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The former jersey: Dublin's Michael Darragh MacAuley celebrates his side's All-Ireland victory 2013. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

The former jersey: Dublin's Michael Darragh MacAuley celebrates his side's All-Ireland victory 2013. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

The former jersey: Dublin's Michael Darragh MacAuley celebrates his side's All-Ireland victory 2013. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

WITH the curtain coming down on what has been a great year for Dublin football culminating in the winning of a second All-Ireland championship in three years and casting an eye ahead to the All-Star awards, I have taken stock of the season and picked my Team of the Year as well as a few other highlights.

WHELO'S TEAM OF THE YEAR

 

1 STEPHEN CLUXTON (DUBLIN)

The best goalkeeper of his generation and possibly of all time. His influence on Dublin this year from placed balls as well as kickouts has been phenomenal. He had a massive year and when you weigh up what preparation Tyrone in the league final and Meath in the Leinster final had done to counteract his kickouts it's a testament to how highly regarded and influential he is.

Despite this work by the opposition he was able to come up with the answers consistently and his point-kicking particularly against Cork, when he converted two frees and four '45's, showed how vital he is to the Dublin side.

 

2 COLIN WALSHE (MONAGHAN)

He was at the heart of everything that was good in the Monaghan defence - he was tough and is a very natural corner-back, doing everything that was expected of him.

He did his work simply, was critical in the provincial final win over Donegal in quelling the attacking threat of the 2012 All-Ireland champions. He more than deserves recognition with a place in the side for the Farney's great year.

 

3 RORY O'CARROLL (DUBLIN)

Rory has been at the heart of the Dublin defence for four to five years now and has been very unlucky not to win an All-star in previous years but has really come into his own this year, particularly against Kerry in the semi-final when they were under threat and he put in some vital tackles.

His performances should also be noted for the fact that in a year when Dublin were leaving more space in front of the full-back line, he held it together at the back at crucial times and allowed the team to keep to their attacking philosophy.

The Kilmacud Crokes man deserves the full back slot and he edges out Ger Cafferkey who also had an excellent year.

 

4 KEITH HIGGINS (MAYO)

He was Mayo's top performer this year in terms of his level of consistency and how he was able to adapt to different roles.

In the Connacht championship, he played corner-back and when James Horan needed a different dimension to his forward line as the All-Ireland series progressed, he was able to go in at centre-forward and was very effective.

He caused Dublin plenty of problems in the final up front in the opening half until he was needed to revert to defence and cut off the threat of Eoghan O'Gara as he came into the game more.

He has shown this level of performance over the last three to four years and is one player who probably deserves a Celtic Cross but he is still young enough to come back and win Sam Maguire.

 

5 LEE KEEGAN (MAYO)

Keegan was super this year at attacking from the half-back line but he was also able to put in the displays that were required defensively.

He played top class football in every game getting 14 points along the way including two important scores in the final. He had a great battle with Diarmuid Connolly in the final and led the half-back line impressively and will be one of Mayo's key players going forward.

 

6 CIAN O'SULLIVAN (DUBLIN)

I picked him at No 6 due to his versatility this year, his performances in the middle of the park were very under-rated by some but he did a great job.

He was written off in certain quarters ahead of some of his one-on-one midfield battles prior to the games but was well able to hold his own and more importantly when required in defence in the All-Ireland Series, he adapted with ease performing wherever he was needed.

A great player with pace to burn, has the potential to be one of Dublin's great players.

 

7 COLM BOYLE (MAYO)

Again Boyle is part of that formidable Mayo half-back line but was able to get forward as well although he played a deeper role than Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan at times.

He was one of the main performers for Mayo in the second half against Dublin when the game was going against them, he helped keep them in it and was one of Mayo's most effective players right throughout the year.

 

8 AIDAN O'SHEA (MAYO)

I think Aidan's brother Seamus performed well also all year and probably pushed him hard for this position. A lot of people feel because of Aidan's quiet show in the final he should be ruled out but if Mayo had lost to Tyrone in the semi-final he would be in most peoples first 15.

His performance against Donegal was the most complete of the year, he has all the attributes of a top intercounty player - great engine, can kick with both feet, strong in the tackle and can dominate the aerial exchanges and he takes the first spot in midfield.

 

9 MICHAEL DARRAGH MACAULEY (DUBLIN)

When Dublin needed a leader in the middle of the park in the heat of battle, Macauley (left) stood up and came to the forefront.

He has a great pace with strength to go with it and was very consistent in producing the required displays all year but was really visible in the crucial games in the All-Ireland Series when Dublin were under pressure.

A late developer he has grown in stature and is a key component to Dublin's future.

 

10 PAUL FLYNN (DUBLIN)

Paul is a two-time All-Star already and looks set to add a third gong this year.

He must be one of the first names on Jim Gavin's teamsheet. Flynn stood up when needed with an immense second half showing against Mayo.

Flynn's industrious workrate and ability to pick off scores were evident throughout the Leinster Championship. His positive attitude can be contagious and courses through the team. He had another great year to back up his two previous excellent campaigns.

 

11 COLM COOPER (KERRY)

What can you say about 'The Gooch', he is a magician, one of the best of all time.

People questioned playing him at centre-forward but I thought it was a great move at the start of the year and it gave him a new lease of life.

Cooper is a dream to watch and is the best footpasser and finisher in modern football.

He showed his all-round ability in the Munster final and the All-Ireland semi-final.

Eamon Fitzmaurice also deserves credit making the call to change his role - it was a fine idea that worked well from him.

 

12 DIARMUID CONNOLLY (DUBLIN)

A lot of people's choice here might be Seán Cavanagh but he was just edged out in midfield for me.

Connolly played as a natural half-forward all year, he kicked four great points in Dublins toughest game of the year against Kerry and was a constant threat in games running at defences at will.

Connolly has gained valuable experience over the last few years and is probably one of Dublin's most talented footballers who can make the game look so easy and deserves his place in the Team of the Year.

 

13 JAMES O'DONOGHUE (KERRY)

He has been the Kerry find of the year, he had shown flashes of brilliance last year but has come into the main frame this year.

O'Donohue was a real thorn in the side of the Dublin defence in the semi-final particularly in the first half. He is a great goal-poacher and was also to the fore of Kerry's Munster win.

 

14 BERNARD BROGAN (DUBLIN)

I can't get my mind around how people would question Bernard's contribution throughout the year as this Dublin team has had a different dynamic playing more attacking football with the respon sibility shared right throughout the forward line.

Bernard was vital to Dublin's performance all season kicking six points in the semi-final (four from play) and 2-3 (2-2 from play) in the All-Ireland final in a man of the match performance.

When it mattered most he stood up and delivered bringing Sam back to capital.

 

15 CONOR MCMANUS (MONAGHAN)

Every team needs a marquee player and McManus (right) was definitely Monaghan's this year, he had a brilliant Ulster championship, a fantastic display against Donegal in the provincial final and very nearly won a place for his side in an All-Ireland semi final. He was consistently good and a top player all summer.


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