Frank Roche's end-of-season Gaelic Football Awards - Player and score of the year gongs decided
AT the outset of this end-of-season column, we’d like to clarify that Dublin footballers did not - in fact - win everything this year.
For all his undoubted managerial savvy, Jim Gavin still hasn’t landed an Ulster title, a Connacht crown or a Munster medal.
Moreover, just because Gavin did indeed topple his one-time northern nemesis, the supremos of the south, and the erstwhile invincibles of the west ... well, beating the collective might of Donegal, Kerry and Mayo still doesn’t excuse Dublin for their shocking dereliction of duty last January, losing to Longford in the O’Byrne Cup.
Shame on them. Some extra pre-dawn sessions in November surely beckon.
Meanwhile, in that brief hiatus between last Saturday and this weekend’s renewal of the local club championship, our triumphant Dubs can look forward to endless more plaudits. Starting with our Roche’s Point awards ... although, we should stress, they don’t win everything.
FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
1 BRIAN FENTON (DUBLIN)
A close call. Fenton (right) was our clear favourite ahead of the All-Ireland replay, but had one of his quieter days and his rivals below narrowed the gap. But not quite enough, we surmise. Fenton’s calm authority and athleticism all summer - especially against Donegal, Kerry and Mayo (day one) - gave Dublin a vital midfield foothold even as his partners chopped and changed.
2 LEE KEEGAN (MAYO)
For all of the loaded debate about Keegan’s favoured methods for curtailing Diarmuid Connolly, even diehard Dubs can see the brilliance of Mayo’s No 5. He’s a man-marking nuisance who doubles as a fantastic counter-attacker, as underlined by his displays against Seán Cavanagh and Connolly, over one-and-half games. But for that black card, Mayo fans might wonder, would the outcome have been different?
3 CIARÁN KILKENNY (DUBLIN)
The capital’s possession king has seen his role evolve quite radically, even from the first game of summer when he clipped 0-4 in Nowlan Park. He added just one more point over the next six games, but no Dub has handled the ball more often and his versatility could be seen in how he dovetailed between between half-forward and half-back, in a de facto ‘quarterback’ role.
YOUNG FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
DIARMUID O’CONNOR (MAYO)
By the official yardstick (eligible for U21) there are very few contenders. Con O’Callaghan saw negligible game-time for the Dubs, Jimmy Feehan heas a couple of Tipp contenders ... but O’Connor should become the second member of his clan to be win back-to-back Young Footballer awards.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
1 LEE KEEGAN (Mayo v Dublin): A superb pitch-length move and a stupendous finish. This worthy winner would grace any final.
2 DAMIEN COMER (Galway v Tipperary): The catch and pass (Paul Conroy). The run and bullet finish (Comer). A real ‘wow!’ moment.
3 KEVIN McMANAMON (Dublin v Westmeath): Kevin Mac presses the after-burners, completes a one-two, takes one hop, one solo ... and one gloriously precise finish.
SOLO GOAL SUB-SECTION
1 DAVID CLIFFORD (Kerry minors v Galway): A run and finish worth rewatching. A future star to watch.
2 PAUL MANNION (Dublin v Donegal): How to beat the Donegal blanket.
POINT OF THE YEAR
1 PETER HARTE (Tyrone v Donegal): Taken as part of a box-set with Seán Cavanagh’s incredible equaliser moments before, Harte’s winner was a jaw-dropping monster.
2 DIARMUID CONNOLLY (Dublin v Kerry): A curling masterpiece of an insurance point, off his allegedly weaker left.
3 CILLIAN O’CONNOR (Mayo v Dublin): As pressure equalisers go, this tops the lot.
SAVE OF THE YEAR
BRIAN KELLY (Kerry v Dublin): A fingertip to deny Philly McMahon. Here’s a thought: would Bryan Sheehan have reached it?
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1 Jim Gavin; 2 Liam Kearns; 3 Stephen Rochford.
GAME OF THE YEAR
1 Dublin v Kerry; 2 Dublin v Mayo replay; 3 Dublin v Mayo draw.
BORE OF THE YEAR
1 Galway v Roscommon draw; 2 Kerry v Clare in Croke Park; 3 Anything in Leinster.
INDIVIDUAL DISPLAY OF THE YEAR
Paddy McBrearty’s 11 points, seven from play, for Donegal against Cork.
TEAM DISPLAY OF THE YEAR
Given their still-recent minnow status, it must be Tipperary’s shock-and-awe rout of Galway.
SHOCK OF THE YEAR
1 Longford v Monaghan; 2 Tipp v Cork; 3 Galway v Mayo.
FLOP OF THE YEAR
Roscommon v most teams after March.
GAFFE OF THE YEAR
No contest. Mayo dropping David Clarke for the replay.