Eight PwC All-Stars for Tyrone to match '08 tally, three each for Mayo and Kerry
2021 PwC Football All-Stars:
1 Niall Morgan (Tyrone)
Club: Edendork St Malachy's
Tyrone's first All-Ireland winning goalkeeper to earn a nomination became their second winner in that position after Finbar McConnell 25 years ago. Left supporters' hearts in mouths at times but his sweeping and forays into midfield drove the team forward. Kicked vital scores - including a HUGE free against Kerry - and made important saves on a few occasions. Most important of all, he led the Red Hands from the back.
2 Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
Club: Coalisland Na Fianna
Second Allstar (also 2018)
The skipper was superb throughout the Championship campaign, marking a list of top forwards - Thomas Galligan, Michael Murphy, Conor McManus, Sean O'Shea, and Tommy Conroy - and severely curtailing their influence. Did so without giving away too many frees and added to the team effort by getting forward for scores. An inspirational leader.
This paper is a tough marker too, but Hampsey averaged 7.9, never receiving below 7.5 - he's this writer's Footballer of the Year.
3 Lee Keegan (Mayo)
Fifth All-Star (also 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016)
His first All-Star since he was voted Footballer of the Year five years ago - and he was in contention for that accolade again.
Keegan was heroic in the semi-final dethroning of Dublin and Mayo's best player in the All-Ireland Final when too many team-mates under-performed. Did his defensive duties well first of all, but then powered forward, doing his best to inspire his county to the long-dreamed-of All-Ireland triumph. A modern great.
4 Tom O'Sullivan (Kerry)
Second Allstar (also 2019)
Stickier than a combination of glue, honey, and Velcro, the Dingle corner-back was much more than a mere 'spoiler', though: he scored more points (0-5) than he conceded to direct opponents (0-4) over the course of the Championship. If only Kerry had one or two more like him they'd probably have 'Sam' back in the Kingdom. His man-marking job on Tyrone's in-form Darren McCurry was a master-class.
5 Conor Meyler (Tyrone)
Club: Omagh St Enda's
The worker bee blossomed this year to demonstrate the great football ability he has to go along with his durability and stickability. Blotted out key opposition players - including Donegal's Ryan McHugh, Monaghan's Ryan McAnespie, Kerry's Paudie Cliford, and Mayo's Patrick Durcan, the last three of those all All-Star nominees this year. Meyler also provided plenty of attacking impetus, including kicking the ball in for the crucial opening goal of the All-Ireland Final by Cathal McShane.
6 Kieran McGeary (Tyrone)
Club: Pomeroy Plunkett's
If he's as intelligent and industrious off the pitch as he is on it then the children of Cookstown are in great hands. Tyrone' vice-captain certainly has great hands, with his clean tackling a joy to behold. Used the ball well when he got it, either scoring or creating, starring against Donegal and also excellent against Monaghan and Kerry, and still very good in the final against Mayo, making Diarmuid O'Connor irrelevant.
7 Peter Harte (Tyrone)
Club: Errigal Ciaran
Second Allstar (also 2016)
Some within the Tyrone set-up rated 'Petey' as arguably their player of the year. With room to run into from deep, Harte was a constant threat going forward, exemplified by helping set up the opening goal of the All-Ireland semi-final McKenna. His all-round game was evident by his brave diving block which denied Kerry sub Killian Spillane a goal at the same end in the second half.
8 Brian Kennedy (Tyrone)
Club: Derrylaughan Kevin Barry's
The big Derrylaughan lad didn't start or finish the Championship on the pitch, but his contributions in-between were enough to earn him an All-Star ahead of colleague Conn Kilpatrick and Kerry's David Moran. Mayo's Matthew Ruane was considered a shoo-in for this selection - but Kennedy dominated him in the All-Ireland Final. Netted against Cavan but it was his defensive work which stood out.
9 Matthew Ruane (Mayo)
Star man in the Connacht Final against Galway, and again in the memorable All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin. Kept Brian Fenton quiet in that game. Repeat, kept Brian Fenton quiet in that game. Won plenty of kick-outs and never stopped working and tackling. Brian Kennedy's dominance of him went a long way towards Tyrone winning the final and Ruane's frustration brought him a late red card, but he had a terrific season overall.
10 Niall Sludden (Tyrone)
Club: Dromore St Dympna's
The seemingly ever-smiling Sludden had pondered leaving the inter-county scene after getting little League action but worked his way back into the team and performed superbly as one of Tyrone's half-back/half-forwards. Covered so much ground, superbly set up the opening goal in the All-Ireland semi-final and got back to his own goal-line to prevent a Mayo goal from Conor Loftus, while also besting Michael Plunkett and sub Enda Hession.
11 Paudie Clifford (Kerry)
Never mind 'hammer the hammer' - Tyrone blunted Kerry's screw-driver, the man who usually opens up opposition defences for them. A revelation up to that point in this year's Championship, Conor Meyler negated him, stopping him setting up scoring opportunities for colleagues, although Paudie did still score two points from play. His displays before that, though, including the League elevated him to join his illustrious brother David on the All-Stars stage.
12 Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
Fifth Allstar (also 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2020)
For the first half of the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo it seemed 'business as usual' - Ciaran Kilkenny was running the show for a dominant Dublin, giving Padraig O'Hora the run-around. The pony-tailed workhorse shackled the Dubs thoroughbred after that, and without CK's combination of style and substance the boys in blue faded. Kilkenny had done enough throughout the League and Leinster to earn his fifth Allstar though,
13 Darren McCurry (Tyrone)
Club: Edendork St Malachy's
'The Dazzler' is a strange combination of outward confidence and inner doubt, but he overcame the latter - and a tough All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry's excellent Tom O'Sullivan - to put in a 'man of the match' display in the Final. Even in that semi-final he scored 0-4, two from play, and was top scorer in his other four outings. His ability was never questioned and freed from defensive duties he showed his class, finishing the campaign with 1-33 from five matches, including a clinching goal in the decider.
14 David Clifford (Kerry)
Third Allstar (also 2018 and 2019)
Still the one player that every other county would want in their team. Still only 22 (23 on January 2). Cork's Sean Meehan performed superbly to hold Cliford scoreless from play (converting just one free) despite Kerry routing the Rebels in the Munster Final, but no one else could contain the force from Fossa - not even Tyrone's tough Ronan McNamee. DC still notched 2-17 overall, and his going off injured/ cramped before extra time cost Kerry their chance of reaching the final.
15 Ryan O'Donoghue (Mayo)
It would be quite wrong to remember the Belmullet man for his penalty miss in the All-Ireland Final because he did so much right, before and even after that. Superb in the first half of the Connacht Final against Galway, he was excellent against Dublin, carrying the fight throughout to their Allstar defenders. Scored 0-8 in the All-Ireland Final, taking his Championship tally to 2-27, matching McCurry, and also set up goal chances which Bryan Walsh, Conor Loftus, and Aidan O'Shea all spurned.