Sport Gaelic Football

Friday 23 February 2018

Dublin dazzler Aherne shows the boys how it's done

Páidí ó Sé selects the players who impressed him most in 2010

Paidi O Se

T he team that I picked for my team of the year are the men I would consider to be the best 15 to go into battle with -- but that means they might not necessarily be playing in the positions they normally play in.

While trying to decide on the right 15 for 2010, I recalled a conversation I had with Náis Moriarty, a brother of Micheál ó Muircheartaigh, and he told me about a conversation he had with the great Bill Casey. "It takes different types of individuals to make a team," he informed me.

"You have to have a reliable goalkeeper, a full-back who can clear the ball up the field. You need a cute half-forward who can get around the backs, but you are going nowhere with any team and you haven't a chance of winning if you don't have a scamper on the team. A lad that can do a job for you."

So with this in mind I got on with my deliberations. When it came to picking who would get my number one jersey I was in two minds. Initially, I thought about Dublin 'keeper Stephen Cluxton. His kick-outs are always sublime and when asked to double job and take the '45s, he did so with the swagger of a seasoned professional. But, in saying that, I also admired Brendan McVeigh's cool head against Kerry and his succession of saves. I don't think he conceded more than a penalty in the latter stages of the championship but it was his performance against Kerry that sealed it for me as I know it's no easy task to keep a full-forward line of Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy at bay.

The full-back line was an easy one for me to pick. Michael Shields slotted automatically into the number three spot. Marc ó Sé went in beside him because I would never go into battle without the Kerry corner-back; he is dependable, solid and would fight to the death. Earlier, I mentioned that Bill Casey stressed the importance of having a scamp on the team and for me that man this year was Eoin Cadogan. He can make life difficult for players when asked to. We saw how he unnerved Paul Galvin earlier in the year and he did it again in the final when faced with the task of negating Down's super captain Benny Coulter, but Cadogan wasn't fazed; he delivered when needed, he always does.

I kept the Cork theme going when I moved into the half-back line. In the run-up to the All-Ireland final, the man of the moment was Marty Clarke. He was the playmaker, the man that made Down tick and the player that needed to be put in a box. And when the third Sunday in September rolled around, Noel O'Leary stepped up to the plate and made man-marking an art form -- there was no escape for Marty Clarke. On the other wing, after a bit of deliberation, I settled for Tomás ó Sé. There were flashes of brilliance from him when the chips were down for Kerry this year. He is always there at every turn bump and fork in the road and would never let a team-mate down. Centre-back was an easy one for me this year. I went with Down's Kevin McKernan. He is a solid man and his bursts from the half-back line inspired his team but, on top of this, he is well able to take his score as we saw against Kildare and Cork.

Midfield was a particularly hard spot to narrow down as there were plenty of warriors there this season but, as I said in my column prior to the All-Ireland final, Cork's Aidan Walsh is something special and one thing for sure is that I'd be going nowhere without him. He got man of the match in the league final and wasn't far off it again in the All-Ireland final so he can perform on the big day and that's a skill in itself.

I'd put Limericks John Galvin in with him. He was a hero for his county this year and has been for over a decade. The Croom clubman taught the Kerry midfielders a lesson in this year's Munster final and we would gladly take him over the border if we could.

Johnny Doyle of Kildare is the first player to slot into my half-forward line. He was top scorer of the championship this year and he fully deserves the All Star he was finally awarded on Friday night. Donie Shine too was a revelation for me this year; he carried Roscommon to a Connacht title and stood up to Cork in the quarter-finals. On the other wing, I'd go with Brian White from Louth. He played midfield in the championship but I moved him up the field on account of his ball-winning ability.

The forwards in this year's championship were impressive and entertaining. Up until the All-Ireland final, Down's six were an unstoppable unit. But it was Dublin's Bernard Brogan who wreaked havoc on all his opponents so he is an automatic first choice for me in the number 14 jersey.

I'd have to put Colm Cooper in the corner. He delivered yet again this season. Every time he gets the ball, he is going to make a score or get one. If he'd won the ball where Bernard Brogan did at the end of the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, he'd have made something of it as only he can. My final spot goes to Benny Coulter, who came into his own in 2010 and played his heart out until the bitter end.

My manager of the year is James McCartan because he carried the Down team from nowhere to an All-Ireland final. The score of the year for me came in the Munster final between Kerry and Limerick. John Galvin caught the ball around the centre when his side was feeling the pressure. He bolted up the field, powering through anyone who attempted a challenge and stuck the ball in the back of the net. Inspirational stuff.

I'm going to go down an unconventional route with my player of the year. It has to go to Sinéad Aherne, the Dublin ladies star. I was mesmerised watching the skill she displayed in the All-Ireland final against Tyrone. She racked up 2-7 in 60 minutes with 2-4 of that coming from play. Her workrate off the ball is selfless and her vision is enviable. It would do many of the lads playing inter-county football no harm at all to look at that All-Ireland final -- they might learn a thing or two about how to be a top-class player. In one way or the other, she contributed to almost all of the Dublin scores and in the Leinster final she finished up with 3-4.

Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to today's Kerry county final between Austin Stacks and Dr Crokes but I think if West Kerry had one more game in preparation, then we'd have been in the county final and we'd have won it. I think it's great for the town of Tralee that Austin Stacks are contesting it. Rock Street is known as the street of champions and it will be a great place to be tonight if they manage to take the title.

Sunday Independent

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