Saturday 25 March 2017

Brogan boys lead way in Dubs' change for the better

Colm O'Rourke opts to ignore some questionable All Star nominations when picking his team of the year

Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

One of the great things about picking a team which does not play is that you can never be wrong. There have been many occasions with picking real teams in big games when I was very wise after the event. It is always easy to make judgements on players and teams after defeat and realise the mistakes. I have often got away with bad decisions which, like an undertaker's, are always covered up, in my case by victory.

It has therefore made me rather reluctant to blame managers when a result goes against them because I have been there at many levels and have seen the best of decisions go pear-shaped. So picking a team of the year comes with the ultimate safety net that it will never be judged on the field of play.

I am surprised the GPA have amalgamated their awards with the GAA. Most players' bodies keep their independence in this regard and there is no reason why the two could not exist in perfect harmony. A player puts a special emphasis on any award from their peers and the GPA should not have got involved in any other scheme.

In fact, it is a very healthy thing for the GPA to keep a certain distance from the GAA in general. Otherwise a players' organisation will just be smothered by kindness and the nature of the groups is that a degree of tension should always exist between them.

In picking a team I am not passing much remarks on the nominations for the All Stars, which is a nice bonus for a player but ultimately irrelevant as a guide to a player's value. On occasions, the best have not being recognised by this scheme, but in general there are few times when the selection is a complete turkey.

Last year I found it hard to figure how Daniel Goulding was left out after being the main reason Cork won the All-Ireland -- this year's defeat by Mayo only emphasising that his loss through injury was much greater than the loss of an ordinary player. And when I see Diarmuid Connolly nominated after being sent off in one championship match and taken off in two, while someone like Bryan Cullen, who did a lot of very valuable unseen work, is left out, I begin to doubt these nominations.

And so to my team of the year:

1 Stephen Cluxton

(Dublin)

Did everything well and with so many backs in front of him was never exposed as against Meath last year. No more jokes then about the time being five past Cluxton. He who laughs last, laughs longest. His unwillingness to speak and willingness to get back to work straight after the All-Ireland win only added to his appeal.

2 Marc ó Sé

(Kerry)

Has to be in as he always gets the privilege of marking the opposition's best forward. Maybe not as outstanding as in other years, but his performance in the league match between Kerry and Dublin was imperious. Needs to move outfield next year where he will be the king, and leader of the Kingdom.

3 MICK FOLEY

(Kildare)

Unusual for Kildare in that he was a sort of attacking full-back. Good footballer who does not get too upset by an occasional mistake. Different from a lot of other full-backs in that he marks his own man and is not looking to be bailed out by a half-forward standing in front of him.

4 KEITH HIGGINS

(Mayo)

Plays on every Mayo team, football, hurling, skittles and wherever else he is needed. Has become a better defender and had a marvellous first half against Roscommon in the Connacht final and similar against Cork. Bad day against Kerry but who hasn't had one of those?

5 DONAL VAUGHAN

(Mayo)

THERE is A bit of dash and defiance about Vaughan. Points the way forward for a new wave of Mayo players under James Horan. Got a bit lost this year at times but looks like a genuine prospect with a bright future.

6 KARL LACEY

(Donegal)

Undoubtedly the biggest loss of the year when having to go off against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. Well able to play himself and does not need all the bodyguards riding shotgun beside him even if they did allow him to play a loose role which he is very good at.

7 KEVIN NOLAN

(Dublin)

Another of those Dublin players who has never heard the word 'flash' spoken about himself or his game. Kicked a big point in the final but was happy to stay back and mind the house in a very quiet, unfussy way.

8 ALAN O'CONNOR

(Cork)

Great league and storming second half in Munster final against Kerry. Wheels fell off against Mayo but has improved his ball skills enormously. Last year I thought he was a very average midfielder but he was a different animal this season. Shows that hard work does have its rewards.

9 BRENDAN MURPHY

(Carlow)

Of course we don't see very much of him and while the county system is generally good for the GAA, there are times when outstanding players fail to get the recognition they deserve just by a quirk of geography. If he came from a big county, he would be one of the main men. Can blow a fuse quickly but a big talent.

10 BEN BROSNAN

(Wexford)

Looks like he should be a guitarist with a rock and roll band, actually, maybe he is because when he puts on a Wexford jersey he makes a bit of music. Great at the dying art of kicking the ball off the ground. Strong, brave and competitive and could get a whole lot better.

11 DARRAN O'SULLIVAN

(Kerry)

Another player who has become a success after years of trying. Always had speed, now he has added control, vision and has improved his kicking for points immeasurably. One of the best individual players this year.

12 EAMONN CALLAGHAN

(Kildare)

Great mover, hard worker, natural scorer. Has a way to go but is on the right road. Could be one of the players of the future if he adds dogged persistence to his natural ability. A thousand before him chose wine, women and song instead of trying to win an All-Ireland but Kieran McGeeney will hardly let him slip.

13 ALAN BROGAN

(Dublin)

Probably his best year for Dublin in terms of work-rate. Went back to his bad old ways occasionally when taking on impossible shots but the new Brogan added considerably to Team Dublin as distinct from times in the past when a lot of players did their own thing. The reward for him personally has been great.

14 COLM COOPER

(Kerry)

Maybe not his best year but most county managers would like to have him, even in a bad year. If some Kerry players had just handed him the ball in those last minutes of the final when he had moved outfield then there would be no manure being thrown in the direction of a fan in the south-west. Great semi-final and very good final. What else can a man do? As always, he will go back and turn it on for his club.

15 BERNARD BROGAN

(Dublin)

Very good under pressure in the big games. Should thank Pat Gilroy for making him a much better player and the value of good management was shown when he was taken off in the Leinster final. Yet Dublin could not win the big games without him even though he was shadowed by a posse of defenders. Player of the year last summer but much better for the team this season and an All-Ireland to show for it. No marks for guessing which he would pick as more important. That little medal is worth much more than its weight in gold.

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