GAA Football

Hitting The Target: Allstars debate all about Dublin and a few others

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton won his sixth All-Ireland on Sunday - will he collect his sixth Allstar this year?
Picture Philip Walsh

DUBLIN footballers are fantastic, that’s indisputable. Let’s leave the debate about the reasons for their dominance until another day. No need to rain on their parade with a bitter whine made from sour grapes. Not yet anyway.

The inter-county football season has ended as expected, with only the annual awards to be decided.

As regards the football Allstars, we’re getting ever closer to the stage of listing the most likely Dublin starting 15 - and then seeing who you would include instead of a few of them.

In a year or two we may have to say that Brian Fenton counts as half an Allstar for Kerry, because his dad is from the Kingdom… Kidding, Kerry folk – the talent coming through could challenge the Dubs in time.

As ever, there are surely a few ‘certs’ on the Football Allstars team, most sensible people will surely agree: definitely Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton, and Ciaran Kilkenny, probably Jonny Cooper, Brian Howard, and Paul Mannion too; Tyrone’s Padraig Hampsey; Kerry sensation David Clifford; and Monaghan’s Karl O’Connell, Conor McManus – and Rory Beggan.

OK, he’s not a cert, but the Monaghan net-minder and long-range placed-ball kicker is my choice, the first to bump a Dub out of this selection.

Sure, there’ll be plenty making the case for Stephen Cluxton, as there were last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before…

Hopefully Cluxton is like one former player who almost spat out the word ‘journalists’ in a derogatory Tweet about his disdain for Allstar selections. Perhaps he was swigging some of those aforementioned sour grapes, you might think - but this chap actually collected a couple of the awards himself (although perhaps he felt he should have had far more).

If he does get the nod, Dublin captain Cluxton would be a worthy winner. I just happen to believe Beggan has been better this year – and that David Clarke was better last year, and the year before, and Brendan Kealy the year before that.

It’s worth noting that ‘Clucko’ has five Allstars already (although that obviously shouldn’t and doesn’t preclude him from winning any more) – and three of those were given to him before he won an All-Ireland, indeed before he even played in an All-Ireland Final. Bias, where are ye?

Although I’ve been critical over the years of Dublin and the greater advantages they receive, Allstar selections are about assessing talent and performances, nothing else.

Believe it or not, I argued strongly in favour of a particular Dublin defender last year, and also certain Dublin forward, to the extent that I had to check if someone had slipped an ‘AIG’ jersey onto me during the selection meeting.

In true Tony Hancock style, I got my way in the end.

Anyway, back to arguing against the boys in blue.

My next non-Dub is also from Monaghan, that brilliant man-marker Ryan Wylie. Some have suggested his elder brother Drew, and I’d be delighted for him to win one – I just think Ryan has been better.

Erm, next is another Monaghan man (well, the Farney county’s not all that far from my home), with Karl O’Connell.

There may well be some heated debate about this Allstars ‘half-back line’, with no stand-out ‘number six’ type player, but at the moment I’d lean towards Donegal’s barnstorming Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher, although Tyrone skipper Mattie Donnelly mostly played in that area, and Dublin’s James McCarthy will have his advocates.

Midfield is simply about selecting Fenton’s partner.

Colm Cavanagh is the current bookies’ favourite for that role, and his performances in the last three big games probably merit his second Allstar, but there are other Ulstermen to consider.

Donegal skipper Michael Murphy is a contender, as are two Monaghan men. Young

Niall Kearns was a revelation in his first senior Championship season, and Darren Hughes was superb as a defensive midfielder almost throughout.

The front six almost picks itself. Almost.

Besides Kilkenny, Mannion, and Howard, there’ll be backers for their fellow Dubs Con O’Callaghan and Niall Scully.

McManus and Clifford must get in – but so, in my view, must a Galway man.

Sure, Allstars are individual awards, but I don’t think it’s logical to suggest that a team can go unbeaten through Division One proper, win its provincial championship (beating Mayo on the way), and reach the All-Ireland semi-finals without having at least one player worthy of such an accolade. Shane Walsh and Damien Comer are their obvious contenders from the Tribesmen.

There’ll be rows, perhaps some jiggery-pokery -maybe Howard could fill that other half-back slot. He has to get in somewhere – doesn’t he?!

Kenny Archer’s 2018 Football Allstars (probable…):

Rory Beggan (Monaghan);

Jonny Cooper (Dublin)

Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)

Ryan Wylie (Monaghan)

Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)

Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher (Donegal)

Jack McCaffrey (Dublin);

Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)

Brian Fenton (Dublin);

Shane Walsh (Galway)

Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)

Brian Howard (Dublin)

Conor McManus (Monaghan)

Paul Mannion (Dublin)

David Clifford (Kerry)


ALTHOUGH I’ve written several articles about the format and structure of the new Uefa Nations League, which commences tomorrow night, I’m still a little confused about how it will work.

However, perhaps the GAA could follow its lead of success in a league leading to better chances of involvement in a championship.

As it stands, doing well in the National Football League can, counter-intuitively and illogically, hamper your chances in the Championship.

How? By guaranteeing teams from Divisions Three or Four home advantage if they’re drawn against sides from the higher sections in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Obviously most teams try hard to do well in the League to prepare themselves for the Championship – but there’s a certain incentive NOT go up from Division Three to Two at least.

Maybe League Divisional winners, or at least the champions from Divisions One and Two, could be given some long-term benefit in the Championship.

Perhaps guaranteed home advantage in any qualifiers later that year or the next – yes, even you, Kildare. Although maybe not Antrim.

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