IF you don't reach the ultimate or penultimate rounds of the All Ireland championship, you can largely kiss your chances of landing a coveted All Star award goodbye.
There's no question about it: that's harsh on players from counties outside the top rank. Should greater consideration be given to guys like Longford's Sean McCormack? The third highest scorer in this year's championship? To Westmeath's John Heslin who put in a stormer against Kerry in the second round of the All Ireland qualifiers? Without a doubt.
It's simply the case that those who end up on these end of season teams do so because pundits and commentators have been exposed more to them than others.
Is it possible to make an informed assessment of a Carlow wing-back (as opposed to a Donegal wing-back) when you might not have seen much, or any, of Carlow's games in this year's championship?
There will always be a sizable enough body of opinion out there that contends that the All Stars are selected far too much from the counties, which contest the All Ireland final. Then again, you have to consider the reason teams, such as Donegal, win All Irelands is that they have the best collection of players in that particular season.
It's no surprise, then, to discover, having put pen to paper to sketch out our best fifteen players from 2012, that eight of them came from Donegal, five from Mayo, two from Dublin and one from Cork. You might well have noticed the absence by now of anyone from the Kingdom on that list. That's not to say that Kerry don't still have top quality players, they do. On this occasion, however, it was hard to construct an argument for their inclusion on a team of the year.
Colm Cooper remains the most talented footballer in the country. No question. What he didn't do was have a better or more effective season than Colm McFadden. Declan O'Sullivan is still a class act, but was he as effective as Kevin McLoughlin? Tomás Ó Sé gave it his all, yet we still feel that the energy and force brought to bear by the youthful Lee Keegan had a more of an influence on Championship 2012 than did the Ventry man.
The one area where Kerry might have a claim is at midfield. Bryan Sheehan's season was stunted by injury. Anthony Maher, however, stepped up to the mark impressively. RTÉ's Sunday Game opted for Aidan Walsh as their second midfielder. We can't agree with that. Contrast the performances of Walsh and Maher in their respective games against Donegal. Only one man left with his reputation enhanced and it wasn't the Cork man.
And yet we still can't put Maher on the team. Michael Darragh McAuley was selected for the majority of the season by Pat Gilroy at wing-forward and that, we contend, was a mistake. He was a driving and dynamic presence on the wing (in fairness he played as a third midfielder a lot of the time). It wasn't until the Dubs' semi-final game with Mayo appeared all but lost that Gilroy moved him into a more traditional midfielder's role and guess what? He thrived, thundered into the game and hauled Dublin back from the point of oblivion.
David Clarke deserves a spot on the team for his heroics against Dublin and, indeed, against Donegal. Frankie McGlynn has been hugely impressive in defence and attack all season. Neil McGee solid, apart from a couple of late lapses against Cork and Kerry.
Keith Higgins is a class act and proved that with another effective display in a full-back line under the kosh in the All Ireland final. Karl Lacey is in the running for player of the year, while Anthony Thompson is the unsung superstar of this Donegal team.
Up front who could argue with the inclusion of McFadden and Murphy? A few might quibble with the positioning of Mark McHugh at wing-forward. He doesn't play there you might well say. Well to that we'd say, how many wing-forwards do nowadays? It's more honest and it makes more sense to name him there than anywhere else. Remember too the guy can score. The final spot on the team goes to Cork's Colm O'Neill – the man who gave Donegal's famed defence more to think about than any other footballer this season.
Finally a word on player of the year and young player of the year. Mark McHugh has a lock on the young player award. He's taken the Galvin / Dooher role and taken it even further than either of those two great men ever did. He works harder, forages deeper and gives more of himself to the team. He has the ability (more than enough ability in fact) to play as a more traditional forward, but is more than happy to give himself over to the collective good of his team.
Player of the year? Well it has to be Colm McFadden doesn't it? Some people might well make a case for Karl Lacey or Frankie McGlynn or Neil Gallagher, but for us McFadden is the living embodiment of the McGuinness project. He was reportedly close to calling time on his inter-county career before his brother in law took the helm at Donegal. McGuinness turned around Donegal's fortunes and his. McGuinness got Donegal playing to their true potential and McFadden playing to his.
Some of the scores he hit this summer will live long in the memory. Especially those long range booming efforts against Cork in the semi-final.