Danny Hughes: 'Yes, I am biased, but I can still make an argument for Pat Havern'

Danny Hughes makes the argument for Down's Pat Havern to win an Irish News Ulster Allstar
Danny Hughes makes the argument for Down's Pat Havern to win an Irish News Ulster Allstar

IT'S The Irish News Ulster Allstar Team of the year, time again and as I get older, the seasons just fly by.

If you find yourself thinking that the year drags, well I can tell you, one minute you are in your twenties and the next, you are being written off as being too old - and, as Stephen Cluxton, Conor McManus and Karl O’Connor have proved, age is a number.

Finally, we're all beginning to realise that being over 30-years-old is no longer an accurate indicator that your time is up.

Keep going, is my advice...

1. Rory Beggan (Monaghan)

BRILIANT year again for the experienced and brilliant Farney netminder. He puts the ‘R’ in risk but then the rewards are huge, helping to draw the opposition teams out of their defensive structures. From placed balls, there are few better. Honourable mention goes to Odhran Lynch of Derry.

2. Conor McCluskey (Derry)

THE launch pad for Derry attacks and his ability to break through defensive lines makes his contribution critical to Derry’s overall game plan. From corner-back he could find himself being moved to wing-back as he gets older and more experienced and like Donegal Ryan McHugh, has a huge future in Derry colours.

3. Pierce Laverty (Down)

WHILE Down were beaten by Meath in the Tailteann Cup final, we should not forget that Laverty was the assigned man-marker for all the opposition's danger men throughout the season.

Laverty had a very strong League campaign and carried that into the opening Championship win over Donegal. He was one of the few Down men who came out of the Armagh game with his reputation intact and again did a huge job throughout the Tailteann Cup campaign. He's captain of Down for a reason.

4. Chrissy McKaigue (Derry)

LIKE Laverty, an assigned man-marker and even into his 30s remains the go-to man for the Oak Leaf county. Leads by example, and few could question his commitment on and off the field to club and county. While he ended a difficult day against God's own assigned GAA son on earth - David Clifford - otherwise another good year in the Derry colours.

5. Karl O’Connell (Monaghan)

WITH a few injuries over the last number of years, having played against Karl at the latter end of my own career, I had assumed that he would struggle to regain the consistent form that he had become synonymous with Monaghan. The season just passed will go down as a superb one, all things considered, and like a fine wine, managed to play brilliantly as the year went on. Richly deserves an Allstar in my eyes.

6. Padraig McGrogan (Derry)

ANOTHER man who has come to the fore as a leader in this Derry side. Alongside Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers and Shane McGuigan, McGrogan is key to an aggressive press and breaking into counter-attacks. All action and chips in with a few scores and assists, which is key now to any playing philosophy.

7. Conor McCarthy (Monaghan)

A REVELATION at half-back and has helped to take some of the pressure off Conor McManus as a scoring threat.

The ability to shoot outside the normal ranges is a feather in his cap that makes him a very dangerous threat to the opposition.

8. Brendan Rogers (Derry)

YOU almost feel the freedom allowed by his move to midfield has helped him in overtaking Conor Glass as the dominant force around the middle. Tohill had McGilligan were the iconic partnership, historically, in Derry so don’t ask me who is who in this modern relationship between Glass and Rogers. Derry would not be where they are unless they had these two players in the middle – Rogers just pips Glass this year.

9. Ciaran Mackin (Armagh)

BRILLIANT all year and followed up his strong League campaign with a better Championship. Noteworthy games included that group match in Galway when his strong running and ability to break the tackle, allowed Armagh to punch holes in defensive lines. A worthy recipient.

10. Rian O’Neill (Armagh)

REMAINS Armagh’s best player and when you think about top players you ask the question: would they get into the best team in the country – In O’Neill's case the answer is Yes.

When he isn’t there (injured or suspended), his absence is felt and they might get through a game and result on adrenaline, but long-term you need O’Neill firing. He will get a few more of these awards by the time his career is over.

11. Pat Havern (Down)

YES, I am biased, however, I can still make an argument for Pat. Top scorer in League and Championship for Down and arguably his best year in the red and black.

His scoring from dead balls, pulling the team through a number of games; he was needed in so many different positions this season in order to add a bit of physicality, his statistics could have been even better.

12. Darragh Canavan (Tyrone)

SON of God, nephew of Pascal, Canavan has a huge career ahead of him. Forget about travelling and time-out, this lad is made of the right stuff. Football will be good to him and he will be good to football. Only pity for him is that Tyrone are in transition.

13. Andrew Murnin (Armagh)

HIGH or low – Murnin can win the ball any which way. Again like Karl O’Connell, tortured through injury in recent years, the expectations were probably limited enough given his record. Aided and assisted in some huge scores throughout the season and won ball no man should around the middle at times. A proper character.

14. Shane McGuigan (Derry)

I SAW a discussion on social media around McGuigan and whether he would get into the Dublin forward line – I thought, what’s to discuss – of course he would. One of the most accurate players in the game currently, his form has allowed Derry to become the force they are today. Had Derry made an All-Ireland final, he would've been in the running for POTY.

15. Conor McManus (Monaghan)

WITHOUT the sentiment, McManus remains one of the best forwards in the game. Has assumed another role for Monaghan, coming more to the fore in Championship as opposed to the League – but, regardless, his form is such that Vinny Corey couldn’t leave him as an impact sub against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-finals. McManus had to start and it’s a testament to his skills, experience and character, he would be instrumental in running Monaghan so close to beating the eventual All-Ireland champions.

Click here to vote for your team and pick your Player of the Year

Shane McGuigan would be in the Player of the Year shake-up had Derry reached an All-Ireland final Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Shane McGuigan would be in the Player of the Year shake-up had Derry reached an All-Ireland final Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.