With the annual Gaelic Football All Stars fast approaching, Brian Carty casts his verdict on the stand out players of this Championship season.
In the wake of the All-Ireland Football Championship, it has come to that oft-controversial time of the year where the All Star teams are decided upon. The process invariably brings with it an array of surprise inclusions and shock omissions. The recently announced nominations are no different this time around, despite All-Ireland Champions, Tyrone looking likely to secure the bulk of the awards.
The All Stars provide a platform for debate and conversation for GAA enthusiasts, and many aficionados will be second guessing the experts choices in the coming weeks.
1. Anthony Masterson (Wexford): In keeping four clean-sheets in six championship games in his debut season for Wexford, the statistics alone make Masterson the stand-out goalkeeper this season. Crucial saves combined with a calm and composed manner were his hallmarks.
2. Conor Gormley (Tyrone): The resilient, tight marking cornerback was the catalyst of Tyrone’s re-emergence this year and along with Justin McMahon was the foil to Kerry’s ‘twin towers’ threat, (Donaghy and Walsh) that allowed Tyrone to triumph at Croke Park over the Kingdom on All Ireland Final day.
3. Justin McMahon (Tyrone): A revelation in his first full season as full back for the Red Hand, curbing the influence of talismanic Kieran Donaghy in the final, McMahon showed great leadership for one so young in such a high pressure environment.
4. John Keane (Westmeath): Many people’s choice as the best man-marker in the game, Keane’s marshalling of Alan Brogan against Dublin was one of the standout performances of the summer as the Lake County took the Dubs to within a couple of points of a major shock. Keane is a huge component of Westmeath’s trademark blanket defence.
5. Davy Harte (Tyrone): Harte proved to be a huge scoring threat from wing back, managing to chip in with crucial scores all year, including the decisive third goal against Dublin in the quarter-final to quell the Dubs’ resistance and a vital point in the All Ireland Final itself.
6. Ryan McMenemin (Tyrone): Like Harte, McMenemin contributed vital scores all year, whilst also performing his job in defence in the usual no-nonsense manner which is associated with the game’s premier centre halfback.
7. Phillip Jordan (Tyrone): Completing an all-Tyrone halfback line, Jordan was back to his best after a number of injury-plagued seasons, leading the Tyrone assault, particularly against Wexford in the semi-final, in which he scored three points.
8. Martin McGrath (Fermanagh): The leader of Fermanagh’s odyssey to the Ulster final, McGrath recaptured the form which saw him win an All Star in 2004. Numerous outstanding performances in the competitive Ulster Championship fully merit his inclusion.
9. Enda McGinley (Tyrone): Arguably the most influential midfielder in the championship this year, McGinley’s impact greatened accordingly as the stakes got higher as Tyrone secured another All Ireland title.
10. Brian Dooher (Tyrone): The heartbeat of Tyrone’s team, Dooher’s performances all year, particularly against Dublin in the quarter-final, were nothing short of awe-inspiring. Dooher scored, arguably,
the point of the Championship against Kerry in the final. He is the perfect outlay between defence and attack.
11. Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone): Mickey Harte’s decision to play Cavanagh in the forwards this year proved a master-stroke as he filled the void left by Peter Canavan with impressive panache. His five points from play, and man-of-the-match performance, in the All-Ireland Final puts him in contention for footballer of the year.
12. Declan O’Sullivan (Kerry): In the absence of Paul Galvin, O’Sullivan led the Kerry half forward line all year. His performances against Galway and Cork in particular were instrumental to Kerry reaching their fifth All-Ireland Final in succession.
13. Colm Cooper (Kerry): The classy forward was Kerry’s stand out performer in the All Ireland Final, while his 1-7 against Cork in the semi-final proved the difference. The Gooch was the one to secure the vital scores against Galway in the quarter-final when the Tribesmen were staging a revival.
14. Ronan Clarke (Armagh): An outstanding Ulster championship firmly put Clarke’s recent injury nightmares behind him with some master-classes in point kicking off both feet.
15. Ciaran Lyng (Wexford): The UCD student hardly missed a free all year, and scored an almost perfect shot against Tyrone in the semi-final. His energetic, busy performances for Wexford were the catalyst to the Slaneysider’s fairytale season.