GAA Football

Revealed: The 2019 Irish News Ulster Allstars

Donegal's goalkeeper Shaun Patton. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

1. Shaun Patton | Donegal

Club | St Eunan’s

IT’S very easy to forget that prior to his call-up to the Donegal squad last year, Shaun Patton had only ever played a handful of games of Gaelic football. Now he’s regarded as one of the best in the land. The St Eunan’s man gave several exhibitions of kicking this year, most notably in the Ulster semi-final win over Tyrone, where his understanding with Michael Murphy in particular was key to Donegal’s victory.

2. Stephen McMenamin | Donegal

Club | Red Hugh’s

DONEGAL came into the year with serious questions to answer in the full-back line but Stephen McMenamin has taken a big step up to answer some of them. The Red Hughs man got the better of Mattie Donnelly and then Marty Reilly in the province. Had a good game against Meath and then held his own against David Clifford in oceans of space. Strong and quick, he’s become a settled fixture in a defence that established its own reputation this summer.

20/7/2019 Tyrones Ronan Mc Namee in yesterdays Quarter Final game at Croke Park Picture Seamus Loughran.

3. Ronan McNamee | Tyrone

Club | Aghyaran

THE teak-tough, no frills Aghyaran man was back at his absolute best this year. McNamee took his league form and went from strength to strength through the summer. Ben McCormack, Dara McVeety, Conor Cox and Brian Hurley were all shunted out the door by his hard-but-fair approach. Assured and commanding at the heart of the Tyrone defence, he was a key figure in their run.

4. Paddy McGrath | Donegal

Club | Ardara

WHILE the ageing process has taken its toll on almost the whole All-Ireland winning Donegal team of 2012, Paddy McGrath must have friends at Oil of Olay. Only turned 30 earlier this year despite seemingly having been around forever. Having missed most of the league, he slotted straight back in and was handed a series of man-marking jobs by Declan Bonner. The Ardara defender stood out especially in the Ulster wins over Tyrone and Cavan.

5. Ryan McHugh | Donegal

Club | Kilcar

IN one way it’s hard to believe that it’s just five years ago since Ryan McHugh burst into the homes of GAA supporters around Ireland with his performance in that famous win over Dublin. There have been tough winters and springs in between, but the Kilcar man is a summer bee. When championship comes, he finds his best. From the Tyrone game onwards, McHugh had a huge influence on Donegal’s summer with his superb timing from deep making him a real source of angst for anyone they met.

6. Eoghan Bán Gallagher | Donegal

Club | Killybegs

FOR the second summer in success, an injury to Eoghan Bán Gallagher has proved a massive stumbling block for Donegal in terms of their championship progress. Gallagher’s opening salvo against Tyrone, particularly his work for the goal, was a reminder of just how electric he can be. Had a prominent Ulster final and warmed nicely into the win over Meath before suffering a broken ankle before the Kerry game. He was badly missed in Castlebar.

7. Frank Burns | Tyrone

Club | Pomeroy

NOTHING illustrated the ability of Frank Burns better than the first half of the game against Kerry, where he patrolled the left wing and delivered a series of brilliant diagonal balls to Cathal McShane off his weaker left peg. That vision and kick-passing ability was also evident in the win against Cavan especially, while he was excellent in the Red Hands’ comeback win over Cork in Croke Park.

IRISH NEWS ULSTER FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR

26/5/2019 Donegals Michael Murphy Picture Seamus Loughran.

8. Michael Murphy | Donegal

Club | Glenswilly

NO Ulster Allstar team is complete without Michael Murphy. This is his seventh Irish News Ulster Allstar, moving him level with Brian Dooher, Kieran McGeeney and Stevie McDonnell in the roll of honour, and closing in on record nine-time winner Sean Cavanagh. Few of Murphy’s have been more richly deserved than this year’s. He looked leaner and sharper and stronger than ever, and gave a few exhibitions, not least in the Ulster semi-final win over Tyrone.

Armaghs Jarlath Og Burns in action with Antrims Patrick Branagan in yesterdays Dr Mc Kenna Cup game at Glenavy Picture Seamus Loughran Sunday 6/1/2019.

