Irish News Ulster All-Stars 2015: Andy Watters' picks
DESPITE surrendering their Ulster crown to Monaghan, Andy Watters has named five Donegal players in his Ulster All-Star team, which also features players from the Championship surprise package Fermanagh...
Paul Durcan (Donegal)
Brilliant reflexes for a big man, Durcan has made some game-saving stops between the Donegal sticks this season.
His save in the Ulster preliminary round win over Tyrone proved crucial and he also showed his levels of concentration when he denied Armagh’s Ciaron O’Hanlon with a reflex stop late on at the Athletic Grounds.
His range of kick-outs are routinely precise and well disguised and Donegal will certainly miss him if he hangs up his boots.
Vinny Corey (Monaghan)
Corey has been in excellent form this season. Injuries to Drew Wylie meant a move from centre-back to full-back and Corey has been excellent in Monaghan’s defence.
He picked up Seán Quigley in the Ulster semi-final and virtually blotted out Michael Murphy in the provincial decider against Donegal.
Neil McGee (Donegal)
A warrior and the better his opponent, the better the Gweedore man is to watch. Quick, fearless and strong, McGee is an excellent reader of the game and mixed it with Andy Murnin, Cailean O’Boyle and Conor McManus in Ulster this season. He had a thrilling showdown with Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in the All-Ireland quarter-final last weekend before injury ended his season early in the second half.
Marty O’Brien (Fermanagh)
The go-to man in the Erne defence and he always gets the tough jobs. His best display of Fermanagh’s memorable season was probably in the Ulster semi-final against Monaghan when he kept Conor McManus scoreless for 63 minutes. He is versatile too and scored the Fermanagh goal in the Qualifier win over Antrim.
Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
Opponents are wary of him now and they know that his reserves of energy and quality on the ball have become vital to Donegal.
Armagh couldn’t work out what to do with him and Monaghan sacrificed the attacking talents of Darren Hughes to shackle the Kilcar man in the Ulster final.
It worked for a while, but McHugh stood up to his challenge and helped launch Donegal’s second half comeback.
Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)
Established himself as a key performer for the Farneymen this season. He was sound defensively and scored points in three games. O’Connell followed an impressive display in the Ulster opener against Cavan with an even better showing against Fermanagh in the semi-final when his runs caused the Erne defence serious problems. But his best came in the Ulster final when he repeatedly turned defence into attack. Donegal couldn’t live with his pace.
Dessie Mone (Monaghan)
Mone had another very consistent season in the Monaghan jersey and his class and experience were evident in every game.
The numbers in the defence give him licence to break forward and he scored points in all four Championship outings. The Clontibret clubman is absolutely crucial to the Farney effort.
Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
The younger Cavanagh brother is an unsung performer, equally accomplished as a defensive midfielder or sweeper, and a tireless worker in the Tyrone cause.
The Moy clubman battled against Neil Gallagher in the Ulster preliminary round and came close to forcing a replay when he hit the Donegal crossbar late on. Did get on the scoresheet against Sligo but it’s his work in defence that his made him a critical part of the Red Hand unit.
Neil Gallagher (Donegal)
Still the best in the business. Teak tough he can mix it in the middle and when the ball comes his way he uses it well. It was his pass that sent Paddy McBrearty away for Donegal’s early goal against Armagh. Also involved in the goals against Tyrone and Derry when he won the kick-out and gave the pass that split the Oak Leaf defence.
He is the rock on which several of Donegal’s tactics are built and is the main ball-winner at midfield and the catalyst for scores. Mayo’s numbers blotted him out last weekend.
Peter Harte (Tyrone)
A leader on the pitch for the Red Hands. Harte's worth to Tyrone was illustrated in the Qualifier against Meath when his side were searching for a spark. Their season was in the balance when he stepped up to take a penalty. He buried it, inspiring the wave of confidence which has brought Tyrone to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Harte has operated at midfield and wing half-forward and also bagged a goal against Limerick and points against Tipperary, Sligo and Monaghan.
Michael Murphy (Donegal)
His outstanding display against Armagh – when he pulled the strings from midfield and swept over a series of monster free kicks - will live in the memory for a long time.
Perhaps not at his best in the Ulster final when injuries took their toll on him but he recaptured his early form in the Qualifier win over Galway and carried the Donegal attack with eight points in the loss to Mayo on Saturday.
Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
Has found a rich vein of form on Tyrone’s Qualifier run. Donnelly’s early performances were patchy and he was dropped back to help out the defence in the Ulster preliminary round loss to Donegal. After relatively quiet games against Limerick and Meath he came into his own with three points against Tipperary and three more against Sligo. His impressive fitness levels were well illustrated by the two late points he posted against Monaghan last weekend.
Darren McCurry (Tyrone)
Given his form now it’s hard to believe he didn’t start the Qualifier against Meath. The point he scored late in the win over the Royals lit a fuse in McCurry and he has added 19 more in three games since.
Underlined his undoubted ability with a point from the corner off his right foot and then a free from the same acute angle off his left against Monaghan. He is also prepared to put in the hard yards tackling back.
Conor McManus (Monaghan)
One look at the posts is enough and then he sends the ball on course over the bar with the power of a ground-to-air missile. Quite simply there isn’t a better forward playing the game.
The Clontibret man is always double-marked and on the receiving end of physical tackling but he never stops showing for the ball and kicks points for fun.
He top-scored in all Monaghan’s games and ended with a combined total of 1-26.
Seán Quigley (Fermanagh)
If you wind up the Dubs on Hill 16 you must be doing something right and Quigley chose the biggest stage of all to showcase his formidable armoury of skills.
He finished that game with eight points and pushed Stephen Cluxton over the line for one of Fermanagh’s goals.
Erne fans will remember him always for dragging the team over the line in the thrilling finale against Roscommon. He also hit 0-14 in the Qualifier against Antrim and totalled 2-36 in the campaign.
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