Ulster trio Mattie Donnelly, Ryan McHugh and Peter Harte scoop Allstars
ULSTER improved its GAA/GPA Football Allstars allocation slightly to three despite the disappointment of no northern county reaching this year’s All-Ireland SFC semi-finals.
Tyrone midfielder Mattie Donnelly made it back-to-back individual awards, the Trillick clubman having won an accolade last year in the half-forward line, as one of just two northern winners in 2015 (along with Conor McManus of Monaghan).
This time around the number 10 jersey went to his Red Hand county colleague Peter Harte, the Errigal Ciaran player, a nephew of manager Mickey, who will collect his first such award at Dublin’s Convention Centre tomorrow night.
Another first-time winner is Donegal’s Ryan McHugh, in the half-back line, although he was merely continuing a family trend by following elder brother Mark and father Martin by becoming an Allstar.
Mark was named at number 12 in 2012, Donegal’s second All-Ireland winning season, while their dad Martin won Allstars in 1983 and 1992, alongside his brother James in that first All-Ireland triumph of ’92.
The versatile Harte and McHugh are among eight first-time winners, although there were few big surprises among the selection.
To no shock whatsoever back-to-back All-Ireland Champions Dublin were again dominant, although with six awards compared to last year’s seven.
Defender Philly McMahon, midfielder Brian Fenton, and forward Ciaran Kilkenny all earn awards for the second season running and are joined on the elite football 15 by defender Jonny Cooper and forwards Diarmuid Connolly and Dean Rock, the last-named finishing the Championship as the top scorer overall. Connolly won an Allstar two years ago but it’s first time success for Cooper and Rock.
Rock’s Dublin colleague Kevin McManamon had his advocates for a place among the forward, but there was greater support for the Ballymun’s more consistent showings throughout the season, in League and Championship, and his importance as a free-taker swayed the vote in his favour.
Beaten finalists Mayo, who had ousted Tyrone by the minimum margin at the quarter-final stage, will pick up four awards tomorrow night, all at the back.
Goalkeeper David Clarke, controversially dropped for the final replay having come into their team after their Connacht semi-final defeat by Galway, is rewarded for his impeccable campaign with his first Allstar, getting the nod ahead of Dublin skipper Stephen Cluxton.
Mayo corner-back Brendan Harrison is also a debut winner, while his team-mates Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan add to their Allstar collections in the half-back line, with numbers three and four respectively.
Tipperary’s run to a first All-Ireland senior football semi-final since 1935 was rewarded with one Allstar, for their impressive full-forward Michael Quinlivan. The Clonmel Commercials clubman is Tipp’s first football Allstar since Declan Browne won his second in 2003, although he will be joined by plenty of Premier County players when the Hurling Allstars are announced tomorrow night.
Quinlivan’s captain Peter Acheson was one of the talking points, with strong support for his inclusion at midfield after some excellent Championship displays, including against Connacht champions Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
There was little doubt that Munster kingpins Kerry would collect an Allstar, although they had to wait until the last name on the selection when Paul Geaney, outstanding in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Dublin, was chosen.
The Footballer of the Year, selected by the GPA membership, will be announced tomorrow night at the AllStars event, with Dublin duo Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny up against Mayo’s Keegan.
2016 Football Allstars
1. David Clarke (Mayo)
2. Brendan Harrison (Mayo)
3. Jonny Cooper (Dublin)
4. Philly McMahon (Dublin)
5. Lee Keegan (Mayo)
6. Colm Boyle (Mayo)
7. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
9. Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
10. Peter Harte (Tyrone)
11. Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)
12. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
13. Dean Rock (Dublin)
14. Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary)
15. Paul Geaney (Kerry)
Allstars by county: Dublin (6), Mayo (4), Tyrone (2), Donegal, Kerry, and Tipperary (one each).