THERE IS NO doubt that Danny Sutcliffe for Young Hurler of the Year at 16/1 is the best-value bet in the GAA ahead of this year’s championship.
The St Judes man was Dublin’s biggest success story in a disappointing league campaign and his directness seems to have ended John Gardiner’s Cork career as a wing-back while Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh was taken for 2-3 in Nowlan Park.
No doubt there are dissenting voices screaming the name of Conor Lehane right now but at a prohibitive 13/8, there is little value with the Cork starlet. If you are going to put your money on a Leeside bet, Darren Sweetnam offers more at 15/2 – his cameo when introduced in the league final against Kilkenny reminded us of that.
What it so often boils down to with these bets – and indeed All Star awards – is which teams get farthest.
That’s why Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley (3/1) and Richie Doyle (7/1) are worth a look, though we suspect at least one might find it hard to hold down his place as the year goes on.
Dublin made it to a Leinster final and an All-Ireland semi-final last year and, with so many players coming back, they look set for another strong season. If you believe they will go farther than Cork, Sutcliffe is a good shot to win this award. Assuming Anthony Daly doesn’t persist with him at corner-forward as he did in Portlaoise when his side were relegated.
Let him loose on the wing where he, like Lehane, can do damage. At 16/1, the punter can do some too.
The smart money for championship top scorer is on a free-taker like Henry Shefflin ©INPHO/ Tom Honan
The hurling championship top scorer is another bet where the punter must consider who will remain in the hunt for silverware the longest. For the most part, they will be from a team that is at least a semi-finalist.
Last year Dublin’s Paul Ryan topped the scoring charts, six points ahead of Patrick Horgan. What stands out among the top 10 hitmen in the 2011 championship is that just one – Lar Corbett – was not a free-taker. And the Tipp man finished 23 points behind Ryan.
In 2010, each and every one of the top 10 had their tallies augmented by placed balls, which is worth considering again this year. Joe Canning is favourite but at 6/4 he’s not worth the risk, while at 13/2 Liam Watson is unlikely to succeed based on Antrim’s likely early exit.
Eoin Kelly (Tipperary) at 9/1 isn’t the worst bet in the world but Horgan (16/1) and Henry Shefflin (22/1) look the most enticing. Why not Richie Power, you say? Because Shefflin will assume the free-taking role when he returns which, to be fair, he already has.
Kilkenny are likely to be there when Leinster and All-Ireland silverware is handed out and it would not be unusual for them to put up at least one big scoreline.
Horgan might need another field day as he had against Laois last year to top this chart but he is on form so he can’t be discounted. But at 22/1, there is no better value than the Shef.
The hurling championship throws in this weekend with Westmeath likely to fall at home to Antrim (-4 on the handicap is worth consideration) and Watson could be a good shout for first goalscorer at 9/2.
Carlow face a Laois side yet to win this year at home in Dr Cullen Park and a surprise win is on the cards. You can get the Barrowsiders +2 at 10/11.
In the Christy Ring Cup, Kildare beat champions Kerry already this season to move from 14/1 to 6/1 but the Lilywhites still might be worth pondering over.
But whatever you do, don’t say we didn’t warn you about Sutcliffe. Even if he doesn’t win it, the value is serious.