GAA Football

Profiles: The 2018 PwC GAA/GPA Allstars

Ryan McHugh picked up his second Allstar after a fine season for Donegal. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Rory Beggan (Monaghan)
Age: 26
Club: Scotstown
First Allstar

AT the start of 2016 Rory Beggan complete an online ’20 questions’ in which he named Stephen Cluxton as his sporting hero. Now he has surpassed the Dublin goalkeeper, at least this year.
The Scotstown man has emulated the Dubs’ captain by extending the influence of the goalkeeper’s role. Not only does he make saves and launch attacks with his accurate kick-outs, he also is a scoring threat from the halfway line onwards – and maybe even in open play.
Beggan openly spoke last week of his regret at taking that last kick at goal against Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final, but he did so much more to take Monaghan so close to the national decider, not least by scoring 0-18.

Jonny Cooper (Dublin)
Age: 28
Club: Ballymun Kickhams
Two Allstars (2016, 2018)

THE main man in the Dublin defence this year, with Cian O’Sullivan troubled by hamstring problems and Philly McMahon’s form not as great as in recent seasons.
Cooper must be a nightmare to take on, given that his excellent ability to read the game and his speed off the mark combine to get him out in front of his opponent so often.
That football intelligence also allows him to switch to sweeper when required, and he’s also prepared to do the dirty work of defending.
The Ballymun man turns 29 this Sunday and will do so after celebrating his second Allstar.

Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
Age: 31
Club: Moy Tir na nOg
Two Allstars (2017, 2018)

HAVING finally earned an Allstar last year, the Moy man took time to come to his best this season, troubled by injury at the start of the Championship.
Clearly wasn’t at his best in the Ulster opener against Monaghan but as he improved, so did the Red Hands. ‘Big Collie’ was especially effective in two crunch games, outstanding against both Donegal and Monaghan, including making a key late tackle in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Not so effective in the final, but that’s largely because Dublin recognised his importance to Tyrone and set out to bypass his sweeping. Still managed to win a penalty when moved up to full-forward, showing the greater attacking edge he had this year.

Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
Age: 24
Club: Coalisland Fianna
First Allstar

SEAN Cavanagh may have started out there, but this is the first Allstar for a fully-fledged Fianna player since Hampsey’s current club manager, Damian O’Hagan won the full-forward award in 1986.
Hampsey could probably play in attack too given his scoring ability, but it was his work further back, in defence and around midfield, that earned his inclusion.
Restricted the influence of Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Monaghan star Conor McManus in the last game of the quarter-finals and the All-Ireland semi-final respectively.
Indeed arguably three-time Allstar Brian Fenton of Dublin was the only man who got the better of him, in the Omagh game.

Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)
Age: 30
Club: Tyholland
First Allstar

A LATECOMER to Gaelic football but almost always first to the ball due to his searing pace. His running ability is backed up by a scoring touch too, with 1-6 from play over Monaghan’s nine matches.
Was superb in the ‘Super Eights’, especially against Kildare in Croke Park, where he hit three points from play. Posed serious problems to Kerry too and Tyrone paid him the compliment of starting Kieran McGeary against him in their All-Ireland semi-final in order to curtail his influence going forward.
His speed meant that opponents were usually put on the back foot, so his defensive stats stack up too.

Karl O'Connell's great year for Monaghan has been rewarded with a first Allstar for the Tyholland clubman.

James McCarthy (Dublin)
Age: 27
Club: Ballymun Kickhams
Two Allstars (2017, 2018)

LIKE Cavanagh, McCarthy is one of those players who can operate equally comfortably in defence or midfield, but he did his best work this season in the half-back line.
Scored the crucial goal against Tyrone in the ‘Super Eights’ game up in Omagh at the end of a typically powerfully run, but it was his work to prevent opposition scores that was more important to Dublin over the Championship campaign.
Clearly likes to get at the Red Hands defence, as his ball-winning followed by frequent bursts forward were a key feature of the All-Ireland Final.

Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
Age: 25
Club: Clontarf
Three Allstars (2015, 2017, 2018)
IT’S a sign of the Clontarf man’s natural ability that he starred in this year’s All-Ireland Final less than a year after tearing a knee ligament in the previous decider.
He was gradually eased back into the Dublin side during the Championship and peaked in the biggest games, earning ‘man of the match’ accolades in both the semi-final and the final.
Helped turn the tide against Tyrone in that ultimate match with a perfectly-timed run onto a laser-guided kick-out, getting the Dubs going after a slow start, and his pace and purposeful running were too much for the Red Hands to contain.
One of three Dublin nominees for `Footballer of the Year’, having already won the award in 2015.

Brian Fenton (Dublin)
Age: 25
Club: Raheny
Three Allstars (2015, 2016, 2018)

‘MR Unbeatable’ continues to be one of the most consistent and impressive performers in the modern game.
Squeezed out of midfield in this selection last year by his Dub-mate James McCarthy, the rangy Raheny man returned to winning Allstars and matches, having never lost in the SFC.
An all-round midfielder, able to win ball, defend, and attack, scoring 1-13 throughout the Championship including two points in the All-Ireland Final. Perhaps the only player to get the better of Tyrone’s Padraig Hampsey this year, in the ‘Super Eights’ match in Omagh.
Dublin’s second contender for `Footballer of the Year’, an award the champions haven’t received since 2015.

