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Kerry dominates All-Stars as Paul Flynn joins elite

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Paul Flynn, Dublin

Paul Flynn, Dublin

SPORTSFILE

Paul Flynn, Dublin

All-Ireland champions Kerry dominate the 2014 All Star football team but Paul Flynn's fourth successive award has elevated him into the company of a select group of Kerry legends.

Flynn, who is rated by many observers as the best 'pound for pound' footballer in the game, has won all four awards since 2011 in the same position, right half-forward.

He becomes only the sixth Dublin footballer to win four All Star awards, joining Tommy Drumm, Paddy Cullen and Robbie Kelleher.

Only goalkeepers John O'Leary and Stephen Cluxton, who both have five each, have more. Jack O'Shea, Pat Spillane and Paidi O Se are the only footballers who can claim to even longer unbroken All Star sequences.

Spillane won six awards in a row from 1976 to 1981, O'Shea won a similar haul from 1980 to '85 while O Se won five in succession from 1981 to 1985.

Flynn's achievement to win four in a row is special as he is the first to do it in the 'qualifier' era, the addition of four rounds of qualifiers and All-Ireland quarter-finals opening up greater windows of opportunity for other counties.

He was a consistent presence all season for Dublin as they swept to league and Leinster titles and was, with Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin's most effective player during their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Donegal, scoring four superb first-half points.

But he was also hugely influential in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Monaghan. Ironically, there are only four counties represented on this year's team, mirroring the 2012 selection when only players from the four provincial winners were chosen.

In all, there are six newcomers, Kerry defensive pair Paul Murphy and Peter Crowley and midfielder David Moran, Connolly and James McCarthy and Mayo's Cillian O'Connor.

McCarthy's selection will strike a chord with Dublin supporters, given that his father John was the only regular starter of the Dublin team of the 1970s not to win an award.

It will also come as a surprise that this is Connolly's first time to be honoured, given the waves of admiration he has been creating lately.

Connolly's form for Dublin in 2013 was his most consistent in a season yet however and that is reflected in his selection. All-Ireland champions Kerry lead the way with five awards equally spread between attack and defence with one midfielder.

Stellar

Not surprisingly, James O'Donoghue wins his second successive award after a stellar campaign that will, most likely, lead to him being honoured as Footballer of the Year at tomorrow night's banquet.

Beside him, Kieran Donaghy is also included for what is his third award, having made the 2006 and 2008 teams.

Donaghy's inclusion may not please everyone given the limited window that he operated in but his impact on the season was once again seismic as he turned the drawn All-Ireland semi-final replay Kerry's way and then dominated the All-Ireland semi-final and final.

In defence, Paul Murphy's selection at right corner-back may provoke debate while the force of Peter Crowley's performances in Kerry's last three games earned him recognition.

Aidan O'Mahony is overlooked despite his performance against Donegal captain Michael Murphy in the All-Ireland final. Murphy is selected at centre-forward on the team as he picks up his second award.

Murphy spent much of the season operating in a deeper role and his inclusion at half-forward comes at a cost to his colleague Ryan McHugh or Kerry's Donnchadh Walsh.

Mayo win three awards with Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle filling the left flank of defence. Higgins is winning his third successive award after another polished season at left corner-back, his memorable battle over two All-Ireland semi-finals with O'Donoghue one of the most vivid memories of the season.

Boyle, who was on last year's team, joins Higgins with O'Connor finally graduating after successive seasons when he was named Young Footballer of the Year.

O'Connor was the championship's top scorer with a tally of 5-36, all five of his goals coming from penalties.

There was never a doubt about Neil McGee at full-back as he won his third in four years, while Neil Gallagher was an automatic choice at midfield, picking up his second award after being honoured in 2012.

The Footballer of the Year award is between O'Donoghue, Connolly and McGee, while the Young Footballer of the Year award is down to a shortlist of McHugh, his Kilcar colleague Paddy McBrearty and Galway's young gun Shane Walsh.

The hurling team will also be announced at tomorrow night's gala function in the National Convention Centre.

Irish Independent