Down club football Allstars
KILCOO secured their fourth successive Down SFC title this year and six Magpies find their way into Seán Mahoney's selection of the best from the Mourne county in 2015...
1. JOHN O’HARE (GLENN)
Ballyholland’s Liam Coulter and Kilcoo’s Stephen Kane had great Down Senior Club Championship campaigns between the posts, but Glenn’s John O’Hare edges the two men out for the goalkeeping position.
O’Hare conceded only one goal throughout the Championship and, while his defence deserves much of the credit, when called upon O’Hare pulled ofF saves to deny Jerome Johnston, Ross McGarry and Mark Poland. His kick-outs and general distribution kept Glenn in the ascendancy and O’Hare is worthy of a look by the county.
2. NIALL BRANAGAN (KILCOO)
Niall Branagan has been outstanding over the past three seasons and, this year, he cemented his position as one of the top man-markers in Down.
Brothers Niall, Aidan and Daryl gave the Down senior champions an excellent base to build on and each of the men possess similar attributes of tough, no-nonsense and fully committed tackling, but Niall has been an exceptionally cool costumer this season, winning clean primary possession and giving away very few fouls throughout the championship.
3. GERARD McGOVERN (BURREN)
Burren’s Gerard McGovern gets the nod ahead of Kilcoo’s Aidan Branagan, Mayobridge’s Conor Garvey and Ballyholland’s Damien McCrink.
McGovern is a magnificent full-back, who can play the position in the traditional sense - at the edge of the square, commanding his area, with the strength and ability to win high as well as dirty ball. But he also possesses an excellent reading of the game and has the footballing ability to burst forward and score. His sending-off in the quarter-final turned the game in Kilcoo’s favour. And McGovern is ready made for inter-county football.
4. DARYL BRANAGAN (KILCOO)
Like his two older brothers, Daryl is an intelligent defender who likes to make life difficult for forwards. A few seasons ago, Kilcoo would have been guilty of making needless fouls, but young blood such as Daryl and Aaron Branagan mean Kilcoo have been strong in the tackle but light on their feet this season and Daryl has pace to burn.
This season, former manager Jim McCorry seemed to address Down’s perceived problems in defence, but there is no doubt this full-back line could play a part in Division One of the National League.
5. AARON BRANAGAN (KILCOO)
Aaron Branagan has been fantastic for Kilcoo this season, not only for his safe handling in defence, but his range of passing was top drawer.
Robust in the tackle, Aaron possesses a cool head in the heat of battle and proved that time and again this season. He likes to get forward and his speed of thought and foot adds another string to Kilcoo’s counter-attacking bow.
6. ROBBIE WHITE (BALLYHOLLAND HARPS)
Robbie White has been a forward for most of his footballing career, but under manager Stephen Poacher this season, he excelled at centre half-back.
A naturally creative player, White pulled the strings from deep, delivered insightful passes and ensured his side maintained possession. But his attacking instinct proved vital when he was moved up front against Clonduff and was instrumental in Ballyholland’s late winner and, indeed, their run to the semi-final of the championship.
7. KEVIN DUFFIN (CASTLEWELLAN)
Duffin was the driving force behind Castlewellan’s fantastic run to the Down Senior Club Championship final. An experienced campaigner and former Down star, Duffin proved he has plenty to offer, whether in defence or pushing forward. Duffin scored the crucial goal that put Ballyholland to bed in the championship semi-final and is more than worthy of a place in the Allstar team.
8. PAUL GREENAN (KILCOO)
Man of the Match in the Down Senior Club final, Greenan was the best midfielder in the championship this season. The big Kilcoo joiner seemed to be holding back over recent seasons, but under manager Paul McIver, Greenan is better than ever.
Strong and athletic, he covered a lot of ground this season. His work-rate is phenomenal, but he has matched his endeavour with quality footballing ability and, surely, a county call-up is due.
9. JOE MURPHY (BALLYHOLLAND HARPS)
Murphy missed the start of Ballyholland’s championship campaign due to a broken jaw sustained in the league. But undeterred, Murphy entered the competition as a second-half substitute in the second round victory over Annaclone and never looked back. Murphy is an energetic player who gives everything on the pitch and was crucial in Harps’ run to the semi-final, scoring an injury-time winner against Clonduff.
He gets the nod ahead of Mayobridge’s Benny Coulter and Glenn’s Niall McParland, who also impressed this year.
10. RONAN MILLAR (GLENN)
Millar’s cool head and sharp shooting in front of the posts was a huge contributing factor to Glenn’s impressive season. But he offered his side much more and, while he fitted into Glenn’s ethos of working hard with and without the ball, he gave his side another intelligent attacking dimension as well as the security of scoring points from frees.
11. CONLETH O’HARE (MAYOBRIDGE)
O’Hare has been one of the best forwards not in the county panel and the new Down manager should be keen to bring him in. A physically strong footballer who likes to score from distance, he is also capable of battling and winning possession. A player with plenty of stamina, O’Hare is one of Mayobridge’s key figures and could be an asset for the Mourne men.
12. RYAN JOHNSTON (KILCOO)
Johnston has arguably been one of the best forwards this season and he and his brother Jerome have certainly been among the most exciting. A player who devastates defences and has the crowd on their feet with his speed and silky skill, Ryan’s phenomenal pace makes him a difficult player to tackle without fouling, whether accidently or intentionally.
A former Hogan Cup winner with St Colman’s, Johnston has matured into a formidable footballer and there is much more to come from the student.
13. AIDAN BURNS (CASTLEWELLAN)
Castlewellan had two outstanding forwards – young Seán Dornan and Aidan Burns, but it is Burns’ panache that sees him as the first player in the full-forward line.
His individual tally of 0-11 against St Peter’s, Warrenpoint only cemented his position as a wonderful scorer, but his audacity in shooting from almost impossible angles means Burns cannot be overlooked. Big and strong, Burns caused defenders problems throughout the championship, although he was relatively quiet in the final.
14. JEROME JOHNSTON (KILCOO)
An exciting forward who has pace to burn and who loves to take players on and skip through gaps in the oppositions defence. If that wasn’t enough, he also possesses a keen eye for scores, he is confident enough to win his own ball and a talented poacher in front of goal.
Johnston’s range of passing caught many defences out this season and, with a little more composure in front of goal, he could be the best in the county.
15. DONAL O’HARE (BURREN)
O’Hare’s consistency scoring goals and points sometimes detracts from the ability he has displayed over the years, as the exceptional is expected from him.
This season was no different and O’Hare’s scoring, along with Shay McArdle’s performance’s, kept Burren on the front foot for much of the campaign before they eventually exited the competition at the quarter-final stage.
O’Hare displayed creativity as well as composure in front of the posts this season.