GAA pundit/manager Kevin McStay and GAA greats of '98 guests of honour at Irish News Ulster Allstars
HIGHLY-RESPECTED GAA pundit and manager Kevin McStay will be the special guest of honour at next Thursday's Irish News Ulster Allstars event in the Armagh City Hotel.
McStay has been in the headlines this week after stepping down from his role as Roscommon manager, and he is looking forward to changing the subject and talking about the great and the good of Ulster football in 2018.
“It's a nice way to end the season and these awards nights are always good occasions,” said McStay.
“It's good to get the chance to reflect on the players and teams that have brought it to another level.
“It's important to look at the success stories, the nearly stories, the things that caught the eye over the season.
“It's a great addition to the Ulster calendar and I'm amazed that other provinces don't have similar award ceremonies.
“It's just brilliant for players to get the chance to have a night off and not have to worry about man-marking or anything and just enjoy what will be a great occasion.”
As a two-time Connacht Championship winner with Mayo, McStay is readily aware of the power of the provincial competitions.
For him, the Irish News awards are a great chance to recognise some players who may not get a look in later in the year at the national awards.
“It opens the door to counties who wouldn't always have a chance,” he said.
“The likes of Fermanagh, some of their players are likely to have a sniff and it's nice for smaller counties to get a bit of recognition.
“That makes it extra special for those involved and it's brilliant to see these awards recognising those players over the years.”
Team awards are the pinnacle for players of course but McStay said that it was important that individuals are recognised for their significant contributions too.
“I was very lucky to get an Allstar a long time ago (1985). Mayo were at a low ebb at that stage but we had a good season and it was great for that to be recognised.
“It is an individual award, and you have to keep that in context, but at the same time they shouldn't be diminished for that.
“They reflect excellence over a single season but you wouldn't be building your empire on it, the award winners on the night will have to go out and try and repeat that excellence again and again.
“Even though we talk about the team game and managers and coaches hoping to keep everyone on an even keel, everybody recognises that it takes the x-factor from special players to get the victories and the cups.
“Allstars, generally speaking, are recognised for having that extra touch of ability and class. It mightn't happen for them every season, so when players do perform it's important they get the rewards.
“You have to say to them ‘you strutted your stuff so well done to you.”
Although a successful manager at club and county, McStay is equally as well known for his work on The Sunday Game and he is looking forward to chatting with Ulster Gaels.
“It looks set to be a very good night and a great event all round. I'm looking forward to meeting the players and guests on the night.”
THE Irish News Ulster Allstars is set for some extra sparkle this year as the 1998 award winners will be honoured at next Thursday's event in the Armagh City Hotel.
It's now 20 years since Joe Brolly started blowing kisses and Derry won their seventh Ulster title with a victory over Donegal at Clones.
The Oakleafers have been without provincial glory since, but the ‘98 Irish News team was littered with Derry stars with the RTE pundit taking a place in the full-forward line.
Other Derry players included were goalkeeper Eoin McCloskey, defenders Kieran McKeever, Sean Marty Lockhart, Henry Downey and Paul McFlynn and attacker Dermot Dougan.
Donegal were also well represented on the team with Damien Diver, Jim McGuinness, Tony Boyle and Brendan Devenney getting the nod from Irish News readers.
Ulster semi-finalists Armagh were handed three spots on the team starting with tenacious corner-back Mark McNeill. Jarlath Burns, who would captain the side to Ulster glory the following year, was named in midfield while Diarmuid Marsden was included in the attack.
The final spot went to Ross Carr who had a tremendous game in Down's preliminary round win over Tyrone before the Mourne county lost out to Armagh in the quarter-final.
Irish News Ulster Allstars 1998
Eoin McCloskey (Derry)
Mark McNeill (Armagh) Kieran McKeever (Derry) Sean Marty Lockhart (Derry)
Damien Diver (Donegal) Henry Downey (Derry) Paul McFlynn (Derry)
Jarlath Burns (Armagh) Jim McGuinness (Donegal)
Ross Carr (Down) Dermot Dougan (Derry) Diarmuid Marsden (Armagh)
Joe Brolly (Derry) Tony Boyle (Donegal) Brendan Devenney (Donegal)