'All-Star Gazing' a superb history of GAA awards scheme

All-Star Gazing - 50 years of the GAA All-Stars (by Moira and Eileen Dunne)

MY wife won't like it, but the contents of 'a dusty old cardboard box' in a home office provided the basis for this excellent work. The daughters of the legendary sports journalist Mick Dunne had donated his 60-year collection of GAA reports and records to the GAA Museum in 2010 - but then, years later, two of them discovered a treasure trove of All-Star material.

In that box were Mick's records from 25 years as secretary of the All-Star scheme he had dreamt up and brought to reality along with John D Hickey (Irish Independent), Paddy Downey (Irish Times), and Pádraig Puirséal (Irish Press).

Dunne, RTE's first Gaelic games correspondent, had also kept many personal photos and mementos from All-Star trips to the USA and Canada, along with letters from Seán Ó Síocháin (the GAA's General Secretary/ Director-General from 1964 until 1979), Jack Lynch (former dual star and Taioseach), as well as from many legendary hurlers and footballers.

Moira and Eileen Dunne expanded on these by interviewing 136 All-Stars from both football and hurling, including two more dual stars from Cork - and dual All-Star winners - in Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Ray Cummins.

The result, a veritable triumph produced in association with current All-Star sponsors PwC and the GAA, is a wonderful commemoration and celebration of 50 years of the All-Stars.

This sumptuous, large format book is almost 200 pages long and is packed with photographs, images of old Allstar selections and team-sheets, letters to and from the selectors.

It's a hefty format, 32 x 23 cm (there's also a 12.5 x 9 inch version for the hurlers), a work of reference, but also of reminiscence.

Not only have all 1500 winners over both football and hurling been laid out on clear, colour-coded pages, close to 5,000 nominees have also been listed.

This book is what the All-Stars are all about - memories, debate, and controversy. Indeed there are 15 pages about the selection process, controversies, and the future of the All-Stars.

Only Carlow and Longford among Irish counties have no All-Stars in either code, with 27 counties represented in football, just 14 in hurling - from the top, of the latter the tally is now: Kilkenny (189), Cork (112), Tipperary (104), Galway (96), Limerick (76), Clare (54), Waterford (43), Offaly (42), Wexford (33), Dublin (8), Antrim (5), Down, Laois, and Westmeath one each.

Football is still led by Kerry, although Dublin had been closing significantly on Kerry over the past decade, 2011-20, with 59 Allstars having gone to the Dubs over that period and 'just' 22 to the Kingdom - and none at all last year.

Kerry did add three to their tally on Friday night, moving onto 148, with Dublin only having Ciaran Kilkenny to bring their total to 140, so it will be next year at the earliest before the Dubs go top of that roll of honour.

Tyrone are now clear in third place, away from Meath and above Mayo, behind only those top two and with Cork (64) in their sights.

There have now been 439 different football Allstars, 375 in hurling, with Waterford hurlers' Conor Prunty having become the 800th different name on the illustrious list last Thursday morning.

Before last week, the top four counties in hurling had precisely 500 between them, two-thirds of the total; that's now 501 out of 765, and Prunty's award moved Waterford above Offaly into seventh spot. Paul 'Humpy' McKillen of Ballycastle and Antrim was the last man from outside the top 10 counties to be chosen - way back in 1993. Here's hoping an Ulsterman can add his name to the roll of honour in the near future.

Already eight more are on the football list, with Tyrone garnering that many accolades at last Friday night's announcement.

So the All-Stars story rolls on, the debates continue, but this production is a superb summary of its first half-century.

Yep, my wife mightn't like its genesis, but I absolutely love this book, 'the Bible' of the All-Stars.