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Donegal's dozen lead nominations

WINNING an All-Ireland is clearly a boost to your All Star prospects. Simply reaching the final can enhance your claims. Being a Kerry footballer used to open so many All Star doors ... not this year.

So it is with the nominations for the GAA GPA All Stars football team, sponsored by Opel and unveiled today. Over two-thirds of the players who started last month's All-Ireland final make the 45-man cut, and there's even a place for stricken Mayo skipper Andy Moran, whose season was cruelly aborted by injury in early August.

But there's just a solitary Kerryman - the perennial Colm Cooper - included after a deflating summer campaign which saw the Kingdom dumped out of Munster by Cork, scared half-to-death by Westmeath and, after a brief 'back door' flourish, banished at the quarter-final stage by Donegal.

Which brings us to the inevitable table-toppers in this year's list. As expected, Tír Chonaill's march to a first All-Ireland title in 20 years has been reward with 12 nominations.

It's easier to name-check the trio of Donegal starters omitted, namely forwards Leo McLoone, Ryan Bradley (despite his Ulster heroics) and Paddy McBrearty, who has the consolation of making the three-man shortlist for Young Footballer of the Year.

The overall Footballer of the Year gong is definitely heading to the north-west with Karl Lacey, Colm McFadden and Frank McGlynn making it a clean sweep of Donegal nominations.

Mayo's dismay at yet another September heartbreak should be eased slightly by the inclusion of 10 nominees.

The two vanquished semi-finalists are also strongly represented, with seven players from NFL and Munster champions Cork and six Dubs on the shortlist.


That Sky Blue sextet includes five reigning All Stars - goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, Kevin Nolan, Michael Darragh Macauley (nominated at half-forward instead of midfield), Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan -- plus the man who glues their full-back line together, Rory O'Carroll.

However, after an underwhelming title defence, Dublin face a battle for recognition when the final 15 are unveiled at the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday, October 26.

An intriguing feature is the paucity of footballers from beaten quarter-finalists - Kerry talisman Cooper, Kildare's half-back dynamo Emmet Bolton, Laois midfielder Brendan Quigley and Down forward Conor Laverty are the sole representatives from each.

In one respect this is no huge surprise, given how all four emerged through the qualifiers and then, in the case of Down and Kildare, imploded at the last-eight stage.

However, Kerry's fall from their noughties glory is the standout statistic. It's their lowest representation since 2003 when, after Tyrone suffocated them in the semi-final that prompted Pat Spillane's infamous "puke football" jibe, they had just one nominee (Tomás O Sé) and no All Star. Now history looks poised to repeat itself.

By contrast, Meath and Longford are each rewarded with a brace of nominees despite making July exits. The Royals' prolific converted midfielder, Graham Reilly, has his chance in the half-forwards while Donal Keogan (a frontrunner for Young Footballer of the Year) will be pushing for a corner-back slot.

Meanwhile, for Longford, there are places for Aussie Rules returnee Michael Quinn at half-back and the evergreen Paul Barden at half-forward.

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