Champions Burren edge tight calls in Down Club Allstars
1 Cathal Murdock (Burren)
MURDOCK had Pairc Esler captivated in the Down final when he stroked four stunning points between the posts to help Burren wrestle the county title from Kilcoo.
His contribution that afternoon was significant and worthy of recognition by itself but his kick-outs in the final and saves in the semi-final show he has all the tools of a top goalkeeper. Warrenpoint’s Gary Mahon and Castlewellan’s Michael Watson were also in contention.
2 Niall Branagan (Kilcoo)
NO stranger to silverware, the Kilcoo captain was on top of his game this championship. Few corner-backs stayed in position in the traditional sense but, when called upon, Branagan defended brilliantly and helped out in attack.
He continues to play on the edge and his positional awareness and communication were essential in helping an injury-ravaged Magpies reach the county final.
Clonduff’s Niall Tumilty and Carryduff’s Patrick McConnell also impressed.
3 Niall McAleenan (Warrenpooint)
McALEENAN has been a brilliant full-back this season. There may have been doubts as to how he could deal with such a vital position after missing much of last year due to a cruciate knee ligament injury, but McAleenan has continued to improve. Strong in the air, tough in the tackle and has the knack of being in the right place at the right time, the St Peter’s man was the stand-out full-back in the county.
4 Ardan McAvoy (Burren)
THIS is a position that few players lined out at in every championship match they played, and Burren’s McAvoy is no different, as he also played half-back during the campaign. Wherever he was, though, the young St Mary’s defender excelled.
Also an All-Ireland cross-country champion, his no-nonsense tackling and sensible distribution suggests that he has a bright future.
Mayobridge’s Kevin McClorey, Kilcoo’s Patrick Devlin and Clonduff’s Ruairi Lively were also in contention.
5 Shane Annett (Mayobridge)
YOUNG Shane Annett is a talented footballer and he rose to the occasion this year as his displays helped Mayobridge to the last four. He is a cool customer when defending and a bright spark in attack. If the St Patrick’s club can get the best out of him, he’ll be making the step-up to Paddy Tally’s Down side in the near future. Kilcoo’s Aaron Branagan was also outstanding in this position.
6 John Boyle (Warrenpoint)
Centre-back in both football for Warrenpoint and soccer for Newry City, Boyle was magnificent for St Peter’s this season. He is the player that started many of the moves to breathe some life into what was a frustrating opening few championship games.
His passing, his scores and driving runs kept the ’Point ticking over and helped take them to the last four. Loughinisland’s Dan Gordon and Clonduff’s Darren O’Hagan were also exceptional this year.
7 Daniel Guinness (Carryduff)
A KEY member of the Carryduff team that beat Ballyholland and gave Burren a good contest in the championship. Guinness is quick and shifted through the gears in the win over Ballyholland. He is the type of player that is comfortable going forward and helping out in the middle. Burren’s David McEntee deserves an honourable mention too.
8 Jamie Grant (Warrenpoint)
A POWERHOUSE of a midfielder, Grant made things happen. If John Boyle was the driving force for Warrenpoint, Grant was the battering ram, as his surging runs inspired them in wins over Glenn and Loughinisland, after a replay. Grant bagged two goals in the championship, which isn’t bad for a midfielder. Loughinisland’s Declan McClements and Mayobridge’s Shane O’Hare also impressed.
9 Eugene Branagan (Kilcoo)
The versatile Branagan may have been forced into midfield due to the injury to Paul Greenan, but he was well equipped to provide a great platform for the Eoghan Rua club. Strong, fast and intelligent in front of the posts, he would be a fine addition to Paddy Tally’s Down squad next season. Burren’s Declan Rooney and Saval’s Eamonn Magee also put in some strong performances around the middle this year.
10 Cathal Foy (Burren)
HE has been a strong performer for his club in recent seasons but this year he has delivered his best performances by example. The Burren captain is a busy forward who is capable of picking off scores, but he is usually the player two or three moves back from the ball going over or under the bar. A great passer, he sparks attacks and is always prepared to put in the miles on the pitch.
11 Paul Devlin (Kilcoo)
DEVLIN put in several stunning performances in the championship. His free-taking has been exceptional this year but his points from play brightened up a dark St Patrick’s Park against Downpatrick, and his visionary pass to set up Ceilum Doherty’s goal in the
semi-final was special. Mayobridge’s Corey Quinn was also a magnificent centre half-forward this year.
12 Ronan McGrath (Burren)
McGrath played the earlier stages of the championship as an attacking half-back but played the semi-final and final in the forwards and he certainly is most effective when going in attack.
Quick and difficult to mark, he possesses a burst of speed and courage which allow him to exploit gaps in defences.
13 Liam Kerr (Burren)
A SPEEDY forward who promises much and delivers plenty, Kerr has shown flashes of his potential during the championship. He has bags of pace and is in his comfort zone zipping past opponents and jinking through defences.
14 Celium Doherty (Kilcoo)
ONE of Kilcoo’s most consistent performers in recent years, this season Doherty again produced the goods and as a full-forward he chipped in with a number of goals. He wasn’t happy hanging around the edge of the square, but his incredible sense of awareness has him more often than not positioned in the right place at the right time.
15 Donal O'Hare (Burren)
MISSED much of the early part of the championship but returned to Burren’s cause at the right time and his razor-sharp instinct in front of goal was crucial to bringing the Frank O’Hare Cup back to the St Mary’s club. While his penalty conversion was important, it was his magnificent goal in the final that won Burren the contest. O’Hare is brave, still has a burst of pace and a great eye for a score.