Saturday 25 March 2017

Just missed the cut: Six players who were unlucky to be denied All Stars in 2016

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

The 2016 Gaelic football All Star team has been announced and no doubt the selection will be debated at length by supporters both furious/delighted in equal measure that their favouritie players were snubbed/rewarded.

Choosing the best 15 from the inter-county season that was is a very subjective task but a worthwhile endeavor, providing followers of the sport with plenty of talking points at the end of the year.

This year's selection saw All-Ireland champions Dublin lead the way with six selections, Mayo take four, Tyrone get two while Kerry, Tipperary and Donegal each receive one.

Read more: Revealed: Axed Mayo goalkeeper Clarke lands All-Star but Dubs star McManamon misses out

There wasn't anything too controversial but there are a few players who can count themselves unlucky that they didn't force their way into the lucrative selection.

Here are six inter-county stars who could have been included in the 2016 team:

Kevin McManamon

Out of all the omissions, this one is unquestionably the most eye-catching, and likely proved the toughest for the selection committee. 2016 was the season where McManamon shed the super-sub tag and became an integral part of the Dublin attack.

The St Jude's forward had a strong provincial campaign before giving top notch performances in the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final. A feature of McManamon's game this year was his exceptional point-taking from range, which was added to a repertoire previously dominated by powerful runs close to goal.

McManamon's form was so strong coming into the All-Ireland final that he was being tipped for Footballer of the Year but the Dubs star disappointed in the drawn game before improving in the first half of the replay. His subdued decider displays ultimately cost him but he still could have made the cut ahead of any forward bar Paul Geaney and Ciaran Kilkenny, and you could have justified it.

Patrick Durcan

Like Mayo, Durcan grew into the championship as it progressed, ultimately turning into one of his side's most consistent performers. Durcan defended well when needed but crucially, he followed in the tradition of his county half-back colleagues in being able to get up the field and contribute key scores.

He kicked a number of points from play in the two All-Ireland finals when Mayo's attack was stalling badly and seemed destined for an All Star after picking up the Player of the Month award for September. Could possibly have been included ahead of team-mate Colm Boyle, but that would have necessitated moving Lee Keegan to centre back.

Gary Brennan

The Clare midfielder was heroic during the Banner County's brilliant run through the qualifiers, giving a commanding all-action display in his team's round four win over Roscommon. Brennan seemed nailed on for a selection at that stage but was outplayed against Kerry in Corke Park at the quarter-final stage and his candidacy receded into the background as the big guns played out the closing stages of the championship. Might have sneaked into the team ahead of Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly.

Stephen Cluxton

Presumably the selectors reasoned that they couldn't reward Cluxton with an All Star after his calamitous ten minutes of madness against Kerry. You can see the logic in that, although Paul Durcan was selected in 2014 despite a major error in the All-Ireland final. Cluxton rebounded to have stellar All-Ireland finals, particularly in the replay when he often found team-mates in stride on halfway with booming kickouts. It was always going to be tight for the goalkeeper spot, and any one of Cluxton, Evan Comerford of Tipperary or Clarke could justifiably have been chosen.

Peter Acheson

Another midfielder who was unlucky to lose out in partnering Brian Fenton in midfield. Tipperary were one of the stories of the championship and it is a bit of a shame that they only have one selection in Michael Quinlivan. Acheson gave a number of dominant aerial performances during Tipp's qualifier run and likely lost out in a splintering of the vote across a number of candidates in midfield.

Evan Comerford

The aforementioned Tipp keeper made a number of impressive saves and was solid on kickouts too. The goalkeeper spot was the most competitive on the field but it would have been no surprise had Comerford been rewarded for a fine season with his first selection.

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