for the 30-year-old come September.

3. Mark Coleman (Cork)

The dynamic Blarney man has been one of the most exciting players in hurling since bursting onto the scene in 2017. Speedy, clever on the ball and a stalwart defender, the 21-year-old has all the attributes of a high quality modern half back that can lunge up and down the field like a gazelle. There are few prettier sights in hurling right now than Coleman bombing up the field with the sliotar.

4. Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick)

Limerick have a wing back triangle right now, with last year’s pair of Dan Morrissey and Diarmaid Byrnes vying for position along with newcomer Paddy O’Loughlin. Both Byrnes and Morrissey are high calibre players, and debate often wages as to who is the superior wing back. Both love to attack and provide massive size in the wing back line, either side of the heroic Declan Hannon, but we’ve opted for long range shooter Byrnes just slightly, even though it was the Ahane man who was crowned an All Star after last year’s All-Ireland victory.

5. Ronan Maher (Tipperary)

The Thurles Sarsfields man has slotted into a left wing back position this year and has looked just as a dominating as his brother Páidí, who has stepped back into the centre back role. Ronan has all of the same attributes – powerful in the air, steadfast in defence and perhaps even better with the ball in hand than his older brother.

6. Chris Crummey (Dublin)

It’s easy to overlook just how good he is and has been for the Dubs over the past two seasons. His role at wing back seems tailor made – he’s magnificent in the air, watertight in defence and as he showed against the Tribesmen, extremely dangerous in attack when coming from deeper positions. With more games on the horizon for Dublin, he could be an All Star contender come the end of the year.

7. Dan Morrissey (Limerick)

The giant from Ahane has been an integral part of this new Limerick era, despite going through his underage time with county without any silverware whatsoever. Last year’s All Star wing back opposite Mannion will feel aggrieved not to be higher on this list, but the standard of the position has never been higher.

8. Philip Mahony (Waterford)

Waterford’s year was cut short once again, as was Mahony’s with a leg break against Tipperary. The experienced Déise stalwart was a huge lost for his county, operating as one of the finest wing backs in the game over the past few years.

9. David Fitzgerald (Clare)

Another huge man, the Inagh-Kilnamona wing back is a hugely difficult opponent to face in Clare’s half back line. Fitzgerald is another who loves to boom into attack with lunging runs and shots from distance.

10. Paddy O’Loughlin

A third Limerick wing back in a top ten list of the position is pretty unfair, but really underlines their strength in depth right now all across the park. What’s funny is, O’Loughlin seems to be the only wing back who has bedded down his starting role, while Byrnes and Morrissey fight it out for the opposite side of Declan Hannon. O’Loughlin is an absolute giant of a man who so far as shown fantastic defensive fortitude that is hard to overlook, albeit perhaps lack the attacking thrust of his teammates.

Notable Mentions: Enda Morrissey (Kilkenny), Paudie Foley (Wexford), Aidan Harte (Galway), Joey Holden (Kilkenny), Eoin Nolan (Carlow), Shane Barrett (Dublin)

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