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All-Stars reaction: Dublin's record-equalling haul and did Mayo deserve more than two?

Cavan more than doubled their previous tally and Conor Sweeney became Tipperary’s fourth recipient of the award.

THE FOUR ALL-Ireland semi-finalists make up the entire All-Star football selection, one that’s predictably dominated by six-in-a-row champions Dublin.

ciaran-kilkenny-and-oisin-mullin Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny and Oisín Mullin of Mayo both picked up All-Stars. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin had nine players selected and even then Stephen Cluxton, Robbie McDaid and Sean Bugler made decent cases for inclusion.

It’s only the third time a side have enjoyed such a high representation the All-Star team, summing up the current state of the Gaelic football landscape.

Kerry (1981) and Dublin (1977) were the other two teams to have nine players chosen.

The Kingdom’s four-in-a-row winning season concluded with awards for Jimmy Deenihan, Paudie Lynch, Paidi O Se, Jack O’Shea, Sean Walsh, Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran, Pat Spillane, Mikey Sheehy and Eoin Liston. 

Four years earlier, Dublin’s second straight Sam Maguire victory saw Paddy Cullen, Gay O’Driscoll, Robbie Kelleher, Tommy Drumm, Pat O’Neill, Brian Mullins, Anton O’Toole, Bobby Doyle and Jimmy Keaveney honoured on All-Star night. 

The first time winners for Dublin were John Small, Niall Scully and Eoin Murchan.

At 28, it’s somewhat of a surprise that Small hasn’t been selected before. His tradition of getting sent-off in All-Ireland finals probably didn’t help his case over the years. More often than not, he was operating on the same half-back line as stand-outs James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey.

Small has been a rock at the back over the years, a consistent, fiery defender who goes about his business with minimal fuss. A guaranteed 7/10 performer every week. He’s a player you’d hate to play against but would love to have as your team-mate.

Scully is probably the most under-rated player on the Dublin team. His hard work and engine are central to the Sky Blues game plan. The ground he covers in a game is remarkable, he always takes the right option and is so good off either foot it’s hard to determine which is his stronger side. 

niall-scully Dublin's Niall Scully. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Completing the all-Dublin half-back line is Murchan, whose inclusion ahead of Paddy Durcan and Eoghan McLaughlin will raise some eyebrows out west. 

Durcan’s injury in the final against Dublin that forced him off at half-time might have cost him.

Mayo will feel hard done by with just two players – Cillian O’Connor and Oisin Mullin – chosen by the selection committee after 12 were nominated. 

Since the millennium, Tyrone (2018), Armagh (2003) and Kerry (2002) have all won just two All-Stars after losing the final. When Cork fell in the 2007 decider to Kerry by 10 points, Graham Canty was their sole representative on the team.  

The 4-9 he posted against Tipperary in the semi-final guaranteed O’Connor’s spot. His overall tally of 5-40 in the championship is a remarkable figure that left him 22 points clear of second placed Conor Sweeney. 

Mullin’s stunning breakthrough campaign saw the rookie pick up his first award and he’s favourite to land the Young Footballer of the Year prize on Saturday night.

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Another nominee for that prize McLaughlin can also consider himself unlucky to miss out on an All-Star, but it sums up how difficult it is to win one.

The change to the rules in recent years which allows players nominated in one position to be selected in another meant that midfield nominee McCarthy reverted to the half-back line to accommodate Thomas Galligan (nominated as a forward) at centre-field. 

It was a fourth award for McCarthy and Ciaran Kilkenny. Fellow ever present Dean Rock picked up his third. Cuala clubmates Mick Fitzsimons and Con O’Callaghan have won their three All-Stars in the same seasons – 2017, 2019 and 2020. 

Since making his debut in 2015, only once (in 2017) has Brian Fenton failed to finish the season with an All-Star. The 27-year-old’s fifth award at midfield takes him past Anthony Tohill and leaves him one behind Jack O’Shea. There’s plenty more to come from the Raheny man.

Cavan and Tipperary will cherish their selections in the XV.

It’s a big day for Cavan. Before 2020, they had just two All-Star recipients Ollie Brady and Dermot McCabe. They’ve more than doubled that tally following their stunning Ulster success with Raymond Galligan, Padraig Faulkner and Thomas Galligan all included. 

The Cavan keeper’s highlight reel across the five championship games includes a host of critical saves and this sensational winner to dump out their dearest rivals.

Faukner and Thomas Galligan gave heroic displays right through their run to the provincial title.

A season that saw them progress to the last four of the All-Ireland series from the Ulster preliminary round put the Breffni boys firmly in the national spotlight. The comeback wins over Monaghan and Donegal, in particular, were joyous occasions.

Ciarán Brady gave a strong display in the loss to Dublin and deserves a mention as another close call. 

Tipperary were rewarded for a breakthrough Munster title with Sweeney’s place at full-forward. He wins the Premier’s fourth All-Star following fellow inside forwards Declan Browne (two-time winner) and team-mate Michael Quinlivan.

A rich reward for an immensely talented player who persevered through the bad days. Without his sensational leveller to force-extra-time against Limerick, the season could have looked so different to David Power’s side.

As ever, the All-Star team will draw plenty of conversation and debate, but it’s hard to argue with this one for the most part.  

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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