Dublin legend Alan Brogan chooses his midsummer All Stars and Player of the Year so far
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I KNOW. I know. In the crowded bus of GAA things people get annoyed about, the All Stars is sitting up the front, talking loudly to the driver.
The most consistent source of outrage, so far as I can make out, is just how heavily weighted the whole thing seems to be towards the section of the Championship that takes place from this point in summer onwards.
As though the act of winning a provincial title, or even beating a gutsy route back to relevance in the qualifiers, is mostly irrelevant and certainly, superseded by all that takes place in Croke Park thereafter.
It’s an argument that has its merits, so I’ve decided to pick my mid-summer All Stars.
Some of these players will fade from contention, others will emerge but if nothing else, it highlights how unfair the provincial system is.
I’ve selected one Kerry player in the team but five from Tyrone.
Both won their provinces but Tyrone had to play four games against Derry, Cavan (twice) and an epic final against Donegal.
Kerry had to beat Clare and Tipperary and you sense that the guys who will do the business for them from here on in are playing with the handbrake on.
Still, for what it’s worth, here’s my mid-summer All Stars.
1. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
Twelve Leinster titles now and back setting standards for every one else. At the weekend, in the build-up to Bernard’s goal against Westmeath, Cluxton kicked a 50-yard ball to Ciarán Kilkenny that took out seven or eight Westmeath players where every other goalkeeper would have chosen a safe hand pass. That’s the difference.
2. Paddy McGrath (Donegal)
May have been perceived as being a weakness in that Donegal defence in the past but now, arguably a more important component than either of the McGee brothers. Kept Conor McManus to three points from play over two matches.
3. Declan Kyne (Galway)
Not, admittedly, a player I knew a lot about before this year but has been consistent at full-back for Galway. They protect him well but not the sort of number three you’d fancy getting much change out of with long, high balls.
4. Cathal McCarron (Tyrone)
A vital component again in a highly-functional Tyrone team after his recent personal struggles. May even be the best man-marker in the game at the moment. Strong, quick but equally, comfortable on the ball.
5. Tiernan McCann (Tyrone)
Just a classy, classy footballer. Mobility and control are his weapons and he’s such an important link now in almost all of Tyrone’s moves. Handles the ball with supreme confidence.
6. Peter Harte (Tyrone)
My front-runner for Footballer of the Year. Doesn’t just break hard and fast, but always finishes out his run after laying it off, looking to get on the end of the something and that’s why he’s such a goal threat. Scythed through Cavan in the replay and his point at the weekend was a one-in-ten shot.
7. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
Very much the heartbeat of this Donegal team now. The smoothest ball-carrier around - even ahead of Tiernan McCann and Peter Harte and . Whatever about the scores he kicked at the weekend, has that ability to move the ball sharply out of congestion into space with one 50-metre burst.
8. Matthew Donnelly (Tyrone)
Would have been my Footballer-of-the-Half-Year only for he was off the pitch in that brilliant late passage of the game last Sunday. Very much the modern, mobile middle man. Typical of the new Tyrone, hardly ever gives the ball away.
9. Gary Brennan (Clare)
One of the most respected footballers in Munster and nice now to see him getting recognition now on the national stage. A big guy, well able to score. Their inspiration last Sunday and, not to forget, their Division 3 League final win in Croke Park.
10. Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin)
From being mostly a prolific inside forward at underage levels, he’s matured into a player who can really control the tempo of a match from outside the ‘45’. One of the smartest footballers in the game at the moment.
11. Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)
Man of the match against Laois and Meath and even at the weekend, after his booking, finished well when he dropped back into midfield. Might sometimes try the outrageous a little too much but has the rare ability to pull it off.
12. Diarmuid O’Connor (Mayo)
A brilliant player. No surprise he didn’t start the day Mayo flopped against Galway. Performance against Kildare may be the best of anyone this summer so far. Rangy, pacey with great control, so can beat defenders at will. Clinical score-taker, too.
13. Paul Geaney (Kerry)
Has that patience to stay close to goal so when he does get possession, he’s within striking distance. Very accurate. Very strong. Has 2-7 from play in two games so far. An out-and-out striker.
14. Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone)
Gets in even just for the last half hour in the Ulster final. That score he kicked may well be one of the best I’ve ever seen. To bounce off three Donegal players and get that shot away in such a tense part of such a huge match was the hallmark of what he is - one of the all-time greats.
15. Damien Comer (Galway)
Hasn’t been as prolific as his team-mate Danny
Cummins but his ball-winning ability is class. Roscommon had four different markers on him last Sunday in the Connacht SFC final replay, all of whom struggled. Loves the physical requirements of the game and the Annaghdown smart in how he brings others into it.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Raymond Galligan (Cavan), Ronan McNamee (Tyrone), James Dolan (Westmeath), James McCarthy
(Dublin), Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin), Colm
Cavanagh (Tyrone), Paul Conroy (Galway), Brian Fenton (Dublin), Mark Lynch (Derry), Odhrán MacNiallais (Donegal), Brian Fox (Tipperary), Gary Sice (Galway), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Bernard Brogan (Dublin), Danny Cummins (Galway).