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# Awards Season
All-Ireland winning captains tipped to land Player of the Year honours at All-Stars
Stephen Cluxton and Seamus Callanan are the frontrunners for the big prizes.

TOMORROW NIGHT, SIX players – three in football and hurling – will battle it out for Player of the Year honours at the All-Stars in Dublin’s National Convention Centre.

a-view-of-the-convention-centre Oisin Keniry / INPHO A view of the Convention Centre. Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

While the All-Stars are chosen by a selection of media members across TV, radio, print and online, the Footballer and Hurler of the Year honours are voted on by senior inter-county players across the country.

The players have already taken the vote through correspondence with the Gaelic Players Association and the winners of both gongs will be announced at Friday’s gala event. Also announced live is the football All-Star selection, and the top young football and hurler prizes. 

The favourite for the outright football honour is Stephen Cluxton (5xAll-Stars), who turns 38 in December, while 31-year-old Seamus Callanan (3xAll-Stars) is the frontrunner for the hurling award. Both men captained their counties to All-Ireland glory earlier this year. 

Jack McCaffrey (2015 Footballer of the Year, 2013 Young Footballer of the Year 3xAll-Stars) and Con O’Callaghan (2017 Young Footballer of the Year, 1xAll-Star) contest the football prize with Cluxton. The other nominees in the small ball code are TJ Reid (2015 Hurler of the Year, 3xAll-Stars) and Patrick Horgan (4xAll-Stars).

pjimage Stephen Cluxton and Seamus Callanan.

There are interesting contrasts between the three nominees in either code.

On the hurling front, all three players made their senior inter-county debuts in 2008.

Reid, Callanan and Horgan (all aged 31) have been three of the leading forwards for their respective counties and are undoubtedly the most lethal finishers in Ireland. 11 years after they arrived on the scene the trio remains at the very top of the game and even though they’ve entered their early 30s show no signs of slowing down.

It’s Callanan’s fourth time to be nominated for the honour, having missed out to Richie Hogan (2014), Reid (2015) and Austin Gleeson (2016) in the past. The Drom-Inch star returned from back surgery that badly disrupted his 2018 campaign and rediscovered his best form under Liam Sheedy this summer. 

His remarkable record of scoring a goal in each of Tipperary’s eight championship games makes Callanan the frontrunner to land the prize. Relieved of the free-taking duties, he was the championship’s top scorer from play as he fired 8-17.

brendan-maher-and-padraic-maher-with-tj-reid Tommy Dickson / INPHO TJ Reid makes a fetch during the All-Ireland final. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

It’s Horgan’s first time to be nominated for Hurler of the Year, but his bid suffers because of Cork’s failure to reach the All-Ireland semi-final stage. He scored 7-62 in six championship games in 2019, including a stunning tally of 3-10 in their quarter-final exit to Kilkenny. 

He won Player of the Month for August, becoming the only player other than Henry Shefflin to claim the award for a third time. 

Reid’s challenge is a strong one too and he arguably enjoyed his best ever campaign in the Kilkenny jersey this year. He finished as the top scorer in the All-Ireland SHC, with 5-83 to his name, 15 points ahead of Horgan in the scoring charts. 

Like Horgan in Cork, Reid shouldered a significant burden as Kilkenny’s chief scorer and was deadly accurate from placed balls, while he also racked up a high number of assists. It’s Reid’s third Hurler of the Year nomination but his first in four years.

While all three hurlers made their debuts in the same year, there’s a 15-year gap between Cluxton’s first game for Dublin in 2001 and O’Callaghan’s bow in 2016.

McCaffrey arrived on the scene in 2013 and is the only one of the trio who’s lifted the honour before. 

The Clontarf ace enjoyed another stellar campaign and put in one of the great All-Ireland final performances by scoring 1-3 from wing-back in the drawn game. A hamstring injury curtailed his involvement in the replay, but he enjoyed an outstanding season overall. 

con-ocallaghan-celebrates-after-the-game Tommy Dickson / INPHO Con O'Callaghan celebrates after the All-Ireland final. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

O’Callaghan took his game to new heights and thrived after Jim Gavin moved him to full-forward in 2019. He added some extra bulk in the off-season and was unmarkable at times, finishing the year Dublin’s top scorer from play with 4-14 in eight games, including a four-point haul in the replay.

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O’Callaghan led the early betting yet there’s a feeling that six-time All-Ireland winning captain Cluxton will be honoured by his peers with the Footballer of the Year prize.

He’ll pick up his sixth All-Star tomorrow despite missing out on the goalkeeping spot in the team in each of the past three seasons – losing out to Mayo’s David Clarke and Monaghan’s Rory Beggan.

Cluxton was nominated for the top gong in 2017 and didn’t even win an All-Star that year after he was pipped by Clarke. 

The significance of Dublin’s five-in-a-row winning season would make Cluxton a fitting winner given the consistent excellence he’s maintained throughout his career. Such are the lofty standards of the Parnells man, his greatness was sometimes taken for granted when it came to awards season.

No player has revolutionised Gaelic football more than Cluxton and he had two outstanding All-Ireland finals – saving a crucial first-half penalty in the first game before he made a brilliant save on Stephen O’Brien in the replay.

He would be the oldest ever winner of the hardware, beating 36-year-old Offaly legend Martin Furlong who scooped it in 1982. Billy Morgan (1971) is the only other goalkeeper outside of Furlong to land Footballer of the Year – so far. 


Who do you think deserves to be named 2019 Footballer and Hurler of the Year? Let us know in the comments section below.

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