Dublin dominate top team but Mackin the magician deservedly lands biggest prize

Last night’s All-Stars programme wrapped up the 2020 ladies football season.

aimee Source: AIG Ireland.

IT WAS A night to savour in the Mackin household in Camlough.

An All-Stars ceremony the ridiculously talented Armagh family will never forget, and not just because of the remote nature of the 2020 ladies football end of season awards: ‘Peil na mBan – Foirne na Bliana – le AIG Insurance,’ on TG4.

Sisters, Aimee and Blaithin, were named on the 2020 TG4 Senior Team of the Championship, while the older of the pair completed a clean sweep after a simply stunning individual campaign.

Aimee landed the coveted Senior Players’ Player of the Year award, the game’s top gong, while also rounding a glittering evening off with the Goal of the Year honour. Four awards in total; a truly special occasion for the Mackins, and the Shane O’Neills club.

Seeing off competition from Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Carla Rowe, 23-year-old Aimee became the first player from a county outside the All-Ireland winners to win Player of the Year since her team-mate Caroline O’Hanlon did so in 2014, despite Cork’s success.

Mackin was many people’s frontrunner for the award, and that stat may have felt like a good omen for Armagh fans ahead of last night’s programme. 

There were no major disagreements after it was announced, and how could there be? The Shane O’Neill’s ace scored a remarkable 5-17 across three championship games through the autumn, and was central to Armagh’s charge as they reached their first All-Ireland semi-final since 2015.

Mackin was named Player of the Match in both of their group games against Tyrone and Mayo, making a welcome return to the inter-county scene in style after a 15-month absence due to a devastating cruciate injury.

One of the finest forwards the game has ever seen and now a three-time All-Star, Mackin’s wand of a left foot lit up the championship as she clocked some unbelievable scoring tallies; the most memorable of those that spectacular goal against Dublin in their semi-final and a beautiful outside-of-the-boot point against Mayo. 

The thing is Mackin has been doing this consistently year in, year out, clocking huge tallies and kicking wonder-scores for every team she represents. She’s a special player.

As is her sister, Blaithin, who established herself as one of the country’s top defenders last season, often popping up with a score or two herself that her sister would be proud of.

It comes as the fourth year in-a-row that a set of sisters were named on the All-Star selection: Ciara and Niamh Hegarty (Donegal) were there in 2017, Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan (Cork) in 2018, and Nicola and Louise Ward (Galway) in 2019.

The Mackin sisters were two of Armagh’s three representatives on the Senior Team of the Year, teak-tough full back Clodagh McCambridge also getting the recognition she deserves in the number three jersey.

Aimee 3 Aimee (20) and Blaithin (14) Mackin celebrate a score. Source: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.

The county breakdown is as such: Dublin 6, Cork 4, Armagh 3, Galway 1, Tipperary 1.

Mick Bohan’s All-Ireland winners dominate the line-up as they have done after each of their last four successful years — though they have one less representative than in 2018 and 2019, and equal their six total in 2017. 

Goldrick scooped an eye-catching eighth All-Star award in nine years in defence after another brilliant campaign — the record-equalling 11th is in sight — while Martha Byrne was recognised for the first time; a long overdue nod, following in the footsteps of her team-mate Niamh Collins last year.

Byrne’s Cuala clubmate Jennifer Dunne bagged a midfield position on the Team of the Championship — also her first All-Star — after her stellar campaign and key role for the Dubliners. The individual accolades come as the icing on top for the pair, after they won the county intermediate title with their club on top of those Celtic Crosses.

Carla Rowe, as expected, was included in the half-forward line alongside the evergreen Lyndsey Davey, while 2017 Footballer of the Year Noelle Healy took a corner forward spot. The trio all play central parts in Dublin’s impressive running game — a key component to their recent success — and pick up their fourth, sixth and fifth All-Stars respectively.

Siobhán McGrath and Lauren Magee can both perhaps feel hard done by, with some Dublin fans saying the county should have landed more (Dublin and Limerick both bagged nine each in the Gaelic football and hurling editions last weekend).

But that’s the nature of these things, there’s always going to be debate and discussion.

jennifer-dunne-carla-rowe-and-niamh-mcevoy-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Jennifer Dunne (9) and Carla Rowe (12) both landed awards. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Beaten All-Ireland finalists, Cork, had four top stars honoured in goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, defensive duo Eimear Meaney and Melissa Duggan, and attacker Áine Terry O’Sullivan.

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One of the safest pair of hands in the game and Cork’s captain for 2021, O’Brien finally received her long-deserved individual award, as did Meaney after a couple of nominations.

A first All-Star, too, rounded off an unforgettable season for Beara’s O’Sullivan, who captained West Cork to senior county glory, while Duggan — who was Cork’s best player this season in this writer’s opinion — clinched her second, and went back-to-back.

The two outstanding players from the counties with one nominee each, Galway and Tipperary, make up the 15. Louise Ward also went back-to-back with her second All-Star in midfield, while Aishling Moloney — another freakishly talented forward like Mackin, who lit up the championship — takes her place at full forward despite Tipp’s early exit. 2-17 in two games, both which the Premier lost by a single point, warranted her inclusion.

It was a successful programme all round, hosted by Máire Ní Bhraonáin from Croke Park, with heavy input from Sorcha Furlong.


The top talent in the intermediate and junior ranks were also applauded in Teams of the Year, making a change from the usual All-Star team full of senior stars with one or two intermediate standouts included.

Meath scoring ace Vikki Wall was named Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year, while Fermanagh’s Eimear Smyth took the Junior equivalent for the second year in-a-row after their respective All-Ireland wins. 

The Royals dominated the second-tier team with seven included, while it was beaten junior finalists Wicklow who had that number on the junior outfit. Fermanagh saw five of their top stars included, one notable omission Joanne Doonan who was nominated for Player of the Year but not recognised on the team.

But that’s the nature of All-Star teams and individual awards: they’re subjective and not everyone always agrees.

One thing we can certainly agree on, however, is that the senior team is the latest reminder of Dublin’s dominance, and that Aimee Mackin had a special 2020.

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Emma Duffy

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