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Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill has regained fitness

Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill has regained fitness

Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill has regained fitness

The Allianz Leagues make up 70pc of the competitive inter-county games but what influence will they have on the All Stars teams next October? History shows that despite their 30pc share of the schedule, the provincial and All-Ireland championships always dominate the All Star selections.

That’s down mainly to the season-defining impact the championships exert on all counties but the timing of the All Stars nomination/selection process is also a factor.

The nomination meetings are usually held in the days after the All-Ireland football final, followed by the selection meeting a few weeks later at a time when championship performances are fresh in everybody’s mind while the league is a distant memory.

Still, that should not totally overshadow performances in the league which, this year, featured 118 football and 94 hurling games. Who would be nominated/selected if the All Stars were chosen on the basis of performances in the recent leagues? MartinBreheny offers his choices

Football

Goalkeeper: David Clarke (Mayo), Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

At a time of high goalkeeping standards, Morgan has confidently announced his arrival at the top table. Very much in vogue with the apparently new requirement that a goalkeeper must be a long-range score taker from frees and '45s', he was Tyrone's joint second-highest marksman (0-18).

He was also good on shot stopping. Cluxton and Clarke did well too while last year's All Star 'keeper Paul Durcan was one of the few Donegal men to take championship form into this year's league.

Selection: Morgan.

Full-backs: Ger Cafferkey (Mayo), Jonny Cooper (Dublin), Cathal McCarron (Tyrone), Niall McGee (Donegal), Hugh McGrillen (Kildare), Ollie Lyons (Kildare), Kevin O'Brien (Dublin), Gerard O'Kane (Derry), Marc O Se (Kerry)

A Tyrone-Mayo-Kildare combination gets the nod in what has, so far, been a moderate season across the full-back line. It tends to get better as the year goes on and more sophisticated defensive systems kick in.

McCarron, who was ultra-dependable as Tyrone made solid progress, has typified the improvement made by the Red Hands this year while Cafferkey is an extremely solid performer who delivers consistently in an understated sort of way.

The same goes for McGrillen, who rarely has a bad day for Kildare.

Selections: McCarron, Cafferkey, McGrillen

Half-backs: Colm Boyle (Mayo), Ger Brennan (Dublin), Matthew Donnelly (Tyrone), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Stephen Lavin (Limerick), Aaron Kernan (Armagh), Paudie Kissane (Cork), Jack McCaffrey (Dublin), Tomas O Se (Kerry)

The contrast between the No 5 and No 7 choices could scarcely be greater. Lavin has been around for over a decade while McCaffrey is in his first season. Both enjoyed very good league campaigns, albeit three divisions apart.

Brennan struggled at times against Sean Cavanagh in the Division 1 final but did very well in the previous games. Overall, it wasn't a vintage spring for centre-backs. Tomas O Se delivered probably the best individual performance by a half-back as Kerry regained their best form in their final-round game against Tyrone, while Hughes was a major contributor to Monaghan's impressive march from Division 3.

Limerick had the best defensive record in the entire league (average concession 10.6pts) and nobody did more to make that happen than Lavin. He has been on the inter-county circuit for well over a decade while, McCaffrey, the other wing-back choice is a newcomer. Quite an impressive one too.

Selections: Lavin, Brennan, McCaffrey

Midfield: Johnny Buckley (Kerry), Patsy Bradley (Derry), Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone), John Heslin (Westmeath), Michael Darragh Macauley (Dublin), Aidan Walsh (Cork)

Kerry lost their first four league games but won the next three which was enough to ensure Division 1 survival. Buckley was a key figure in the revival and could be set for a really big year. Walsh is having another good season and has already positioned himself to make a convincing bid to collect a third All Star at the age of 23.

Selections: Buckley, Walsh

Half-forwards: Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone), Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Peter Harte (Tyrone), Paul Mannion (Dublin), Callum McCormack (Westmeath), Kevin McLaughlin (Mayo), James Kielt (Derry), Aidan O'Shea (Mayo)

Technically, Mannion is a corner-forward and Cavanagh a midfielder but neither are restricted by jersey numbers – hence their selection in the half-forward line. Mannion has made huge progress in a debut season that was disrupted in his first game when he took a heavy knock against Cork.

However, it was not as serious as it looked and he went on to score a total of 1-19 in his last four games.

Cavanagh is having a fine season a decade after making such a huge impact in Tyrone's All-Ireland breakthrough year while Kielt, who scored a total of 3-27, was a major influence in Derry's carefully charted course to promotion from Division 2.

Selections: Mannion, Kielt, Cavanagh

Full-forwards: Paddy Andrews (Dublin), Bernard Brogan (Dublin), Michael Conroy (Mayo), Mark Donnelly (Tyrone), Denis Glennon (Westmeath), Conor McGuinness (Monaghan), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Stephen O'Neill (Tyrone), Ian Ryan (Limerick)

Would Tyrone have won the league final if O'Neill hadn't been forced to withdraw after injuring his ankle in the warm-up?

