GAA Football

Six of the best for Tyrone in Cahair O'Kane's 2016 Ulster Allstar selection

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly had another outstanding season. Picture by Hugh Russell

Cahair O'Kane finds room for six Tyrone men and four Donegal players in his Ulster Allstar selection... 

His kick over the head of Martin Reilly and into his run, which led directly to their second goal from the penalty spot, was the kickout of the year. Saved a penalty that day and impressed equally in the drawn game with Tyrone with a crucial save from Padraig McNulty.

Has developed brilliantly.


It was his fine displays on Monaghan dangerman Conor McManus that really stood out for the 27-year-old Ardara man. Kept McManus to 0-3 from play across 140 minutes, which is no mean feat. Dipped slightly against Cork, but got the better of Paddy Andrews in the first-half against Dublin and stuck tightly to Diarmuid Connolly before his red card.


It was only a harsh black card that curtailed his involvement against Donegal, after which Michael Murphy came into a game that he’d previously been shut out of. The 22-year-old Cullen produced a fine display in a roving role against Wexford, before manning the square powerfully against Mayo on an afternoon overshadowed by the minimal contact he made on Aidan O’Shea.

Ché Cullen was a commanding figure for Fermanagh this year


In his second season back in the fold, McCarron was back to his tight-marking best. Never gave Derry’s Niall Toner any breathing space in Celtic Park and was sound in his jobs on Killian Clarke and Eugene Keating, keeping both scoreless.

Picked up Michael Murphy to good effect in the Ulster final.


At 22, Ryan McHugh this year became a real leader for the Tír Chonaill men. From putting Peter Harte on the back foot in his superb Ulster final display to kicking another three points from play against Cork, to shutting down Declan McCusker on Fermanagh’s kickouts and dominating Michael Darragh Macauley, his was a superb season.


Given the licence to drive his side forward by Dara McVeety dropping behind him, Moynagh has been an excellent counter-attacking outlet for Cavan this season. In particular, his diagonal kick-passing caught the eye.

A scoring outlet as well, notching in his side’s four Championship games.


The effervescent new face of Donegal football, he didn’t have the luxury of a heroic win over Dublin to really put his name in lights this breakthrough season as his cousin did two-years-ago, but he showed the same fearlessness and searing pace.

Tormented Fermanagh and Cork in particular, and had flashes in the other three games. A very impressive debut campaign.


His flying midfield fetch in the Ulster final was one of the highlights of the season but, as ever, it was the Moy man’s ferocious defensive workrate and sound positioning that caught the eye. Even in defeat against Mayo, he was the one trying to cajole his team-mates to drive on.

Arguably remains the key link in their system.


In an interview before Tyrone’s win over Derry, Mattie Donnelly emphasised the remaining need for the ‘skills to pay the bills’. With his inspired displays, he proved they are very much in his artillery. Man-of-the-match against Derry and in the drawn game with Cavan, he also hit 0-4 from play in the replay.

The controversial black card cut his Ulster final short, but he was superb against Mayo.


The mark of a leader was his magnificent score to put Tyrone ahead at the death in the Ulster final, having had a quiet game up until that point. Netted against Derry and twice in the replay with Cavan, where he hit 2-2.

Landed three points from play against Mayo last weekend and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.


Finally getting the recognition he deserves after a couple of superb seasons for Derry. He was their best player by a distance against Tyrone, constantly involving himself in the attack, before producing one of the most dynamic performances of the whole summer against Tipperary.

He hit four points and set up Derry’s goal for Mark Lynch that afternoon.

Danny Heavron was the star of the show for Derry this year. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin


The Dromore man would probably have been a more experienced figure by now had it not been for a bad leg break stunting the early part of his Tyrone career. His first-half display was one of few that took the game to Mayo, while he had particularly solid games in the Ulster final and in the replay win over Cavan.

A real positive for Mickey Harte this year.


Kicked two beautiful, almost identical scores from the sideline as part of a nine-point haul in the opener against Antrim and added another seven points from frees in a reliable display against Donegal. When Fermanagh were an attacking threat against Mayo, he was at its heart, taking them for two scores from play.


It would be one of the great tragedies of the GAA if Sean Cavanagh’s career were to end with that red card against Mayo. Digging his team out with those scores against Donegal - especially the equaliser in injury-time, which surpasses even Peter Harte’s winner.

Superb around the middle in the replay win over Cavan and against Derry as well.


Patrick McBrearty edges into the selection ahead of Conor McManus
Picture by Colm O'Reilly

His performance against Cork will go down as one of the best individual displays of the summer, finishing with 0-11, of which 0-7 came from play. Often isolated and starved of the ball, he still managed to have a scoring impact on all his side’s games.

Finished the summer with 0-29, just under half of it from play, which nudges him ahead of Conor McManus.

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