Brian Fenton still hasn't lost a championship match as a Dublin player.

Brian Howard (Dublin)
Age: 21
Club: Raheny

First Allstar
IF opponents are wondering whether to stick or twist they might fold after considering this: Brian Howard is still only 21.
The Raheny lad lived up to the potential he displayed with Dublin U21s, impressing in both defence and attack, but is included here as the archetypal modern ‘middle eight’ player.
Whether he was named at wing-back or wing-forward, he worked up and down tirelessly and effectively, snuffing out opposition attacks and setting them up for Dublin.
Also carries a threat himself, scoring in all seven of his Championship appearances this year.
Overall, his consistent excellence ensured he is also a contender for the ‘Young Footballer of the Year’ accolade.

Paul Mannion (Dublin)
Age: 25
Club: Kilmacud Croke’s
Two Allstars (2017, 2018)

ALTHOUGH he usually wore one of the inside forward jerseys, and was selected as this newspaper’s ‘Star Man’ from the All-Ireland Final after scoring 1-1, Mannion’s workrate and tackling back were key elements in his selection too.
Denying Peter Harte a goal chance in the decider was just one of his contributions to Dublin’s defensive effort.
Won and converted the penalty decisively against Tyrone in Croke Park, and scored 1-8 before the decider but there was much more to his game than mere scores.
Battled hard against Hampsey in the final and is a terrific all-round footballer.

Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
Age: 25
Club: Castleknock

Third Allstar (2015, 2016, 2018)
‘WHAT does he actually do?’ some – ahem – people wondered. Well, this year he scored – a lot. In fact the Castleknock clubman was the top scorer from play in this year’s Championship, with 2-24, albeit from seven matches compared to five for David Clifford of Kerry.
After spending much of the campaign at full-forward, he showed his all-round ability again, dropping deeper against Tyrone in the Final to do his ‘string-pulling’ thing, adding assists to three scores from play.
The man who makes this great Dublin team tick, and click,
A third Allstar for him and a third ‘Footballer of the Year’ nominee for the Dubs.

Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
Age: 24
Club: Kilcar
Two Allstars (2016, 2018)

THE first of only two Allstars not to reach this year’s All-Ireland semi-finals, the Kilcar speedster did more than enough before then to catch the eye, even if catching him proved problematic for most opposition defences.
Probably the most fouled player in the modern game, such is his influence and creative ability. Yet even illegal methods cannot completely curtail him.
Scored a brilliant goal against a mean Fermanagh defence in the Ulster Final as part of his Championship tally of 2-8, but also set up a series of scores for team-mates, including his opportunistic interception for Michael Murphy’s goal against Tyrone.

David Clifford (Kerry)
Age: 19
Club: Fossa
First Allstar

IN a stronger Kerry side the teenager would already be a poster boy for Gaelic football. Even in a side struggling somewhat by Kingdom standards he was simply sensational. The top scorer from play on average in the Championship, with just 1-3 of his 4-18 tally coming from play – that’s 3-15 over five matches.
The late levelling goal he somehow squeezed in to snatch at draw at Clones against Monaghan will live long in the memory, although, fitness permitting, there’ll be much more to come from the Fossa lad.
An obvious nominee for the ‘Young Footballer of the Year’ award.

David Clifford is named in the full-forward line after an outstanding first season for Kerry.

Conor McManus (Monaghan)
Age: 31
Club: Clontibret O’Neill’s
Third Allstar (2013, 2015, 2018)

`MANSY’ remained the man for Monaghan, despite greater attacking support for him from the likes of Ryan McAnespie and Conor McCarthy.
Top scorer in this year’s Championship with 2-47, but it was the quality as well as the quantity of his scores that really caught the eye. Scored an absolute beauty late on in the Ulster victory over Tyrone and continued to pose serious problems for opposition defences, notably Kerry in the Clones contest, when he netted early on.
Some of his free conversions were fabulous too, but his astonishing accuracy is almost taken for granted now.
Matches fellow county legend Eugene ‘Nudie’ Hughes in becoming a three-time Allstar from Monaghan.

Ian Burke (Galway)
Age: 25
Club: Corofin
First Allstar

NOT involved with Galway in the League as he was showing his class in helping his club Corofin to win the Andy Merrigan Cup and he was a key player on the county scene too.
County colleagues Damien Comer and Shane Walsh made strong cases for inclusion but it was Burke’s overall consistency that earned him the nod.
Scored a goal against Sligo but it was a creator that Burke was most effective, involved in the goal against Mayo and ‘man of the match’ against both Kerry and Kildare in the ‘Super Eights’.
Having said that, he also posed the most problems to Dublin’s Eoin Murchan of any player, taking two points off him as well as earning frees and providing assists.

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At a glance | 2018 PwC GAA/GPA Football Allstars

1. Rory Beggan (Monaghan)
2. Jonny Cooper (Dublin)
3. Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
4. Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
5. Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)
6. James McCarthy (Dublin)
7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
9. Brian Howard (Dublin)
10. Paul Mannion (Dublin)
11. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
12. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
13. David Clifford (Kerry)
14. Conor McManus (Monaghan)
15. Ian Burke (Galway)

Read more: Six Ulster men on an Allstar team that reflects modern realities

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