9. Jarlath Óg Burns | Armagh

Club | Silverbridge

A REMARKABLE debut season from one of two Armagh starlets that broke through. Jarlath Óg’s Sigerson Cup performances with St Mary’s had served notice of his ability, but the way in which he settled so quickly to inter-county football was remarkable. Completely unfazed, his best display was in the drawn game with Cavan, where he ran the show. Tormented Monaghan with his powerful running down the middle too.

10. Jamie Brennan | Donegal

Club | Bundoran

IN the absence of Patrick McBrearty for such a long spell last year, Jamie Brennan was asked to step up and he met the challenge head on. His work in the gym has seen him add power to his pace, and that made him too hot for Ulster’s defences to handle. Brennan was arguably man-of-the-match in all three games in their provincial success, kicking 3-14 from play in the Ulster series.

11. Mattie Donnelly | Tyrone

Club | Trillick

THERE may have been an eternal debate over where he should play for Tyrone, and that did mask the fact that no matter where he lined out, Mattie Donnelly was excellent this summer. His performances in defence were excellent, most notably against Kildare, Cavan and Roscommon, but he arguably caught the eye that little bit more when desperation took hold and he was thrown up front against Cork. A fifth successive Irish News Allstar, and a sixth in total for the Trillick man.

12. Peter Harte | Tyrone

Club | Errigal Ciaran

HAVING been badly missed after an early black card against Donegal, Peter Harte’s displays against Kildare, Roscommon and Cork in particular displayed real leadership. His hard running from deep and the ability to fashion a goal chance out of nothing have eternally been extremely valuable assets to Tyrone, and his impact on them runs far deeper than his scoring tally of 1-31 for the summer.

13. Patrick McBrearty | Donegal

Club | Kilcar

WHEN he stood on the St Tiernach’s Park pitch leant over on crutches with the Anglo Celt in front of him 15 months ago, Patrick McBrearty was about to have the celebrations cut short by the news every Gaelic footballer dreads. A torn cruciate. But he battled back and having caught the very tail end of the league, his form improved with every passing game. Was back at his best by the height of summer, troubling both Meath and Kerry. Who knows where Donegal’s year would have ended up had it not been for him suffering a hamstring strain leading into the Mayo game?

14. Cathal McShane | Tyrone

Club | Leckpatrick

FOR arguably the first time since Stephen O’Neill left the stage, the Red Hands have a forward that they can truly build around. It’s the patience combined with the strength, two-footedness and intelligence of his movement that have made him an exceptionally tough man to mark for a range of the country’s best defenders. He finished the year with 4-60 to his name, some 3-50 of it in the championship. McShane was one of this summer’s biggest stars.

15. Rian O’Neill | Armagh

Club | Crossmaglen

ANOTHER Armagh man in his debut inter-county season, O’Neill’s performances were laced with temerity. Cared little for reputation nor talent, and was rewarded with a huge tally of 3-21 in the championship. Hit 0-8 against Down and, having been well shackled in the drawn game, he kept Armagh in the replay against Cavan almost on his own. Grabbed two goals in the win over Monaghan and another in Mayo. It’s frightening to think he’ll still only be 21 next summer.

2019 AWARD WINNERS IN HURLING, CAMOGIE AND LADIES FOOTBALL

The Irish News Hurling Merit Award I

Neil McManus
“Neil McManus could hurl on the Kilkenny team on Sunday, without a doubt, and he could hurl on the Tipperary team and he wouldn’t look out of place. He's a better hurler than a lot of these fellas that will win an All-Ireland on Sunday.” 
Those were the recent words of Antrim hurling legend Terence McNaughton. 
An inspirational leader on and off the field, and the embodiment of just where hard work can take you, McManus has given - and continues to give - an enormous amount to Antrim hurling since coming through from the minor grades some 13 years ago.
His form over the last few years in particular has been truly outstanding, from leading Cushendall to the brink of an All-Ireland final earlier this year to lighting the way for Antrim’s Joe McDonagh Cup campaign, and they will be hoping he’s around for a long time to come yet.

The Irish News Hurling Merit Award II

Armagh

There may have been Croke Park heartbreak for this team in the form of a one-point defeat to Sligo in the Nicky Rackard Cup final, but in general the 2019 season was one that solidified the county’s status having lost several key players in recent years.

Picking up their well deserved Hurling Excellence Award is Armagh Senior Hurlers under Stephen Renaghan.

