Saturday 29 April 2017

Dubs dominate while Clare are recognised - it's the football Team of the League

17 May 2015; Ryan McHugh, Donegal. Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship, Preliminary Round, Donegal v Tyrone. MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
17 May 2015; Ryan McHugh, Donegal. Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship, Preliminary Round, Donegal v Tyrone. MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Stephen Cluxton (Dublin) Cluxton played in six of Dublin's nine League matches and was beaten just once when he failed to deal properly with a high ball against Down. Otherwise, the calm authority he seemed to lose last year has been restored. Often his measurement is the precision of his kick-outs and in that respect he has been metronomic, Dublin losing just three between semi-final and final.

Jonny Cooper (Dublin) After Rory O'Carroll's departure Cooper has grown in stature over the spring campaign. Has his disciplinary issues but he is a deft tackler who consistently puts his team on the front foot.

Ger Cafferkey (Mayo) Had his moments of discomfort against Kerry again but overall Mayo can reflect on Cafferkey's six-game campaign and say that he has ridden the storms that the last two years have blown up for him.

Philly McMahon (Dublin) Effectively missed the opening two games of the campaign for disciplinary reasons but has bedded down his reputation as one of the game's leading defenders with the quality of his kicking and intelligent positioning.

James McCarthy (Dublin) If there was an order of merit in the game based on current form, McCarthy would be in No 1 spot. His stunning goal against Cork signified everything about his and Dublin's athleticism. At his ease during games, no footballer has a cruising speed like him.

Ryan McHugh (Donegal) Constantly probing from Donegal's half-back line McHugh (right)never stopping seeking ways to push Donegal forward. Almost impossible to dispossess, his movement can be dispiriting to chasing opponents.

Tiernan McCann (Tyrone) McCann's transformation to half-back has given Tyrone added dynamism as he doesn't get caught in traffic as quick or as often as he did last year. Either scored or set up Tyrone's first four goals of the campaign and continued his streak with a 'man of the match' display against Cavan in Sunday's decider.

Gary Brennan (Clare) Clare's hidden gem for so long is no longer operating by stealth. Comparisons between Division 3 and 1 are difficult, but if any player can bridge gaps it's Brennan who showed his aerial ability and class to set up both Banner goals against Kildare on Saturday. Edges out Kieran Donaghy who put together a decent run.

Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone) Operated in the lower division but no one can dispute how Cavanagh is now Tyrone's midfield anchor with an eye of defensive responsibilities. Has had a hugely consistent league run, capped by a towering display in Sunday's Division 2 final.

Gearoid McKiernan (Cavan) Very much Cavan's driving force during their successful promotion push, he finished top scorer with 1-27 from eight games but it was the quality of those points, including two magnificent efforts in last Sunday's Division 2 final, that really stood out.

Michael Murphy (Donegal) Tapered off somewhat in Donegal's closing games but Murphy delivered big performances against Cork, Kerry and especially in defeat against Roscommon when he carried his team in the second half.

Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin) The only Dublin selection in attack, chiefly because different players stepped up on different days but Kilkenny finished like a train with very strong performances in the semi-final and final to underline his growing influence since returning from serious injury.

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Ciaran Murtagh (Roscommon) Roscommon had a couple of attacking contenders - Cathal and Fintan Cregg - but Murtagh really stepped up with so many big scores feeding into big performances. The accuracy of his passing when he operated around half-forward was exceptional.

Darran O'Sullivan (Kerry) Plenty of collateral damage for Kerry after last weekend but O'Sullivan's fine League for Kerry on the inside line comfortably survived. The speedster (left) bagged 1-16 from eight starts with Kerry, tellingly, using his burst of pace as a moving target to contribute a raft of assists.

Conor McManus (Monaghan) McManus is, arguably, the most marked forward in Gaelic football and while he wasn't at his brilliant best, always the quality of his scores stood out, never more than the night of his 12 points (nine frees) against Dublin who couldn't contain him for a second successive year.

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