GAA Football

Antrim Club Football Allstars: find out who makes it into the team

Lamh Dhearg players celebrate their Antrim SCFC final win over St John's 
Anthony Gunning

Lamh Dhearg topped the Antrim Senior Club Football Championship. Find out how they fared in The Irish News Antrim Club Allstars selection...

1: Padraig Nugent (St John’s)

Having spent last year out of action after breaking his leg,

Nugent usually deployed outtfield eased himself back onto the field of play in goal and his pperformances were such, he stayed there and proved his worth.

His shot-stopping was of the highest order and he also popped up to kick long frees and 45s, converting several throughout the campaign to help his team reach the county final.

He was also not afraid to carry the ball out of his area and link with teammates, highlighting his comfort on the ball and all-round ability.

2: Micheal Dudley (St John’s)

Perhaps better known for his exploits on the hurling field, Dudley proved he is well able to mix it with the big ball and was on of the Johnnies’ most consistent players throughout the campaign.

His man-marking abilities helped nullify opposition attackers and he got on with his work quietly, yet confidently throughout.

Dudley was a solid presence in the St John’s defence that enjoyed a fine campaign and was central to his team’s style of play while also linking well and breaking out when the opportunity arose.

3: Aaron McAufield (Lámh Dhearg)

The rock at the heart of the Lámh Dharg defence, McAufield has matured into a fine full-back and his displays this year helped his team reach the winners’ enclosure.

The towering full-back was comfortable under a dropping ball and was clam in posession, helping work the ball out from the back while also blocking the route to goal for opposing forwards.

One of the younger members of the Lámh Dhearg side, McAulfield has established himself as a first choice and was a central figure this season.

4: Aaron Douglas (St John’s)

A veteran in the blue and white, Douglas enjoyed a fine year in the heart of the St John’s defence.

He was a calming influence for his team, leading and organising at the back and didn’t let much go past him.

St John’s conceded just one goal in five Championship outings and Douglas was a big reason why that was the case as his tenacity to win turnovers, block the path to goal and discipline in the tackle ensured opposition forwards got very little change out of this St John’s defensive unit throughout the year.

5: Declan Lynch (Lámh Dhearg)

The county star has matured into one of the finest defenders in the county after a difficult couple of seasons with injury. He enjoyed a consistent year and was usually tasked with marking opposition dangermen which he did to a high stanndard throughout.

Direct opponents got very little change out of Lynch this year and given the chance, he wasn’t afraid to break out of defence and from one of his bursts, he took a pass and fisted over the insurance score in the final.

A consistently good season for one of the Red Hands’ leaders.

6: Michael Herron (Lámh Dhearg)

‘Micko’ is one of several Lámh Dhearg players who has battled to try and get his hands on a Championship medal and he was a major reason why this was their year.

His strength and reading of the game ensured he was able to be in the right place at the right time and was a safe pair of hands when on the ball.

Herron’s calmness in possession was matched by his tenacity when without and his appetitie for hard work was the platform for much of what they did.

7: Paddy McBride (St John’s)

While he was listed a little higher upfield, McBride spent the campaign dropping deep, receiving ball and then bursting up the wing at pace which led to countless scores for his team.

A provider and finisher, McBride was a reliable free-taker and held his nerve to tie the final in the last minute before Lámh Dhearg found the winner.

McBride captained his side this yearand has blossomed into a leader, taking responsibility and more often than not, making the correct decision on the ball. One of the stars of 2017.

8: Domhnall Nugent (Lámh Dhearg)

Lámh Dhearg needed all hands on deck to get past St Gall’s in the quarter-final and Nugent, who hadn’t featured in over a month due to a concussion, certainly delivered that night and in each game after.

His physical presence at centre-field gave his team an option to go long from kick-outs and acted as a deterent for opposition to do likewise.

He generally ran himself into the ground in each game, while also popping up with scores in that game against St Gall’s and the semi-final against Creggan.

A major influence for his team.

9: John Carron (Cargin)

A consistent performer for his club this year, Carron's appetite for hard work was matched by his ability to get forward and support his attack.

Strong and disciplined in the tackle, Carron offered a physical presence for his side and he was always good for a score in games as he made intelligent support runs and was available for a pass when breaking upfield.

He finishing also improved this year as his name was on the scoresheet more often than not.

10: Conor Small (Creggan)

The flying forward had a fine 2017 and just edges out his brother, Kevin for as place on this team. Conor was always among the scores for his team and led the line brilliantly.

Kicked three points in their semi-final defeat against Lámh Dhearg and two as his side edged past Ahoghill in the last eight, it wasn’t just Small’s finishing, but creativity that helped his side compete for honours this year.

He was prominent throughout 2017 and helped his team improve upon their 2016 showing.

11: Ciaran Flaherty (Lámh Dhearg)

A new recruit for the Hannahstown men this year and perhaps the missing ingredient they needed to secure county honours.

The Belcoo native was a huge presence in the Lámh Dhearg attack with his physical presence bringing others into play while his decision making on the ball and eye for a score made him a vital cog in the Red Hands’ march to victory.

His quick-thinking when presented with a stray pass in the final saw an audacious effort unluckilly come off the underside of the bar, but his vision and confidence with ball in hand marked him out as one of the stars of the season.

12: Conor Murray (Lámh Dhearg)

When the chips were down for Lámh Dharg in the quarter-final against St Gall’s, Murray delivered.

He missed their opening win over St Paul’s and was a risk going into that quarter-final, but his value was immeasurable.

After his side had suffered a nightmare start, conceding 2-1 in the opening minutes, Murray steadied the ship with a point and then showed his poacher’s insticting, findingthe net with his fist at key times in each half.

His hard running, hard work and distribution was a key factor in his side’s march to glory.

13: Paddy Cunningham (Lámh Dhearg)

Having lost five previous county finals, Cunningham finally reached the promised land this year and it was his cultured left boot that got his side there.

Unerring from frees, the veteran attacker kicked key scores against St Gall’s, bagged a goal in the semi-final against Creggan to lead the charge for his team and in the final, having just dropped a very difficult effort short, made no mistake when given a second chance from play staright after, curlingthe ball between the posts for his eighth of the day and effectively deliver the Padraig McNamee Cup to his club.

14: Matthew Fitzsimons (St John’s)

They say the mark of a good forward is one who can be kept quiet for the majority of a game, but presented with one chance and the ball is in the net.

That was certainly an aspect of Fitzsimons’ play this year. One of the stand-outs in Antrim football in recent yeas,

Fitzsimons is more than just a finisher although he did fire home goals against Aldergrove, Glenavy and in the replay against Cargin.

He was also prominent further back, getting on the ball and helping bring others into play with incisive runs and clever passes.

15: Ciaran Close (Cargin)

While most of Cargin’s attackers had an in-and-out campaign, Close was the epitome of consistency once again.

The evergreen corner forward was as deadly from open play as he was from placed balls and kept his side in the hunt throughout. Close had a good start against Rossa and picked up where he left off against Aghagallon.

In the replay against St John’s, he kicked 0-11 which helped his side stay in contention and force extra-time.

Close has been one of Cargin’s best players over the last number of years and while there was no title for Erin’s Own this year, there is little more he could have done to reverse that.

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