Neil Loughran's picks his Allstar team
Neil Loughran picks his Ulster Allstar select - and Monaghan still hold the numerical advantage despite Sunday's defeat to Tyrone...
1 Rory Beggan (Monaghan)
THE easiest selection of the lot. Niall Morgan has delivered some big performances, Shaun Patton has been hugely impressive in his first year, but Beggan is a phenomenon. The variety, unrivalled accuracy and sheer distance of his kick-outs form the foundation of Malachy O’Rourke’s side, while he rarely misses a free from anywhere inside the opposition half – clocking up 0-18 across the summer.
2 Michael McKernan (Tyrone)
ONLY 20 years old, McKernan has grown into a key man in Tyrone’s defence, making the number two position his own. Scored 1-1 off the bench against Monaghan, recovered after a shaky start against Cavan and impressed in wins over Cork, Roscommon and Sunday’s victory over the Farneymen. Always a threat when moving up the field, scoring a class point against the Dubs too. The only blot on his copybook was an early black card against Donegal.
3 Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
MR versatility – it doesn’t matter where you put Hampsey, he’ll do a job and do it well. Selected in the full-back line here but could just have easily got the nod at half-back, maybe even midfield. Shackled Conor McManus on Sunday, keeping the Clontibret ace to one from play, but also hugely influential in victory over Donegal a week previous when he kept a close watch on Michael Murphy. Capable of doing damage in front of the posts too.
4 Ryan Wylie (Monaghan)
STRONG, quick and a good reader of the game, Wylie has the lot. Forwards must despair when they see him heading their direction. Hardly gave Mark Bradley a kick in the Ulster Championship opener at Healy Park, and completely neutralised the dangerous Lee Brennan at Croke Park on Sunday. Kerry’s Paul Geaney didn’t get a score off him while Ian Burke was also well shackled by the Ballybay man.
5 Eoghan Ban Gallagher (Donegal)
DEFENSIVELY sound as he showed by limiting the influence of Niall Sludden in the Super 8 clash with Tyrone. However, it was his attacking raids that gave Donegal a new dimension under Declan Bonner. Given license to burst forward and proved one of the Tir Chonaill’s biggest threats, scoring 1-1 in the Ulster final victory over Fermanagh.
6 Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
OPERATING in a deeper role, this summer has been a bit of a slow burner for the Trillick man, where he was often solid rather than spectacular as Tyrone rebuilt through the back door. However, has really come into his own in the All-Ireland series, impressing against Roscommon and in defeat to Dublin. Powerful runs from deep were key in opening gaps against Donegal and Monaghan.
7 Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)
HIS pace has been a huge asset to Monaghan and, despite being a latecomer to Gaelic football, has developed into one of the finest attacking wing-backs in the country. Was outstanding in the Super 8s, hitting three from play in the victory over Kildare that got Monaghan up and running. Class in the Ulster win over Tyrone and one of the few Farneymen to take the fight to Fermanagh in their shock provincial exit.
8 Michael Murphy (Donegal)
LOOKED to be carrying an injury last summer, but back to his brilliant best for Donegal this year. Outstanding contribution through their Ulster campaign, the Glenswilly colossus was utterly dominant in wins over Cavan, Down and Fermanagh, popping up deep one minute before coming onto a ball and popping over the next. Showed he was still a force to be reckoned with at full-forward against Roscommon, but operated mostly around the middle third.
9 Niall Kearns (Monaghan)
FROM virtual unknown to playing almost every minute of every game after catching Malachy O’Rourke’s eye through the League. Strong, athletic and capable in front of the posts, Kearns has been a huge find for Monaghan where finding a suitable partner for Darren Hughes has proved problematic. Colm Cavanagh perhaps unlucky to miss out after two huge performances against Donegal and Monaghan for Tyrone.
10 Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
OCCUPIED a deeper role in the early Ulster wins over Cavan and Derry but sprung to life against Down and Fermanagh, despite being on the receiving end of some heavy treatment. Scored two points and set up a goal against the Mournemen, and provided the spark that prised open the Erne rearguard in the Ulster final. His solo goal that day remains one of the best seen this summer.
11 Niall Sludden (Tyrone)
REMAINS Tyrone’s most dynamic presence on the field, and the man most likely to open space and inflict damage. Superb through the back door but unable to exert his influence after being closely watched in the Super 8 games against Dublin and Donegal. Bounced back superbly against Monaghan on Sunday with two class points and the crucial goal that helped Tyrone reach the All-Ireland final.
12 Ryan McAnespie (Monaghan)
FULFILLED his enormous potential in the Monaghan jersey this year, adding a scoring threat to the huge industry he has always brought. Pushed slightly higher up the field by Malachy O’Rourke, his performance against Galway was from the top drawer as he covered every blade of grass in Salthill, scoring four from play. Brilliant against Tyrone in Monaghan’s Ulster win too. Gets the nod ahead of Peter Harte.
13 Connor McAliskey (Tyrone)
STARTED like a house on fire, and has been a consistent scoring threat for Tyrone through most of the summer. Brilliant in defeat against Monaghan, scoring three class points from play, bagged 1-8 as the Red Hands got out of jail in Meath, another five as Carlow were despatched and 1-6 as Tyrone cruised past Cork. Didn’t quite hit those heights in the Super 8s but made a return to form at the right time in Sunday’s semi-final win over the Farneymen.
14 Conor McManus (Monaghan)
WHAT more can you say about the Clontibret sharpshooter? His outrageous late score in victory over Tyrone back in May will live long in the memory, so too his virtuoso performance against Kerry in the Super 8s when the Kingdom granted him the freedom of St Tiernach’s Park, and he gladly accepted, landing 1-9. One of, if not the best forward in the country.
15 Paddy McBrearty (Donegal)
AT the very top of his game at times during the League and, after a slow enough start in Donegal’s Ulster opener against Cavan, eventually caught fire. Derry couldn’t get to grips with him as he landed 0-8 at Celtic Park. Followed that up by scoring six against Down before a cruciate injury cruelly ended his year against Fermanagh in the provincial final. Who knows where Donegal would be had he stayed fit.
Che Cullen (Fermanagh)
Frank Burns (Tyrone)
Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
Peter Harte (Tyrone)
Declan McCusker (Fermanagh)
Andrew Murnin (Armagh)