Monday 19 February 2018

Just two players from outside Dublin and Mayo make Ciarán Whelan's team of the year

These three made the team
These three made the team

Ciarán Whelan

Michael Fitzsimons, Brian Fenton and Lee Keegan among those omitted from Ciarán Whelan's Team of the Year. Check out his XV below.

1. STEPHEN CLUXTON (Dublin)

David Clarke was called into action more often, partly due to a more porous defence and partly just because he played more games. But Cluxton is the one who controls this Dublin team and even when Mayo got at his kick-outs in the first half on Sunday, he steadied things with shorter restarts. Also pulled off big saves from Daniel Flynn, Jack McCarron, Peter Harte and Jason Doherty along the way.

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Dublin's Stephen Cluxton. Photo: Sportsfile

2. CIAN O’SULLIVAN (Dublin)

Excellent on Sunday. He orchestrates the Dublin defence and can mark or sweep equally effectively. Got forward when required in the All-Ireland final too, having performed a completely different covering task – along with Johnny Cooper – in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over Tyrone. Mick Fitzsimons narrowly misses out here after a stellar season but a difficult final first half on Andy Moran.

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Cian O’Sullivan of Dublin with his niece Sophie Wendell and other family members. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

3. COLM CAVANAGH (Tyrone)

People will say he didn’t have to mark anyone but there are plenty of players who have won All Stars in recent years that that haven’t had to mark. Uniquely, he got forward to kick crucial scores for Tyrone in Ulster and put in huge mileage just to cover back whenever they lost possession. One of Tyrone’s leaders, their best player this year and given the role he played, you can’t really justify picking him in midfield.

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Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh. Photo: Sportsfile

4. KEITH HIGGINS (Mayo)

Like Cavanagh, enjoyed the benefit of being left free for large periods this summer but was the player that reignited Mayo in this year’s Championship at a time when they only looked short of being put out of their misery. When he was let attack in the replayed All-Ireland quarter-final against Roscommon, he devoured the ground and linked the play better than anyone, showing why Mayo are such an effective running team. Easy inclusion. A warrior.

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Keith Higgins

5. COLM BOYLE (Mayo)

A load-bearing feature of the Mayo team for over a decade. Another leader and another electric ball-carrier. Mayo missed his energy in every game he exited early and whatever the mechanics behind his substitutions, he still looked like having energy to finish every match, bar maybe last Sunday’s final. Took the game to Kerry in both the drawn semi-final and the replay.

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Colm Boyle

6. CHRIS BARRETT (Mayo)

Had a massive game last Sunday. Put on a masterclass of tackling, successfully stripping the ball from Dublin players on four separate occasions in one-on-one confrontations. For that reason, very close to being Man of the Match. Has become one of the most adhesive man markers in the game and holds the Mayo defence together when the two aforementioned colleagues bomb forward.

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Mayo's Chris Barrett

7. JACK McCAFFREY (Dublin)

A huge loss for Dublin on Sunday. He scares the life out of teams, penetrating from deep and carried the ball more effectively than anyone against Tyrone. A significant re-addition to the Dublin team and it’s a shame he’ll be out for such a prolonged period but their attacking dynamic looked much better for his re-inclusion.

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Jack McCaffrey

8. JAMES McCARTHY (Dublin)

Was asked to move position this summer and had maybe his best one yet. I have the height of admiration for his attitude and in awe of his physical capabilities. Glides across the ground at phenomenal pace and hits as hard as anyone in the game. Not a guy you’d want to go toe-to-toe with. He has basically everything and when Dublin needed something last Sunday, he was the man who delivered most.

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James McCarthy, left, and Dean Rock of Dublin following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

9. AIDAN O’SHEA (Mayo)

Has made too many headlines this year, many of which were unfair. But when Mayo were about to fall off the edge of a cliff against Derry, Clare and Cork, he was the one that stood up in the middle of the part and single-handedly drove them on. Asked to do a completely different role against Kerry but by the replay, was outstanding. Ran out of puff in the final but an outstanding player.

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Aidan O'Shea of Mayo celebrates after beating Kerry in the semi-final replay

10. KEVIN McLOUGHLIN (Mayo)

Mayo’s odd-job man in that he does a bit of everything and mostly, does them all to a high level of quality. Sweeper last summer but carried possession from a higher position on the field in this year’s Championship and kicked some big scores, too. Savage work rate and always energised to lend a hand to the defensive effort.

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Kevin McLoughlin

11.CON O’CALLAGHAN (Dublin)

What a year. Kildare game was his finest performance – the day he announced his arrival - but his goalscoring contributions to the All-Ireland semi-final and final were just stunning. Young Footballer of the Year without question and seems to have the necessary faculties to go on and achieve even greater things from here.

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Con O'Callaghan of Dublin scores his side's first goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

12. CIARÁN KILKENNY (Dublin)

Possession stats were spectacularly down in the final but the reason Lee Keegan was put on him in the first place was in recognition of Ciarán Kilkenny being the man that makes Dublin tick. Never afraid to take the ball, to control the play and keeps the communication flowing in that sector. Kicked 1-9 over the course of the Championship, breaking his goal-scoring duck, and has become one of the leaders of one of the greatest teams ever.

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Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny after beating Mayo in the All Ireland final

13. ANDY MORAN (Mayo)

Doesn’t require much explanation. Enjoyed his finest season ever at the age of 33 and having been written off as finished after tearing a cruciate three years ago and used as a substitute by previous management. Indeed, had his best games against the biggest teams, kicking a total of 2-9 against Kerry and Dublin over the course of three games. Seemed unlucky to succumb to a hamstring injury last Sunday. Contender for Player of the Year.

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Andy Moran

14. PAUL GEANEY (Kerry)

Kerry’s ‘go-to man’. Always looks like scoring when the got the ball in his hand. Comfortable taking scores off either foot, from angles and distance and showed his intent by tearing into Cork in the Munster final. Amassed 1-29 over the span of an otherwise disappointing Championship for the Kingdom.

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Kerry's Paul Geaney. Photo: Sportsfile

15. PAUL MANNION (Dublin)

Came of age this year. Became an automatic starter and one of Dublin’s most important forwards. When a small bit of space opened up last Sunday in the second half, he went to town and won ball when all around him were fumbling. Work rate and turnovers against Tyrone were hugely impressive. Finished the summer with 0-17, all from play.

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Paul Mannion of Dublin with the Sam Maguire cup following his side's victory during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

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