This year’s football All-Stars were announced earlier on this morning and we’ve got four players – Keith Higgins, Ger Cafferkey, Lee Keegan and Alan Dillon – on the chosen fifteen. The full 2012 team – which features eight lads from Donegal, two from Cork and one from Dublin as well as our quartet – is here.
I said when the nominations came out a few weeks back that if we got four players on this year’s team we’d be doing okay so in overall terms I think we’ve been fairly represented. Keith Higgins was, I reckon, our only shoo-in nominee and who we got in the other positions was always going to depend on the overall shake-up.
Donegal’s enormous haul of eight – generous but probably deserved, you’d have to say – obviously put great pressure on the remaining positions and the need to accommodate the two beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists meant that we were never going to get more than four. And that, in turn, meant that a few of our lads were going to end up without a slot on the team when the music stopped.
Chief amongst those who can feel really hard done by is Kevin McLoughlin, our stand-out forward this year and the man that I think all of us expected to make the final fifteen. In the end it appears to have come down to a choice between the Knockmore man and Alan Dillon and, for my money, they picked the wrong man. Alan had a super season – he was particularly outstanding against Dublin – but so too did Kevin, who, crucially, was far more prominent than Alan was in the All-Ireland final. That should, I reckon, have been the decisive factor in choosing between them.
Barry Moran can also feel a bit miffed not to make the team, especially when he sees that Cork’s Aidan Walsh has. Walsh is a great talent but when his team really needed him – in the second half against Donegal – he played in an utterly self-indulgent way, ballooning a number of shots wide and generally failing to do what a good midfielder needed to do for his team. It wasn’t an All-Star performance and it’s a bit of a joke that he’s ended up as one when Big Barry’s more understated, steady performances were a far better representation of what a top-class centre-fielder should be all about.
David Clarke is also slightly unlucky to lose out – not least given his save of the season from Bernard Brogan in the semi-final – but Donegal’s Paul Durcan was always odds-on to get the ‘keeper’s place on the team. It’s great that the wider world has finally woken up to our man’s existence and hopefully he’ll be up there again challenging for this place on the team twelve months from now.
It’s great to see Ger Cafferkey’s solid season at full-back being recognised and great too to see how Ger has steadily improved over the last few years to become such an important player for us. For years we bemoaned the fact that no worthy successor to Kevin Cahill had appeared and this year proved beyond doubt that Ger has taken on this mantle. It’s a well deserved award for him.
I’m also delighted to see Lee Keegan – in his first full year as a regular inter-county player – get the nod in the half-back line. I’m a huge fan of the Westport man, who in a few short months this year has established himself as one of our most important players, and it’s great to see that his barnstorming displays this year – which weren’t limited to his storming performance in the final itself – meant that he proved impossible for the judges to ignore. I was worried that his absence for much of the All-Ireland semi-final might count against him but thankfully it didn’t.
In summary, four All-Stars is a fair reflection of our season but, as is always the case with these awards, there’s sure to be plenty of heated debate about some of the individual positions, including who should have got the four that we ended up with. Congrats to all those who did and commiserations to those – in particular the truly unfortunate Kevin McLoughlin – who didn’t.
The awards will be presented tomorrow night, when the hurling All-stars will be announced live, and it’s then too that we’ll see if Cillian O’Connor manages to bag the YPOY award for the second year running. Best of luck to Cillian in that one too.