Sunday 21 January 2018

Standing on the shoulders of giants

The Players of the Year who inspired their counties

Donnchadh boyle

Known simply as 'Peter the Great', Canavan was knocking heads for Tyrone long before the county became regular visitors to the business end of the championship.

Sublime skill and an ability to kick crucial scores, he was around for another decade before he hung up his boots. He skippered Tyrone to their breakthrough 2003 All-Ireland, and he also starred in their '05 success.



In 1995, Meath left Croke Park after a 10-point hammering at the hands of Dublin in the Leinster final. Sean Boylan returned 12 months later with a new-look side to avenge that defeat and win an unexpected All-Ireland title. Central to that success was Giles, who hit 1-4 in the controversial replayed All-Ireland final against Mayo.

He would win the award again in 1999 when winning his second All-Ireland medal. A picture of poise and balance, he was a key cog for Skryne as they reclaimed the Meath SFC last year.



Take your pick from any number of highlights from the Cahirciveen man's career but in 1997, Fitzgerald was a virtual force of nature as Kerry secured the All-Ireland for the first time in 11 years. He landed 28 points in four games for the Kingdom that year, with his nine-point haul in the All-Ireland final regarded as one of the best displays seen in a decider. Showed his longevity when he was named man of the match for St Mary's in the 2009 South Kerry final.



It's difficult to stand out in a forward line that contains Michael Donnellan and Padraic Joyce, but that's what Fallon did in 1998. By beating Kildare in the final, Galway secured their first All-Ireland since 1966, and while Fallon was superb in the second half that day, it was his performances against Roscommon in the replayed Connacht final and Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final that secured him the award. Having made his debut 1991, he retired from inter-county football in 2003.

Then manager John O'Mahony paid this tribute: "Ja meant as much to this Galway football team as Keith (Wood) did to the Irish rugby team." Fallon later served as a selector under Peter Ford before making a brief return in 2006 that was ended by injury.



See 1996



Eight Munster medals, four All-Irelands, three National Leagues, one Railway Cup, four Sigerson Cups, three Kerry County Championships, three All Stars and the captaincy of the International Rules side say it all. Described as a 'one off' player by Jack O'Connor, Moynihan is routinely referred to as the best defender of his generation.



Dumped out by Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final, Galway took full advantage of the first year of the 'back door' to regroup and win the All-Ireland. With his starring role in Galway's 1998 success, he became the third generation of his family to win All-Ireland medals with the Tribesmen, following grandfather Mick in 1934 and father John in 1964 (on the day Mick died tragically in the Hogan Stand). Donnellan had it all: an ability to carry the ball at pace made him one of the most dangerous players in the country.



"He has set a benchmark for attitude, application, dedication and pure ability that is there for all the rest of the players that are there now." That was the then Armagh manager Peter McDonnell's response to McGeeney's retirement. McGeeney brought physical and mental preparation to a new level in the early part of the last decade. His influence is still felt today.



The reigning All-Ireland champions were shocked in the opening round of the 2003 Ulster championship by Monaghan but 'Stevie from Killeavey' got them back on track. He hit 4-25 in Armagh's eight matches that summer, including a hat-trick against Limerick in the qualifiers. One of the last links to Armagh's '02 team, McDonnell is Ireland's record points scorer in the International Rules series.



Humbling defeats to Meath in 2001, Armagh in '02 and Tyrone on '03 meant Croke Park was becoming less a home away from home for Kerry and more of a house of pain. In '04, that would be rectified, with O Se revitalised under new manager Jack O'Connor.



Injury has dogged O'Neill's career but, when fully fit, he remains one of the classiest forwards around. A tally of over 60 points in the 2005 season signalled that Tyrone were ready to let Peter Canavan go. O'Neill would retire in early '08, only to return to the squad in the build-up to that year's victorious All-Ireland final. However, he did not accept his medal, stating he "did not deserve it".



The man who reinvented the wheel. The 'big man at full-forward' wasn't a new idea in Gaelic football, but it was a switch that reinvigorated Kerry's season. In four championship games before Donaghy's switch to the edge of the square, Kerry had failed to hit the net but they scored 11 goals in the remaining four matches as they captured their 34th title.

2007 MARC O SE


In the year that the O Ses made history by becoming the first trio of brothers to be named on the All Star team, Marc was named Footballer of the Year. Made defending cool with a succession of superb displays from corner-back -- and there's still more to come.



The leading light as Tyrone captured their third All-Ireland title. Cavanagh was a clear winner of the Player of the Year award, something made all the more remarkable as he was operating in his less favoured position of full-forward. Five points in the All-Ireland final against Kerry underscored a superb season in which he racked up 2-23.



The year of redemption. Having sat out most of the previous summer for slapping the notebook out of referee Paddy Russell's hands, Galvin returned to doing what he did best. When Kerry were dicing with defeat to the likes of Longford and Sligo, no one did more than Galvin to pull them through. And when they met Cork in the All-Ireland final, they turned an eight-point defeat in the Munster championship into a four-point win. The Finuge man was to the fore that day, underlining his importance to the Kingdom.



Possibly the most clear-cut winner of the award, scoring 3-31 in the league and 3-42 in the championship in a stellar campaign. Although Dublin were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final by Cork, his marker that day Michael Shields described Brogan as "class", saying: "If he went on to win Player of the Year I certainly wouldn't begrudge him."

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