The Championship

Large Tyrone corps in Brendan Crossan's Irish News Allstars

After a rollercoaster year for Ulster football, Brendan Crossan chooses his pick of the province. 

Four counties are represented in his XV, with Mickey Harte’s Tyrone leading the way with seven representatives...

1) RAYMOND GALLIGAN (CAVAN)

AN absolute master-stroke of Terry Hyland’s to convert Galligan into a goalkeeper. You swore Galligan was using a five-iron rather than his right boot for his unerringly accurate kick-outs this summer. Superb against Armagh, posed massive problems for Tyrone the first day and his three humongous frees kept Cavan in the game against Derry. 

2) PADDY McGRATH (DONEGAL)

THE Ardara man doesn’t have bad games. Every day is the same. He marks tightly, breaks forward with pace and keeps his head at all times. He’s Mr Reliable of this Donegal team. And yet, the unassuming corner-back doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves. Took over the man-marking reins of Conor McManus and did exceptionally well across the two games.

3) EAMON McGEE (DONEGAL)

THE Gweedore man didn’t have a spectacular summer but he was always solid. His player rating never dipped below 6.5, even in defeat against Tyrone and Dublin. Tamed every forward he faced with a quiet efficiency with his best performances coming in the back-to-back games with Monaghan. He bids farewell to the inter-county scene after 13 years.

4) CATHAL McCARRON (TYRONE)

A VERY consistent performer in the Tyrone defence. Kept Derry’s Niall Toner under wraps when other teams couldn’t later in the Championship. He put in good back-to-back displays against Cavan and his high point was curtailing Michael Murphy’s threat in the Ulster final. Also took a point off the Donegal man.

5) RYAN McHUGH (DONEGAL)

A GLOWING example that small men can be giants in the modern game. Ryan McHugh gets better and better with time and is just as important to the Donegal effort as Michael Murphy. Can beat anyone for pace from a standing start and is as brave as they come. Class moments against Tyrone, Monaghan and Dublin.

6) CONOR MOYNAGH (CAVAN)

CONOR Moynagh’s inclusion is just as much a nod to Cavan’s drastic improvement in their counter-attacking strategy this year. Cavan’s number six is a pure footballer. A brilliant kick passer, the Eire Og clubman has a natural instinct for knowing when to break forward and when to mind Cavan’s defensive centre. Deserves an Allstar gong

7) RORY BRENNAN (TYRONE)

YOU don’t have to start games to win awards. Rory Brennan is living proof of that. The fleet-footed Trillick half-back was Mickey Harte’s secret weapon this summer. The U21 All-Ireland winner improved Tyrone each time he entered the Championship stage. Grabbed a goal against Cavan, excellent Ulster final and added muchneeded energy against Mayo.

8) COLM CAVANAGH (TYRONE)

A REAL driving force for Tyrone this summer, the Moy man had an excellent Ulster campaign. He should have won a GAA Allstar last year and another Croke Park appearance might have got him over the line in 2016. Interprets the double sweeper system impeccably. Edges out Cavan’s Tomas Corr here.

9) MATTIE DONNELLY (TYRONE)

IF Mattie Donnelly was a car, he’d be a Rolls Royce. You could play the Trillick man in any position and he would thrive. From midfield, the two-footed Donnelly hit 10 points from play this summer and, apart from his truncated Ulster final appearance, was a man-of-the-match contender in every game.

10) PETER HARTE (TYRONE)

THE Errigal Ciaran man has a wand of a left foot. His raking point in the dying embers of the Ulster final against Donegal was befitting of his boundless talent. Displayed wonderful skills in the Cavan replay, scoring two goals, and posted a brilliant second half display in the defeat to Mayo. 

11) DANNY HEAVRON (DERRY)

THERE are some joys in this profession. One of them was Danny Heavron’s courageous display against Tipp in Breffni Park. It’s the best individual display I’ve witnessed from the press box this summer. Derry’s dynamic sweeper hit four wonderful points and was a steady performer in the Oak Leafers’ other Championship outings in 2016. 

12) NIALL SLUDDEN (TYRONE)

GREW into a fully-fledged Tyrone first-teamer this summer, typified by his line-breaking score in the first half against Mayo. A real workhorse with smashing ability, the Dromore man hit the ground running in Tyrone’s Championship opener against Derry and will be a big player for Mickey Harte in 2017. Cian Mackey and Dara McVeety deserve honourable mentions.

13) PATRICK MCBREARTY (DONEGAL)

WHETHER it’s the passage of time or Rory Gallagher’s influence, the Kilcar man is beginning to really flourish at inter-county level. He has always had the ability to do what he did against Cork, scoring 0-11, and was a scoring threat to every defence he faced this summer. His Ulster Allstar claims are irrefutable. 

14) SEAN CAVANAGH (TYRONE)

YOU can’t coach what Sean Cavanagh did in the closing stages of the Ulster final. Showed true grit and incredible skill to finally break Donegal. Excellent games against Derry and Cavan (replay), the good moments certainly outweigh the bad in 2016 by quite a margin. Surely there’s an encore left in the Moy man. 

15) MARK LYNCH (DERRY)

THE Banagher man gets the nod for the leadership and class he showed in Qualifier games against Meath, Cavan and Tipp. Played in spurts inside the opposition’s 45 but Lynch’s spurts were devastating. Showed wonderful composure from placed balls and never wasted a possession against Cavan. Gets the nod ahead of Stefan Campbell.

The Championship

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