The Opel All Stars Awards are upon us; this year has gone fast. A gala where the top intercounty footballers and hurlers gather to reflect on the year and earn further recognition. In these award ceremonies, there will be debate on some nominations. Hawkeye Sidekick ponders these questions.
Stephen Rochford’s thoughts this morning on the announcement that David Clarke was selected as goalkeeper would have being intriguing. Clarke dropped for the All Ireland Final replay is given the award (has to be a first). Stephen Cluxton or Evan Comerford for me were ahead of Clarke this season. If the panel selecting the team were looking for a keeper other than Cluxton, Tipperary’s netminder Comerford ticked all the boxes. His assured performances this season and his accurate kicking was paramount to Tipperary’s success this season.
The corner back positions can have little argument. Harrison and McMahon were the standout performers in their positions this season. Harrison was a real find for Mayo this season; his man marking assignments in the All Ireland finals were standout performances. McMahon was ultra efficient this season and chipped in with several scores. His leadership defensively with the absence of keynote players such O’Carroll in the full back line stood out. Stellar years for the pair. Well earned awards. Jonny Cooper at full back will have little argument from most quarters; solid in a position which looked vulnerable at the start of the season.
The half-back line is probably where the massive controversial debate will rage. How Durcan and Cian O’Sullivan were omitted is baffling? O’Sullivan was described as Dublin’s defensive lynchpin; the definition of the modern half-back; the definition of a defensive game reader. Durcan’s attacking runs and score taking from long range caught the eye. Ryan McHugh and Colm Boyle were selected ahead of both players. Both had good years but when compared with O’Sullivan and Durcan’s cameo does not hold up. Award opinion will be varied. McHugh albeit was influential for Donegal in attacking play; his ability to support his forward line was to the fore and his eye for goal shone through obviously for the selection panel to get him the nod. Robbie Kiely and Peter Acheson of Tipperary were almost omitted; Kiely had a stellar year but his controversial black card spelled the end for his All Star prospects.
The midfield area was another area of contention. Donnelly and Fenton are solid picks but cannot feel some disappointment for Clare talisman Gary Brennan who was superb this season. His ball winning ability, scoring ability were sensational in NFL and Championship. Clare had a great season and Brennan was a huge reason why and would have being good to have highlighted Banner’s progression this term.
Few complaints on the half-forward line. Harte, Connolly and Kilkenny is an awesome line. Harte with his snipping running from deep. Connolly’s unerring accuracy scoring from any angle and Kilkenny’s coolness and distribution is the stuff of legend. Aidan O’Shea potentially but his All Ireland final cameos fell short of the level required.
The full forward line is youthful and energetic. Dean Rock wins his first gong, reward for taking on the mantle of Dublin’s focal point from placed balls. Rock also was prominent in the scoring stakes from play; worthy reward for the Ballymun clubman. Michael Quinlivan’s cameos in the Cork and Galway triumphs in the championship stood out this season. His contribution with Clonmel Commercials earlier in the year was taken into accounts; nice acknowledgement for Tipperary who on another day could have had three players on the team. Paul Geaney, pure class forward. His score tally speaks volumes. The Dingle native’s ability to score from either foot had his defensive markers at sixes and sevens.
Cillian O’Connor was unlucky to miss out on an award; noteworthy performances for Mayo at the business end of the season. Kevin McManamon unlucky to miss out as well; a potential footballer of the year before the All Ireland final is overlooked. Plenty to digest in that selection.
Lee Chin would not be anywhere else but at this gala. The Hurling All Stars will be announced to the general public tomorrow during the televised event. The team should go along by and large familiar lines but there are a couple of spots in the team which are up for grabs but think that the selection will be along these lines:
- Eoin Murphy (KK)
- Cathal Barrett (Tipperary)
- Daithi Burke (Galway)
- James Barry (Tipperary)
- Padraic Walsh (KK)
- Ronan Maher (Tipperary)
- Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
- David Burke (Galway)
- Jamie Barron (Waterford) / Brendan Maher (Tipperary)
- Walter Walsh (Kilkenny)
- Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
- Bonnar Maher (Tipperary)
- John McGrath (Tippeary)
- Seamus Callanan (Tipperary) and should win HOTY
- Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)