Sunday 18 August 2019

Comment: Cluxton 'snub' won’t consume players – most would be content with just a nomination

Stephen Cluxton
Stephen Cluxton

Dick Clerkin

'To be brutally honest with you Joanne, I am over the bloody moon. Those countless hours on that feckin' foam roller have finally paid off, and tonight I got what I feel I deserved.'

Obviously Andy Moran was never going to give the acceptance speech we all wanted to hear, after deservedly receiving the Footballer of the Year Award on Friday.

Stephen Cluxton. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton. Photo: Sportsfile

Andy being Andy, instead, smothered RTé presenter Joanne Cantwell with humility thus directing all the praise towards his team-mates.

"It was great to be here representing the team, but it was the team that got me here in the first place…"

We shouldn't have been surprised with Andy Moran's humble offerings. These days it has become par for the course for GAA players not to be seen to be in any way self-concerned, to the point that you could be fooled into thinking that personal accolades don't matter. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Any player that tells you otherwise is either a liar, or has a shed full of them. Awards like the All-Stars, are not an affront to the collective ethos, more a recognition of outstanding individual contribution to that same team effort. Players rarely, if ever, discuss individual awards collectively.

Hugo Clerkin. Photo: Sportsfile
Hugo Clerkin. Photo: Sportsfile

Man of the Match awards, Player of the Months etc, are dealt with out of hours. Of course, the odd wink, nod and text will be forthcoming, but not to the extent that it could distract from the mid-season team effort.

A solemn reverence painted the expressions of most winners in Dublin's Convention Centre on Friday night. Yet as the film title goes…. 'Inside I'm Dancing' is an appropriate turn of phrase to describe how all the winners must have been truly feeling after being named on the star-studded team.

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Cards on the table, I would have loved to have won an All-Star during my career, and make no apologies for saying so. Unfortunately, the cards never fell right for me, and any pre-August form would get duly trumped by the protagonists involved at the business end, leaving me with simply not enough credit in the bank for when it mattered. C'est la vie!

In 1985, it is largely accepted that my father Hugo would have won an All-Star in midfield had he not been sent off in Monaghan's All Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Kerry.

Different rules applied back then, and his unfair dismissal kept him out of the reckoning.

Thanks to some theatrics from a Kerry great, a mantelpiece space lies empty in the Clerkin household that should instead symbolise due recognition for a stellar career. He would never talk about it to anyone, and is uncomfortable when people bring it up. Humility isn't a modern-day GAA phenomenon I guess.

As much as for myself, I would have loved to win one for him. However, you can never put that type of ambition ahead of any team goal and I didn't.

So to that end, I spent more time - in my so-called prime years - limiting the influence of All-Stars on the opposing team, than trying to impress any judges, to win my own.

Regardless, I must admit that I can't shake an overwhelming sense of yearning every year when the awards come around. I'd safely say that I am not on my own in this regard.

The Annual All-Stars awards never fail to throw up some controversy, and this year didn't disappoint. David Clarke getting the marginal nod ahead of the seemingly unflappable Dublin netminder caused a stir.

Yet pity for the four-time All-Ireland winner, five-times All-Star and generally winning at life Dublin captain, Stephen Cluxton, won't run deep for too many.

The reaction of disdain from the Dublin faithful is understandable, but while a sizeable voice cries foul on Cluxton's apparent snub, it is the nominations and the occasional statuettes for those from the less fashionable counties that carry far more interest for me.

With two proven heavyweights in the ring, this was never a year for the underdog or dark horse.

A strong case could have been made for a Mayo-Dublin whitewash such was the standard of their performances in the 'Aug-tember' period. But I' sure that outside the award winners, smatterings of personal pride and satisfaction were strewn around the Convention Centre on Friday night. Roscommon's Conor Devanny, our own Fintan Kelly, and Down's Connaire Harrison and Caolan Mooney to name a few.

Not being patronising, but with the odds firmly stacked against them, it might prove to be their only visit to the year-end showpiece. Regardless, the sense of pride for them, their family and clubs over the past few weeks would have been palpable.

Mirroring our competition structures, the All-Stars are anything but equitable and fair. The awards are inextricably tilted in the favour of those shining for the semi-finalists and finalists in 'Aug-tember' (or soon to be August with the impending arrival of the Super 8s), and the shop window they provide generally prove to be nothing but a pipe dream for many.

Yet there is no doubting the credentials of every winner, who each fully deserve their place in GAA folklore. Their stonewall expressions may not show it, but all of Friday night's winners will be bulging with pride having received the game's highest personal accolade.

They shouldn't be afraid to show it either. While he mightn't let on, sitting on his foam-roller this morning I'm sure Andy Moran is the proudest man in the country. Along with all of the other winners, Andy has every right to be.

To the All-Star class of 2017, I enviously salute you!

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