GAA Football

Cavan trio selected as Dublin nine dominate PwC Football Allstars

Dublin's Brian Fenton shoots for a point against Cavan.
Pic Philip Walsh

2020 PwC Football Allstars:

1 Raymond Galligan (Cavan)

Hit the headlines as the hero against Monaghan with his last-gasp winning free from long distance and continued in that vein. Made several important saves in the first half against the old rivals and also denied goals to Antrim, Down, and Donegal to play a huge part in the unexpected Ulster triumph.

Converted from a forward, the Lacken man is an all-round modern goalkeeper, brave under high balls and with his kick-outs, whether going short or long.

2 Oisin Mullin (Mayo)

It's testament to the ability of the Kilmaine lad that manager James Horan trusted him to mark Dublin dangerman Con O'Callaghan – and that he repaid that trust with an excellent performance. Indeed he got the better of the battle for the opening third, with a series of surging forays forward

His overall performances throughout 2020 have also made him a strong contender for the Young Footballer of the Year accolade, with the GPA's vote outcome revealed tomorrow night.

3 Padraig Faulkner (Cavan)

Reflecting his own Championship campaign, the Kingscourt man eventually surged forward into this selection. Put up against opposition dangermen in every match, he made a series of vital interceptions. Even more important were his crucial blocks, notably preventing goals for Down's Jerome Johnston Mooney and Dublin's Con O'Callaghan. On top of his defensive work he was also an inspirational driving force for the Breffnimen, bursting forward to win ball in the middle third and use it well.

4 Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin)

The Cuala clubman has established himself as one of the finest defenders around, collecting his third Allstar award inside four seasons. Understandably found the going tough in the decider against Mayo's Cillian O'Connor but he is a key component in making the Dublin defence so mean and impregnable to goals. Reads the game so well, covering across the full-back line in composed fashion.

5 James McCarthy (Dublin)

Versatility and flexibility can count against some players but McCarthy has always caught the eye, having earned previous Allstars at wing-back, centre half-back, and midfield in 2014, 2017, and 2018.

Paired with Brian Fenton at centrefield but played plenty of the season at wing-back, including against Cavan and Mayo, switching there for the second half of the All-Ireland Final. His ability to protect the defence but also turn possession quickly into attack always impresses.

6 John Small (Dublin)

The Ballymun man has a colourful reputation, with cards to match in previous All-Ireland Finals, but there's never been any doubting his defensive ability. Fearless in his desire to win stop opponents scoring and win possession, he also has the football skills to use the ball well, even scoring in the decider.

Befitting his will to win, and as the stickiest of man-markers in recent years, he hasn't lost a senior Championship game for the Dubs.

7 Eoin Murchan (Dublin)

Won a tight debate against county colleague Robbie McDaid and Mayo's Paddy Durcan; perhaps fittingly he edged ahead in the race, with the Na Fianna man having shown a strong tendency to step up in the second halves of matches.

Did his defensive work first, blotting out opponents, including both Tommy Conroy and Ryan O'Donoghue in the All-Ireland Final. Also used his searing pace to plug holes in defence as sweeper on occasions, and to bring the ball out quickly from the back.

8 Brian Fenton (Dublin)

As so often, the Raheny man rose to the big occasion – outstanding in the semi-final against Cavan and decisive in the second half of the All-Ireland Final. With the Dubs a man down against Mayo, he proceeded to dominate the middle third, particularly the aerial exchanges.

He'd shown other aspects of his all-round ability against the Ulster champions, gliding powerfully forward to take four points from play. Has cemented his status as an all-time great with this his fifth Allstar.

9 Thomas Galligan (Cavan)

Bruised, battered, but unbowed in Ulster, he summed up the fighting spirit shown by the Breffni Blues throughout their provincial campaign.

Inspired comebacks off the bench against Monaghan and Antrim, despite and injury, and made vital contribution in attack against Down and Donegal. Influential everywhere and anywhere from midfield up, his aerial ability and power provided unforgettable memories. Soared high to take catches, to make and take scores.

10 Niall Scully (Dublin)

For all the flamboyance of Dublin forwards over the years, and even now, there's still the need for work-rate; they all provide that but none more so than Niall Scully.

Yet there's much, much more to his game than snapping up breaking ball – he played a part in both goals in the All-Ireland Final, and netted a late goal against Meath in the Leinster Final rout. His energy and link-play are key components in the Dublin machine.

11 Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)

The conductor of the orchestra. No matter how much the opposition tries to curtail him, he finds a way to exert an influence. Admittedly he was helped in the decider by Paddy Durcan going off injured but Kilkenny took full advantage, dictating play and the tempo of the game.

His scoring sometimes gets overlooked, but he registered three points from play against both Mayo and Cavan, as well as converting a mark against the latter.

12 Con O'Callaghan (Dublin)

It's a tribute to the Cuala dual star that even Allstar defenders don't get criticised when he gets the better of them, even when he finds the net and/ or registers several points – he's just that good.

Brutally strong and direct, operating slightly deeper meant he could build up an unstoppable head of steam, and when he pushed further reward he finished a superb goal against Mayo to ensure the six in-a-row.

13 Cillian O'Connor (Mayo)

Extraordinary scoring numbers, especially in the semi-final shellacking of Tipperary, when he racked up an absolutely incredible 4-9, with 4-3 of that from play, an exhibition of inside forward play. Overall he registered 5-40, averaging 11 (1-8) over his five Championship matches.

Yet it wasn't just his scoring that stood out, with immense effort expended all over the pitch, tracking and tackling back.

Surprisingly, given his scoring feats over the years, this is only his second Allstar, after winning one in 2014.

14 Conor Sweeney (Tipperary)

A consistently excellent leader of the Tipperary attack last year, his scoring power taking them to a first Munster title for 85 years. 'Man of the match' with 0-7 against Cork in that final, he'd notched 1-4 against Clare and 0-7 against Limerick, including a fabulous sideline conversion deep into added time to force extra time.

It barely got noticed that he scored 1-9 in the All-Ireland semi-final and he could have had more goals such was the trouble his aerial strength posed to the Mayo defence.

15 Dean Rock (Dublin)

Dublin's leading scorer once again, including in all the big games, with 1-7 against old rivals Meath, 0-6 against Cavan in the All-Ireland semi-final, and 1-4 in the ultimate game.

That included the fastest ever All-Ireland final goal, after just 12 seconds, and although he was quiet after that there's never any doubting the value of the Ballymun man's free-taking and general scoring threat. Secures his second Allstar, after 2016.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football