Brendan Crossan tips his hat to Down and Armagh in Irish News Ulster Allstars selection
1 Niall Morgan (Tyrone)
SUCH an intelligent goalkeeper, the Edendork man fends off a gallant challenge from Armagh’s Blaine Hughes for the number one spot.
Regarded as a short kick-out team, Tyrone ambushed Donegal and Armagh by going long and the tactic proved devastating.
This seamless transition is largely down to Morgan. Good under the high ball, quick to narrow his angles, he’s quite simply the full package.
2 Darren O’Hagan (Down)
DOWN’S surge to this year’s Ulster final deserves some individual gongs – and it’s hard to ignore O’Hagan’s claims for one of the corner-back berths.
The Clonduff man was the team’s defensive leader. He had excellent games against Armagh and Monaghan in the provincial series and epitomised the Mournemen’s staunch resistance.
He was one of the angry agitators in Down’s surprise renaissance in 2017.
3 Ronan McNamee (Tyrone)
EVER since the Aghyaran man got sent off in a Sigerson Cup match for UUJ in February, he's been outstanding.
It doesn’t matter what skills set the opposition’s best forward has, McNamee is entrusted every time.
Among many stubborn defensive performances this summer, his handling of Down’s Connaire Harrison was the most impressive. Probably his best year in a Tyrone jersey.
4 Paul Hughes (Armagh)
ARGUABLY Armagh’s most consistent performer this summer. You see a player’s true character when the team is not performing.
When Armagh were malfunctioning against Down, Hughes fired over a brilliant score.
He attacked incessantly from deep and never wasted a ball. A selfless runner and creator of space, the Crossmaglen man can be a leader of this Armagh team for many years.
5 Tiernan McCann (Tyrone)
THE improvement in the Killyclogher wing-back has been exceptional this year.
McCann’s running power and ability to break defensive lines were never in question but his finishing occasionally let him down. Not any more.
He’s obviously put a huge time and effort into improving this aspect of his game and is reaping the rewards. An eight-out-of-ten most weeks.
6 Brendan Donaghy (Armagh)
THERE’S nothing more satisfying than watching a great defender at work. Uncompromising, can sense danger and still quick over the first 10 yards – but it is Donaghy’s bravery and leadership that sets him apart.
When many last-line defenders would have opted to break the ball in the dying embers of the Kildare game, the Clonmore man caught it over the head of Kevin Feely and cleared the danger. Inspirational.
7 Darragh O’Hanlon (Down)
FINALLY brought a bit of Kilcoo to the inter-county stage and was brilliant.
He may have missed a couple of chances against Monaghan at Croke Park and fluffed a goal chance against Tyrone - but O’Hanlon’s claim on one of the wing-back berths was virtually assured after his virtuoso displays in Ulster against Armagh and Monaghan.
His diagonal passes were a treat to watch.
8 Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
IT'S rumoured Colm Cavanagh had a bad game once in 2007.
If there’s any justice in the world, the big Moy man will scoop another Ulster Allstar next month and a GAA Allstar.
Just when you think it’s impossible for him to get any better in the sweeper’s role, he finds another level. Sports journalism has run out of superlatives to describe Cavanagh’s unique qualities.
9 Stephen Sheridan (Armagh)
A YEAR ago Sheridan couldn’t break into Armagh’s 30-man squad. Now he’s first choice.
Dedicated to his craft, the Forkhill man really took flight in the Qualifiers.
From his wonderful long-range point against Westmeath, he didn't look back.
Got up and down the pitch and was equally effective at either end. Burning the Tipperary defence in stoppage-time is one of the glowing images of this summer.
10 Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
IF Mattie Donnelly was a car he’d be a Rolls Royce. Never looks panicked and rarely makes a mistake in possession.
It was great to see the Trillick man display his kick-passing skills in Tyrone’s emphatic victory over Donegal in the Ulster semi-finals. Makes every aspect of the game look easy.
An absolute shoo-in for an Ulster Allstar gong.
11 Niall Sludden (Tyrone)
THE last time the Dromore man made a mistake in a Tyrone jersey was in the 2016 Ulster semi-fiinal against Cavan when he missed a late chance.
Since then, he’s been close to flawless.
A clever operator who uses both speed and brains to break defensive lines. High point was his four points from play against Donegal. A nightmare for the opposition to contain.
12 Peter Harte (Tyrone)
THE Errigal Ciaran man has kept his best form for the business end of the season.
On his day – and he has had some excellent ones this summer – there is nobody better to watch than Harte.
Virtually impossible to dispossess, Harte always seems to make the right decisions. Has got better with each passing Championship outing for Tyrone.
The most inventive player in the game.
13 Jamie Clarke (Armagh)
THAT first-minute black card in Mullingar looked to be the defining moment of his year. But how he grabbed his second chance in back-to-back Qualifiers against Tipperary and Kildare.
Gave an emphatic answer to his critics this year. Work-rate and resilience were rewarded with the game-winning goal against Tipp and his display against Kildare was a work of art.
Did all the right things against Tyrone too.
14 Mark Bradley (Tyrone)
I AGREE totally with our columnist Danny Hughes. Playing inside is the toughest role in the modern game. But Mark Bradley has been absolutely outstanding as Tyrone’s furthest lying forward.
Even blanket defences don’t know how to handle the diminutive Killyclogher man.
Explosive, a taker of half-chances, exceptional movement, Bradley completes this Tyrone team. Living up to weighty comparisons with James McCartan.
15 Conor McManus (Monaghan)
BY their standards, Monaghan didn’t have a vintage year but Conor McManus carries on regardless.
He is without question the best full-forward in the country.
When Monaghan were struggling against Down in the Ulster semi-final, McManus was still superb. He was even better against them at Croke.
Under severe provocation, ‘Mansy’ always keeps his cool. Just a class act.