Monaghan dominate Cahair O'Kane's Ulster Allstars selection
1. Rory Beggan (Monaghan)
DESPITE a handful of excellent performances from both Shaun Patton and Niall Morgan, the goalkeeping position is close to a non-contest. The Monaghan man has been outstanding all year, with the length and accuracy of his restarts the first weapon in Monaghan’s attacking artillery, and his frees the second, from which he’s hit 0-17. That he hasn’t had many saves to make yet is regarded as the favourite for an Allstar underlines how much the position has changed.
2. Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
HE’S grown to become one of his county’s most important cogs over the last two seasons. Hampsey’s done all manner of jobs, from tracking and outmuscling Graham Reilly down in Navan through to keeping a fairly tight handle on Brian Fenton and Michael Murphy. Got the better of Killian Clarke against Cavan. Went to midfield against Cork and negated their aerial strengths, and had the better of it against Enda Smith.
3. Ché Cullen (Fermanagh)
HAS become a resolute presence on the edge of the square for the Ernemen and his performances had a big impact on their elongated summer. He kept Ethan Rafferty to a single point in Brewster Park before his teak tough man-marking job on Conor McManus that helped shut down the Monaghan attack in their famous semi-final win. Did a good job on Michael Murphy in the final too, and not for the first time either.
4. Ryan Wylie (Monaghan)
OUTSTANDING season from the Ballybay man. Started off by dominating Mark Bradley and Ronan O’Neill in Omagh, and has carried that form right through the summer. Been at his very best in the Super 8s, keeping Paul Geaney scoreless at home and then putting the clamp on Ian Burke’s influence for Galway down in Salthill, having earlier done good jobs on Neil Flynn (Kildare) and Ross Munnelly (Laois).
5. Eoghan Bán Gallagher (Donegal)
IN winning his first Ulster title at senior level, the Killybegs man was up to every task he was set and was a source of constant bombardment on opposition defences. Does his defensive duties with diligence, and is a particularly good tackler, but it’s his attacking play that has really caught the eye. Hit 1-1 in the Ulster final, his best display of the campaign. Did a good job on Niall Sludden at the weekend.
6. Kieran McGeary (Tyrone)
SEEMED to have fallen in the pecking order when he only got seven minutes against Monaghan, but his season-saving impact against Meath has propelled him into a role as a brilliant man for the last half hour. Set up the equaliser in Navan, came on and helped propel their comeback against Dublin with two excellent scores and was a key instigator in their strong finish in Ballybofey. Has done more in his 162 minutes than most would in a month of Sundays.
7. Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)
HE’S been one of the best attacking half-backs in Ireland over the past few seasons, and this has been arguably his best campaign of the lot. Excellent against Tyrone, he was one of few to emerge with credit from the Fermanagh game. Hit two stunning points in Laois and his form in the Super 8s has been consistently outstanding. Hit three points from play against Kildare, and stood out against both Kerry and Galway.
8. Michael Murphy (Donegal)
THE idea that he only took off in the Roscommon game when he was shifted to full-forward was one of the zanier conclusions of the summer. He was magnificent that day, but he’d been running plenty for them from midfield. Dominated the Cavan game, set the platform against Derry, riotous at times against Down and a pivotal figure in their Super 8s campaign. His best campaign in a few years.
9. Niall Kearns (Monaghan)
AN unknown before the start of the season, Malachy O’Rourke gave Kearns the spring to bed down in Division One football and then unleashed him on the championship. The Sean McDermotts man has been given the licence to be their attacking end at midfield, taking the pressure off Darren Hughes, who’s unfortunate to lose out here. Kearns has given them a scoring threat and the kind of athleticism and boundless running that they’ve been crying out for.
10. Ryan McAnespie (Monaghan)
HIS man of the match display in Galway, when his GPS must’ve been on the verge of meltdown, only solidified the idea that he has been right up there as one of the unsung stars of the summer. Excellent against Tyrone, he was the only Monaghan forward to score from play against Fermanagh and he’s been revelling ever since. Him being given the licence to be an attacking weapon has been another key factor in Monaghan’s success.
11. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
HAD a brilliant Ulster campaign. Ran the show against Down, despite coming in for some heavy treatment, and was the one who set the tone in the provincial final. Made and scored their first goal, and then set up their second as well to take the game away from Fermanagh early on. Troubled Dublin, as he’s often done, landing two points in Croke Park and was tough for Tyrone to contain too, his liveliness snatching the ball for their goal.
12. Peter Harte (Tyrone)
IT’S almost impossible to separate Harte from Niall Sludden, but the Errigal Ciaran man’s form over the last few weeks just edges him in front by a nose. Harte has been a central component in their counter-attacking play. After a disappointing start to the campaign, he was direct and influential against Cavan and that set the tone. Excelled against Cork, he picked holes in Roscommon’s defence and was very good in Ballybofey at the weekend. His decision making is just invaluable.
13. Rory Grugan (Armagh)
MIGHT have made a difference had he been fit to start against Fermanagh, but recovered to turn in a consistent campaign that kept their attack ticking over. While it was the unplayable nature of Andy Murnin’s display against Roscommon that caught the eye, over the summer Grugan was better for longer. Hit 1-4 from play against Sligo, six points (four from play) in the comeback against Clare and another five against Roscommon. His summer deserved to end on a better note than a penalty miss but they wouldn’t have made it that far without him.
14. Conor McManus (Monaghan)
THE best forward in the game? It’s a long-running debate. All we know is that this has been one of his best seasons of all. Unbelievable score from the sideline against Tyrone capped a brilliant display, but he topped that again when he tore Kerry asunder in Clones to hit 1-9. Even when Galway tried to shut him down with numbers he ran hard and drew frees. He’s hit 2-38 so far but it’s been the quality of some of those scores that have suggested he’s improved yet again.
15. Patrick McBrearty (Donegal)
FATE just wasn’t fair to him. He was the best forward in the country at times in the National League, particularly early on. Quiet against Cavan, he was brilliant on the loop against Derry, constantly pushing them back with scores from everywhere as he proved unplayable. Just one wide and 0-6 against Down, and set up the first goal in the Ulster final with a powerful run before his knee injury wrecked his year, and Donegal’s hopes of an All-Ireland.
Subs: Kieran Duffy (Monaghan), Ciarán Brady (Cavan), Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Niall Sludden (Tyrone), Dara McVeety (Cavan)