The Irish News Hurling Merit Award III

Down

It’s been a transitional period for this county’s hurling as a lot of the stalwarts of the 2013 Christy Ring Cup winning team exited stage left, but the building blocks for the next generation are being laid in place.

Reaching the Christy Ring decider this summer was slightly against expectation as they topped a group containing Wicklow and Derry before beating Roscommon in the semi-final.

They put up a brave show against a very strong Meath team and will be hoping to use it as a platform in 2020 and beyond.

Picking up their well deserved Hurling Excellence Award on behalf of the Down Senior hurlers is captain Stephen Keith.

The Irish News Ladies Football Merit Award

Eimear Smyth (Fermanagh)

The Irish News Ladies Football Merit Award goes to Derrygonnelly and Fermanagh's Eimear Smyth.

This teenager came onto the senior inter-county scene last year and made an immediate impression with her keen eye for a score and her ability to terrorise defences.

She picked up in 2019 where she left off last year with her performances in the green and white earning her an LGFA Player of the Month award and a place on the Division Four Team of the League.

Although she and her county missed out on the Ulster Junior title she has been outstanding thoughout the provincial campaign scoring 2-9 in the semi-final and 1-3 in the final all while doing her A Levels.

The Irish News Camogie Merit Award I

Slaughtneil (Derry)

This club have only ever won five Derry senior camogie titles. The first two 2012 and 2015 ended with defeat in Ulster finals, but the last three have delivered successive All-Ireland club titles.

What makes this achievement all the more remarkable is that only once has the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup been won by a club from a county that was not currently playing at Senior championship level – and that was to Rossa from Belfast a decade ago. Both Derry and Antrim play at Intermediate level. Only one club – Buffers’ Alley from Wexford (1981-4) have achieved four in a row national titles.

Although Slaughtneil has achieved a high level of consistency over the past three years their close neighbours Swatragh sent them a warning at the start of August by inflicting their first defeat since the Ulster final of 2015. The championship over the next couple of months promises much.

The Irish News Camogie Merit Award II

Clonduff produced Kevin Mussen, Down’s first Sam Maguire winning captain, and on the first weekend of March 2019 their senior camogs became the first team from the club to collect a national title in Croke Park.

On a bitterly cold afternoon they warmed the hearts of their many supporters with a gritty performance which was led by the Carr sisters and captain Paula O’Hagan, who won the Player of the Match Award again, adding to similar awards for the county and provincial finals last autumn.

The Shamrocks came from behind to beat Craughwell from Galway 1-8 to 0-9 in the semi-final and edged home with a 0-10 to 0-9 win over Waterford’s Galltír in the final.

O’Hagan scored six times, Sara Louise Carr three and a monster score from inside her own half from Fionnuala Carr went viral on social media.

They are currently in pursuit of their seventh Down title and first three-in-a-row.

Top Irish News Ulster Allstar of the past 25 years
Peter Canavan (Tyrone)

He's not known as 'The Great' for nothing, so it can come as little surprise that Peter Canavan picks up the award for being the best player of the 25 years of the Irish News Allstars.
Perhaps the greatest testament to his brilliance is that even the deepest of rivalries couldn’t dilute the respect he engendered as a player.
Hitting 10 points in an All-Ireland final in 1995, it seemed that he might never get his hands on Sam Maguire, but eight years on he got to climb the steps.
That, and the subsequent second title in 2005, were just reward for a former Footballer of the Year, a six-time Allstar, a former Ireland international. There were plenty bigger, few harder and none more difficult to defend against than the Errigal Ciaran maestro.

1999 Irish News Ulster Allstars team

1. Benny Tierney (Armagh)

2. Enda McNulty (Armagh)

3. Sean Martin Lockhart (Derry)

4. Justin McNulty (Armagh)

5. Kieran Hughes (Armagh)

6. Kieran McGeeney (Armagh)

7. Andrew McCann (Armagh)

8. Anthony Tohill (Derry)

9. Brian Burns (Down)

10. Paddy McKeever (Armagh)

11. Shane Mullholland (Down)

12. Brian Dooher (Tyrone)

13. Micky Linden (Down)

14. Diarmuid Mardsen (Armagh)

15. Oisin Mc Conville (Armagh)

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