Saturday 18 November 2017

Five unsung football heroes

Donnchadh Walsh was an integral part of Kerry's successful 2014
Donnchadh Walsh was an integral part of Kerry's successful 2014
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

The 2014 championship has been put to bed and here are five players who may not gather many headlines, but are invaluable members of their respective teams.

Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry)

The kind of player that few outside the Kingdom will truly appreciate, Walsh gets through an incredible amount of work in 70 minutes. Not a prolific scorer, his game is a selfless one, that involves tracking back, picking up breaking ball, tireless running and creating opportunities for those around him.

Read more: If you want a job done in Kerry, ask for Donnchadh Walsh

At his very best this year as Kerry claimed an unlikely All-Ireland, he thrived in the pressure cooker-environments of the final and the gripping encounters with Mayo. The folly of the All Stars is that the Cromane player has not been considered by many for a starting position.

Anthony Thompson (Donegal)

In a team full of big names, wing-back Anthony Thompson goes about his business quietly and efficiently. An excellent defender, it is his supporting runs from deep which are integral to the defensive strategy applied by manager Jim McGuinness.

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A dejected Anthony Thompson after the All-Ireland Final defeat

His value to his manager is clearly evident by numbers. Under McGuinness' watch, Donegal have played 54 National League and Championship matches. The Naomh Conaill man has appeared in 52 of them, missing League games against Cork and Kerry last year through injury and only goalkeeper Paul Durcan has played more games under the Celtic employee.

Seamus O'Shea (Mayo)

The combative Breaffy man may have to wait at least another 12 months to claim his first All Star given the strong performances of others, but his stock continues to soar in the middle of the park.

Seamus O'Shea

Not as swash-buckling as his brother Aidan, he is a box-to-box type player who is as comfortable launching attacks as he is snuffing them out at the other end. An imposing physical presence.

Brian Kelly (Kerry)

After impressing during UCC's Sigerson victory under the tutelage of Billy Morgan, Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice thrust Kelly into the limelight and has been highly rewarded.

Cillian O'Connor, Mayo, shoots to score his side's goal, from a penalty, past Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly

Since displacing Brendan Kealy, the shot-stopper has exuded confidence around him and adopted a quick-thinking restart policy.

James Loughrey (Cork)

2014 won't be fondly remembered by the Rebels and particularly their defenders after harrowing defeats to Dublin in the League semi-final and neighbours Kerry in the Munster Final.

David Kelly, Sligo, in action against James Loughrey, Cork

James Loughrey however has consistently kept up his end of the bargain and  been one of Cork's best performers since the Antrim native first lined out in red last season. Has operated in the corner and across the half-back line and is often tasked with shadowing the main attacking threat.

Antrim's loss has very much been Cork's gain.

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