Antrim duo make Brendan Crossan's Allstar selection
Brendan Crossan makes space for two Antrim men, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Patrick McBride, as five Tyrone men make the cut in his Irish News Allstars selection...
1 Niall Morgan (Tyrone)
I’VE tossed a coin between Niall Morgan and Shaun Patton for the last 24 hours – and I’ve plumped for Morgan. Patton’s kick-outs were absolutely superb during Donegal’s Championship run, but Morgan has a few more dimensions to his game. He did a brilliant impersonation of the sweeper/keeper and gave his defence a bit more insurance than anyone else. Temperament has improved beyond recognition.
2 Darren O’Hagan (Down)
DOWN didn’t travel too deep into the All-Ireland Qualifiers this summer but Darren O’Hagan was consistently brilliant. He blotted out Rory Grugan in their Ulster defeat to Armagh and despite giving significant height away to Tipperary’s Michael Quinlivan he delivered another eight-out-of-10 performance. And when Down needed leadership against Mayo, O’Hagan drove the Mournemen forward. Hard to find a better leader and a better defender than the Clonduff man.
3 Ronan McNamee (Tyrone)
IT would be churlish not to select the Aghyaran clubman at full-back after an excellent Championship campaign. Up until Tyrone came unstuck against Kerry, McNamee took out all-comers including Dara McVeety, Ben McCormack, Brian Hurley and Conor Cox. McNamee didn’t just sit on the edge of the square and often drove forward to support the Tyrone attack. Under-rated football ability and is a clear favourite for the number three jersey.
Club: St Davogs, Aghyaran
4 Stephen McMenamin (Donegal)
THIS man is the real deal. From Donegal’s first outing against Fermanagh in Brewster Park right through to their exit in Castlebar, McMenamin’s displays never dipped below a seven-out-of-10. Unfazed by all his man-marking portfolios that included Mattie Donnelly and Marty Reilly who was cutting a dash for Cavan in Ulster. The unflappable McMenamin showed great athleticism – and no amount of confidence – to do a good containing job on Kerry’s David Clifford.
Club: Red Hugh's, Killygordon
5 Patrick McBride (Antrim)
IF this awards scheme is strictly informed by individual performances, then Patrick McBride should be in the running for an Allstar award – either at wing-back of wing-forward.
I’ve followed the St John’s clubman’s career over the last number of years and he is one of the best, most incisive attacking wing-backs in the country. Not easy to be immense in defeat as he was against Tyrone and Kildare and equally good in the Louth win.
Club: St John’s, Belfast
6 Aidan Forker (Armagh)
THE trajectory of Aidan Forker’s career has been hugely impressive over the last 12 months, but he probably produced his best form in the Armagh jersey in 2019. If the Championship was a written exam, Forker would score a first-class honours.
Known for his kicking and scoring ability, the Maghery man also showed his man-marking capacity by nullifying Conor McManus. Key to his success has been his seriously improved temperament.
Club: Sean McDermott's, Maghery
7 Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
QUIET enough start to his year but really found his rhythm as the year progressed. It’s hard to think of a more educated footballer than the Kilcar man. A throw-back to a different era when players took charge and decided games with a couple of runs or passes. Uncoachable quality about his running into opposition territory. Timed his best games against Tyrone and Kerry. You enjoy watching Donegal’s games especially when McHugh’s on song.
8 Jarlath Og Burns (Armagh)
AN absolute breath of fresh air who played with the kind of freedom that was sorely absent in Kieran McGeeney’s teams of recent times. Burns’ sense of adventure and goal-scoring exploits from midfield seemed to have a ripple effect throughout the Armagh team. His goal against Cavan had class written all over it. Hands like his father’s, Burns reminded the nation what old-fashioned midfielders used to look like and how dynamic they can still be in the modern game.
9 Michael Murphy (Donegal)
THIS man doesn’t need 70-something words to describe his brilliance. He’s just a great, great footballer. For such a big man, he has feet like Astaire. The fact that he has even more pace around him these days accentuates his play-making skills. His kick passing was sublime at times. His performances rarely dropped below a seven and unlike others he was still as good in Ulster as he was in the Super 8s.
10 Jemar Hall (Armagh)
BY now, it’s a well-established tradition that there is one Forkhill man in my Allstar selection every year. Stephen Sheridan one year, Patrick Burns the next. In 2019, Jemar Hall gets the nod solely on the basis of his never-say-die spirit. A dog of a half-forward that every team needs, Hall was more than just that in his man-of-the-match display against Monaghan. He's reaping the rewards of his patience and resilience and is now a regular.
11 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Antrim)
LIKE Patrick McBride’s inclusion here, remove your prejudices towards the Antrim jersey and recount the performances of the St John’s man this summer. It’s a well-worn cliché but ‘Fitzy’ could slot into any team in the country. Never witnessed anyone who can beat an opponent so easily. When he’s in full flight he’s just a joy to watch. Tyrone had no answer to him, a match-winner against Louth and showed moments of class in the Kildare defeat.
Club: St John’s, Belfast
12 Peter Harte (Tyrone)
SCRUB the All-Ireland semi-final performance - Kerry’s man-marking job on him was at times barely legal - Harte still had a good summer.
The Errigal Ciaran man had quite a subdued Ulster campaign but really caught fire in Tyrone’s storming run through the All-Ireland Qualifiers. Showed really well against Kildare, Roscommon and Cork. Still needs to cope better with sticky man-markers but his talent is undoubted. If Harte plays well, Tyrone usually win. Says everything about his value to Tyrone.
Club: Errigal Ciaran
13 Patrick McBrearty (Donegal)
LOVED the way he dealt with Fermanagh’s goading in the opening round of Ulster, particularly after recovering from a cruciate knee injury. Brilliant temperament. Hit five points (0-3 from play) that helped see Donegal over the line in Brewster. Produced the goods in the bigger games too. Strong performances against Tyrone and Cavan and was man-of-the-match against Meath in the Super 8s. Never shirked his responsibilities against Kerry in a selfless display.
14 Cathal McShane (Tyrone)
THANK the heavens for the experimental ‘attacking mark’ during the NFL that probably encouraged Mickey Harte to try the ball-winning Cathal McShane at full-forward. And the experiment couldn’t have gone any better. You only truly appreciate McShane’s explosiveness in the ‘flesh’ as he demoralised every defender he faced. The amount of improvement in his game over the last 12 months, particularly his shooting, has been staggering. Arguably man-of-the-match in the defeat to Kerry, he was that good.
Club: Owen Roe’s, Leckpatrick
15 Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
THE temptation was to include Rian O’Neill but his decision-making slipped a little as his season progressed. Donnelly had a blip against Donegal in the Ulster semi-finals. Up to that point, he was having a steadying influence. But it was his game-winning display against Cork that gets him the nod here and he was one of Tyrone’s better players in the defeat to Kerry. Showed his worth when moved inside.
Club: St McCartan's, Trillick