Friday 20 September 2019

Dermot Crowe: 'Latest All Star team underlines how much provincial currency has reduced in value'

Brian Howard, Colm Cavanagh and David Clifford
Brian Howard, Colm Cavanagh and David Clifford

Dermot Crowe

The diminishing relevance of the provincial championships, that dated suite of competition furniture the GAA can't seem to dispose of, is borne out by the latest All-Star football team.

This morning's announcement follows hot on the heels of the draws for the 2019 provincial football championships which were conducted recently in the glaring absence of suspense - even the more competitive versions have lost their lustre and appeal.

All-Star selectors always tended to be more influenced by the business end of the Championship but the latest team announced underlines how much provincial currency has reduced in value. And that devaluation promises to continue. Three of the four provincial winners, Kerry, Donegal and Galway, managed just one All-Star each.

Kerry conquered Munster with a brand of football that seemed to hint at an imminent challenge to Dublin's dominance. Those hopes were short-lived once they entered the Super 8s, landing another credibility blow to Munster's reputation as a meaningful battleground.

They end the year with one, admittedly illustrious, All-Star in 19-year-old David Clifford. Meanwhile, Galway, having reached the National League final, regained the Connacht Championship which is a much more competitive race in recent years, but they've managed one All-Star in Ian Burke. 

And even Ulster, long being the most competitive of the four provinces, must make do with one All-Star for its winning county. Eoghan Ban Gallagher had many admirers, a tidy footballer in the old Donegal mould, but the selectors' choice is Ryan McHugh for a string of quality performances. Donegal failed to carry the same momentum into the Super 8s and didn't make the All-Ireland semi finals.

Leinster has long been damaged as a brand, and is now a competition of little wider significance. Granted there were the welcome gains by Carlow which added a splash of colour but there are two Broadways at play here ever since Dublin took complete control of the territory. Those outside of Dublin are performing off-Broadway, if not off-off-Broadway. From there Dublin went on to dominate right to the end of the line as expected and took seven All-Stars.      

This wasn't a notoriously controversial All-Star selection, with the selectors allowed licence to shift players out of nominated positions - a flexibility denied in previous years. Colm Cavanagh, for one, benefits, by being accommodated at full back and the fluidity in selection mirrors the game itself - jersey numbers are no longer of much relevance. Cavanagh, nominated at midfield, played much of his football near his own goal.

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Of Dublin's seven winners most followers would have seen at least five as nailed-on certainties: Cooper, McCaffrey, Fenlon, Howard, Mannion and Kilkenny, with McCarthy on most lists as well. Stephen Cluxton loses out to Monaghan's Rory Beggan. Neither was infallible, Beggan's most notable error coming in the Ulster semi final against Fermanagh when he failed to deal with the long ball that led to the winning goal. His influence in kickouts, notably in the Kerry match, was a major feature of the summer. For the most part he was exceptional.

Padraig Hampsey made his claims impossible to ignore with sterling defensive jobs on top calibre forwards. Tyrone, in spite of making the All-Ireland final, claim only two All-Star recipients. The same fate befell Mayo in 2006 and Armagh in 2003, to cite just two examples. In 2007 Cork reached the final and managed only one. Cork had a modest four as All-Ireland winners in 2010 and none of the forward places.

Drew Wylie and Gallagher are hard-luck omissions in defence but Karl O' Connell will be an universally popular choice for half back. Brian Howard is given a midfield berth though he played in both half back and half forward positions, and made a huge impression on the Championship. Damien Comer and Shane Walsh were Galway bidders up front but Burke warrants his inclusion on the back of a marvellous year where he ended up with more assists than any other player in the Championships.

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