Ladies' football correspondent Louise Gunn picks her Ulster All-Stars team for 2023
FOR the past couple of years, I have sat on the fence when it has come to picking my All-Stars team.
I thought that I’d stick my neck out this year and go for it.
I easily could have picked two players for each position such is the incredibly hard process of whittling 45 players down to 15. I think next year I’ll go back to sitting on the fence.
If nothing else, it’s some food for thought and your chance to vote for the players you feel deserve to be included in this year’s Ulster All-Stars team.
1 Sinead McVey (Tyrone)
WAS exceptional for Tyrone this championship season, particularly in the All-Ireland series.
The Red Hands might have lost the Ulster intermediate final to Antrim and bowed out of the All-Ireland at the quarter-final stage to Kildare but her performances really stood out, particularly her ability to vary her kickouts. She also produced some fine saves.
2 Ciara Byrne (Down)
THE Down vice-captain has put in another big year in the Mourne jersey. Often given the task of marking the opposition’s main scoring threats, she goes about her job without fuss and can hold all the big players scoreless.
3 Clodagh McCambridge (Armagh)
HAS developed into one of the best defenders in the country. Her presence in the Armagh backline has a calming effect on those around her. Coming up against the best forwards playing the game, she takes it in her stride, looking no further than the next ball and winning that battle against her opponent.
4 Niamh Carr (Donegal)
GETS the nod in the corner. Her experience was crucial this year in what was a season of two halves for Donegal. She has been a great example to her younger team-mates around her, who no doubt have learned a lot on their Ulster and All-Ireland trail in 2023.
5 Amy Boyle Carr (Donegal)
HAS developed into an exciting wing half-back, fully capable of carrying out those standard defending duties but providing that link between defence and attack. Not content with just linking up with her midfield and forward team-mates, Boyle Carr has shown she has an eye for a score or two and popped up with some crucial scores for Donegal this championship.
6 Lauren McConville (Armagh)
HER transition from a forward to a defender has been a piece of genius and was superb in the Armagh jersey this championship. Results might not have gone Armagh’s way, losing their Ulster senior title and then bowing out of the All-Ireland championship at the quarter-finals to Cork, but McConville more than played her part in the Orchard’s journey this season.
7 Ciara Brown (Antrim)
MISSED last season for Antrim and no doubt the Saffons’ success in 2022 filled the St Paul’s player with the hunger and determination to get back into the team. That certainly showed over the championship. Her presence in the half-backline has made Antrim stronger. She is not afraid to fight for every ball, even ones she has no right to win and she will give 100 per cent in everything.
8 Niamh McLaughlin (Donegal)
LAST year’s LGFA Senior Players’ Player of the Year, put in another serious shift this championship for Donegal. The work the Moville player does both on and off the ball is incredible. She is cool, calm and composed, her choice of pass, her decision to move forward quickly or hold play up, can instantly change the direction of a game. She deservedly guided her county to a first Ulster title since 2019.
9 Aoibhinn McHugh (Tyrone)
THE Tyrone captain takes the number nine jersey after some stellar performances for the Red Hands. She led by example, helping out her defence, being the link between the two ‘45s and was also more than capable of hitting a score as well. She battles hard from start to finish, knows how to use the ball well and will always back a team-mate up.
10 Lara Dahunsi (Antrim)
ANOTHER of Antrim’s stand-out players this championship. She is a tower of strength. You’ll find her going up for the throw-in and she never tires of getting up and down the field supporting her defenders and midfielders and linking up with her forward team-mates. She is good for a score or two as well and has shown she is up there among the top intermediate players in the country.
11 Aimee Mackin (Armagh)
AIMEE Mackin does what Aimee Mackin does. Another year and another season where she produced moments of magic in every game. An All-Star team would not be one without the Shane O’Neill’s player. The championship didn’t go as she would have hoped both for Armagh – losing Ulster and finishing up with defeat in the All-Ireland quarter-finals - and herself personally – battling injury – but she cannot be overlooked.
12 Katie Dowds (Donegal)
MADE her senior inter-county debut for Donegal in 2023 but soon become an integral part of their set-up and success. Big games like the Ulster final against Armagh and into the All-Ireland stages, coming up against defending champions Meath and then Dublin in the quarter-finals did not faze her at all. She just played her football, got a few scores too and over the next few years will become one of Donegal’s big players.
13 Natasha Ferris (Down)
THE current outright leading scorer in the championship across all three grades – senior, intermediate and junior – Ferris has been on fire in front of the posts and is an automatic choice in the full-forward line. She is a natural ball-winner on the 13 and her ability to turn and shoot or lay it off for incoming support means her marker does not know what is coming next. She is Down’s free-taker as well, an important job to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
14 Orlaith Prenter (Antrim)
WOULD not look out of place in senior championship football. The Antrim full-forward was in outstanding form this season and more than played her part in their inaugural Ulster intermediate success and their run to the All-Ireland intermediate semi-finals. She is every defender’s nightmare, extremely hard to mark and even when you think she has nowhere to go, she can still get her shot away and score.
15 Niamh Hegarty (Donegal)
CAME back into the Donegal panel just before the Ulster final against Armagh and into the starting line-up as a late change. Her impact was instant. Her strength and experience helped Donegal take the game to Armagh and she played her part in winning back the provincial title. In the All-Ireland series, she was on the end of moves that yielded wins over Waterford and Meath to see Donegal into the quarter-finals.