It's quite likely as Tyrone lost by a single point to Dublin without their top scorer (O'Neill had scored an impressive 3-19 in eight league games up to then).

Brogan made no real impression on the final but had done well up to then and finished the league as top scorer (2-38) in Division 1.

McGuinness was second highest scorer (2-32) in Division 3, having played a major part in Monaghan's impressive surge to promotion and the title.

Selections: McGuinness, O'Neill, Brogan

Hurling

Goalkeeper: Patrick Kelly (Clare), Eoin Murphy (Kilkenny), Anthony Nash (Cork)

Galway's Colm Callanan gave probably the best performance of the entire league in the semi-final defeat to Kilkenny, but over the full series, Murphy, Kelly and Nash were most consistent.

Murphy took his chance when called in to replace David Herity, and the 22 year-old Glenmore man is now the No 1 choice for Kilkenny. Kelly is doing well too – he has a master tutor in Davy Fitzgerald to coach him – while Nash, last year's All Star, maintained his usual reliability.

Selection: Murphy

Full-backs: Michael Cahill (Tipperary), Johnny Coen (Galway), Paul Curran (Tipperary), JJ Delaney (Kilkenny), Paul Murphy (Kilkenny), Fergal Moore (Galway), Domhnaill O'Donovan (Clare), Paddy Stapleton (Tipperary), Jackie Tyrrell (Kilkenny)

Delaney started his career as a left half-back and later alternated between there and full-back, but he is now very much Kilkenny's specialist No 3. He remains a class act.

Murphy continues to improve at No 2 and was outstanding in last Sunday's league final. Moore's departure early in the league semi-final was a huge loss to Galway as he is very much the leading presence in their defensive set-up.

Selections: Murphy, Delaney, Moore

Half-backs: Brendan Bugler (Clare), Pat Donnellan (Clare), Brian Hogan (Kilkenny), Kieran Joyce (Kilkenny), Conor O'Mahony (Tipperary), Padraic Maher (Tipperary), Liam Rushe (Dublin), Michael Walsh (Waterford), Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)

The two Walshs and Maher have been a cut above in the first half of the season. Hogan hurled very well against Tipperary last Sunday but his task was made easier by the opposition's tactical manoeuvres. 'Brick' Walsh was, as ever, central to Waterford's solid league campaign while Tommy Walsh, although still a little short of his optimum levels, was the best No 5.

Maher struggled in the centre against Michael Fennelly in the first half last Sunday but improved later.

Selections: Tommy Walsh, Michael Walsh, Maher

Midfield: Joey Boland (Dublin), Pa Cronin (Cork), Brendan Maher (Tipperary), Kevin Moran (Waterford), Michael Rice (Kilkenny), Lester Ryan (Kilkenny)

Ryan has been one of the finds of the season, growing in influence with each game, and he now looks a certainty to be a championship starter.

As well as being a hard worker in the Derek Lyng mould, Ryan is also quite prolific, having scored 1-10 in the league. Maher looked to be back to his very best form in the league final last Sunday, scoring 0-4 from open play while also hurling a lot of ball in the middle third.

Selections: Maher, Ryan

Half-forwards: Lar Corbett (Tipperary), Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny), Declan Hannon (Limerick), Eoin Larkin (Tipperary), Conor Lehane (Cork), Tony Kelly (Clare), Richie Power (Kilkenny), Colin Ryan (Clare), Danny Sutcliffe (Dublin)

Midfield is usually Fennelly's first-choice position but he was moved forward to No 11 last Sunday and prospered to such a degree that he put 2-3 on the board from open play.

Kelly showed why he's likely to be a major presence on the Clare team for another decade at least if he avoids injury, while Sutcliffe built on a good Division 1B campaign by being one of the very few Dublin men to come anywhere close to matching Tipperary in the one-on-one duels in the league semi-final.

Selections: Kelly, Fennelly, Sutcliffe

Full-forwards: Shane Bourke (Tipperary), Seamus Callanan (Tipperary), Joe Canning (Galway), Shane Dooley (Offaly), Colin Fennelly (Kilkenny), Richie Hogan (Kilkenny), Patrick Horgan (Cork), Noel McGrath (Tipperary), Luke O'Farrell (Cork)

Hogan, Canning and McGrath hurled in a variety of positions, although Hogan spent most of his time close to opposition goal while Canning and McGrath were often to be found way out the field.

Hogan had a quiet time against Tipperary last Sunday but had been consistently dangerous in most of the previous games. Similarly, Canning was anonymous against Kilkenny in the league semi-final but had done well up to then, while McGrath impressed throughout.

Selections: Hogan, Canning, McGrath

Irish Independent