Colm Cavanagh: Allstars still shine brightly long after curtain comes down on county career
I, like the many people around the country, tuned into the Allstars this year from the comfort of my sofa at home and I'm sure I'm not the only one who was watching with disappointment being the overriding feeling about it all.
Not disappointment in who won, but instead disappointment that perhaps the most prestigious personal awards in GAA didn't have any of the pomp and ceremony it deserves.
The Allstars was always one of the best nights of the year. Most of the club games were over and it was a great opportunity to enjoy a night of celebration and catch up with friends from other counties who we rarely get a chance to meet off the field.
This year, there was one round of league games remaining to be played in Tyrone, but the nominees still had a great opportunity to celebrate the year gone by and all their personal and team achievements. As All-Ireland champions, and having the majority of the nominations, it would have been nice to see the Tyrone tables being the centre of the party and the lads celebrating another incredible achievement together. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has scuppered those group celebrations for another year.
As for those who received awards, I couldn't be more delighted for them. Each award received was fully deserving and I know those who did get them will treasure them.
As I said, it was just disappointing as a viewer, that there wasn't more celebration involved when we know the level of effort and commitment that has been put in by the players to get to that level of recognition. It was important that there was an exception made for the Player of the Year awards and the winners got the special recognition that they deserve.
Kieran McGeary is a special player, a brilliant leader, and an even better person, so it was great to see all his hard work recognised at the top level. It was also nice to see the Tyrone management getting their moment, Brian Dooher always loved the spotlight and the attention.
Much like the field of play, positions mean nothing when it comes to the Allstars. As Kieran said in his interview, there isn't really such thing as a defender or a midfielder anymore, there are just footballers and each man on the pitch fulfils whatever role is required in that moment.
Tyrone's first two scores in the All-Ireland final came from Niall Morgan and Padraig Hampsey and there were forwards tracking back and making tackles all year which changed games, showing that the numbers on their backs are irrelevant.
That style of play is reflected in the awards where the ‘positions' are fluid too. My second award was officially for the full-back position, and I remember standing on stage beside Jonny Cooper having a laugh with him about it at the time.
The best 15 players in the country are selected and given awards. That same year both Brian Fenton and Brian Howard were fully deserving of their awards at midfield, the panel obviously felt that I was deserving too, but because my position on the field wasn't that of a standard midfielder, I was shuffled around and all three of us received our accolades.
I think because it was late in my playing career when I won my awards, I really appreciate them. They are the only awards that have ever been displayed in our home (mainly because they match the décor).
That is no disrespect to any other accolade I have ever received but to be selected as one of the best 15 footballers or hurlers in the country is special.
I think if I had won them at the beginning of my senior career it may not have meant just as much because, a bit like winning the All-Ireland so early, you just assume that that's the way it's going to be, so you don't fully appreciate it at the time.
I know those guys who received their awards on Friday have been through the hard seasons and have been the nearly men a few times so they know how special it is to win and be recognised on the national stage. It is just as special for both their families and their clubs. It is something that many young players can only ever dream of so to have that award as part of your club and showing our youth that it is possible that an outfield player from Edendork can receive an Allstar as the best goalkeeper in Ireland really is inspirational. Proud memories to cherish for sure.
I have only fond memories of the Allstars experience and looking back on it, I'm very proud to be part of such a select group. That said, I have been advised by my daughter recently that my awards are too old and need to go to the attic as her Irish dancing trophy is more important, harshly reminding me to take off my rose-tinted glasses and get back to reality.