Eyes on the Prize

Footballer of the Year 2014: Who will win this year's award?

We analyse the contenders for the big prize, with Paul Flynn and James O’Donoghue leading the race.

AS THE FOOTBALL championship nears its conclusion, it’s only natural for talk of end of season honours to commence. Dublin, Donegal, Mayo and Kerry all have their eyes on the ultimate prize, but what players might feel a big individual honour is on the horizon?

Here are the players in the running for the Footballer of the Year.


The Frontrunners

James OÕDonoghue James O'Donoghue has enjoyed a stunning campaign in for the Green and Gold James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

James O’Donoghue, corner-forward (Kerry)

The whole of the Kingdom mourned Colm Cooper’s season-ending cruciate injury in the Spring, but a young prince has stepped into his place and silenced all doubters. James O’Donoghue was already an All Star before this season began, but it still felt like the forward really came of age during a wonderful league campaign where he chalked up 5-24.

He missed the Munster semi-final win over Clare through before exploding back to form with a 10-point haul against the old enemy in Pairc Uí Chaoimh. O’Donoghue buried a contender for goal of the season and scored another five points against Galway to confirm his status as the leading forward in the country.

Odds: 9/4

Paul Flynn, wing-forward (Dublin)

Flynn has been outstanding as the Dubs march ominously towards another All-Ireland title. The most complete footballer in the country, he simply has it all. His physicality, work-rate and skill with either foot ranks him among the top contenders for this award.

Flynn’s importance to the Dublin kick-outs cannot be understated, while he has chipped in with 1-8 from play in four games. Not bad for a half-forward who covers so much ground helping out his defence.

Flynn is favourite ahead of O’Donoghue on the basis that Dublin are far more likely to win the Sam Maguire than Kerry, and it’s hard to argue with that logic.

Odds: 15/8 (Fav)

Lee Keegan Lee Keegan remains a decent bet to win the big prize Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Lee Keegan, wing-back (Mayo)

Keegan has set the standard for attacking wing-backs all over the country. Defensively, his tackling and work-rate are top notch, but it’s going forward where Keegan really stands out.

The 24-year old has scored 1-17 in 17 championship matches in the green and red of Mayo and this season in particular he has really impressed, leaving scorch-marks all over the field in big games against Galway and Cork.

With 1-4 to his name so far, Keegan has been Mayo’s most consistent performer in 2014 and stands a big chance of being the second defender in three years to win the big individual award.

Odds: 33/1

Michael Murphy, full-forward (Donegal)

Despite being one of the most physically imposing full-forwards of his generation, Michael Murphy spends most of his time performing key duties around midfield for Donegal.

An exceptionally gifted all-round footballer, Murphy has led Donegal by example this season – his leadership being perfectly conveyed with his late equaliser against Armagh and his booming free earlier in the half.

On the occasions he does operate at 14, he looks unmarkable.

Odds: 12/1

ForKingAndCountry2014 / YouTube

The Chasing Pack

You’d be a fool to write off Aidan O’Shea (20/1) at this juncture as there is still an awful lot of football to be played. If Mayo are to end their run of All Ireland final defeats, O’Shea will surely be one of the big reasons why. He looks to be enjoying his new found freedom at centre-forward and his classy goal against Cork could be a sign of things to come.

Diarmuid Connolly celebrates scoring his side's first goal Diarmuid Connolly celebrates scoring a goal against Monaghan in the quarter-final Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Diarmuid Connolly (5/1) has been enjoying another productive season in the Dublin attack and has 2-6 in the bag from wing-forward heading into the Donegal clash. His goal against Monaghan liberated the Dubs and opened the floodgates to what became another mauling. Outside of Flynn he looks to be the most likely Dub to bring the prize home.

Bernard Brogan (5/1) and Cillian O’Connor (16/1) will bear the brunt of the scoring-burden for Dublin and Mayo respectively. Either player are liable to put up some big scores in the final two games that will firmly drive them into the reckoning. Not to be written off.

The Dark Horses

Michael Darragh Macauley (16/1) has been a key cog in Dublin’s engine room yet again summer. Joe Brolly remarked earlier in the summer that “Any team serious about beating Dublin must start by shooting Michael Darragh,” highlighting his importance to the reigning All-Ireland champions.

Elsewhere, defenders Karl Lacey (20/1) and Keith Higgins (33/1) have enjoyed solid campaigns for far. Keeping in mind that both Donegal and Mayo will need massive defensive displays to even reach the All-Ireland final, both Lacey and Higgins could play their way into the reckoning.

Kevin McManamon scores his side's second goal Kevin McManamon might be worth a punt at 50/1 James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Dublin may already have four players on the list, but it’s impossible to rule out either Alan Brogan (33/1) or Kevin McManamon (50/1). Brogan has excelled in a play-making role for Jim Gavin’s side while McManamon displayed his qualities in a 1-6 Leinster final masterclass. His match-winning abilities make him a decent long-shot for the big prize.

Ar an taobh líne / YouTube

Who do you think will win Footballer of the Year? Let us know in the comments section below.

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