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Dublin: 9°C Monday 17 May 2021

Well played: Here’s your Gaelic Football team of the week

Ewan MacKenna selects the best XV footballers of the week. Do you agree?

Kerry's James O'Donoghue celebrates after scoring against Clare.
Kerry's James O'Donoghue celebrates after scoring against Clare.

1. Shane Connolly (Kildare)

It wasn’t that there was a great goal chance saved or that he was kicking out to a struggling midfield and had to be crafty. In fact, he didn’t have to kickout much as Sligo attacked so little. But particularly in the second and fourth quarters, the opposition over-hit passes into the full-forward line and under-hit a few scoring efforts and they all dropped in on the number one. Thankfully for Kildare he is one of, if not the best, goalkeeper under a high ball.

2. Kevin Meaney (Laois)

In the build up to the game, we just couldn’t see how they would contain Joe Sheridan, who has been getting better by the week. On top of that, Meaney has never looked the most secure against the more highly-rated attacking forces about as right through the league and into championship he’s been vulnerable. But this was a mighty effort from him – although cynical at times – and he made sure his side were never going to give up that big lead they’d built up.

3. Dan Gordon (Down)

Peter Acheson has been the fulcrum of the Tipperary attack and will probably only just miss out on an All Star nomination. With that in mind and with Gordon only just back from injury, it was a key match-up. But Down have struggled badly at number three for much of this year and they can be thankful he was there, as he is a commanding presence on the edge of the square and an expert in the air. Andy Moran will be next.

4. Peter O’Leary (Laois)

A late addition to the line-up, but what an addition. Clung to Cian Ward who didn’t get on the scoresheet and didn’t get even get to knock much ball around and create chances for others. It’ll be a whole lot tougher this weekend, and he had good protection from the half-back line last weekend, but even so, a fine display and an integral part of a very surprising result.

5. Tomás Ó Sé (Kerry)

So, he didn’t get his customary couple of points. So, it was the forwards that really shone. So, in all those years and all those games he won’t have had it any easier. So what? This was the weekend of championship outing number 82 and while he was more seven out of ten than eight, he was efficient, up and down the field as always and when better to slot him into this line-up than on the week he becomes the most capped summer footballer of them all.

6. John O’Loughlin (Laois)

Years ago, during an O’Byrne Cup game for UCD against Kildare, he terrorised the county side from midfield and big talk started. He hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he’s now found a settled role and this was his best display in an age. Stephen Bray should have kept him busy, but not only did he keep the Meath man scoreless from play, he held together the most dominant line on the field, the Laois half-backs.

7. Brian Fox (Tipperary)

He’s epitomised his side’s run to the very edge of July in that he is sticky, a solid defender, is willing and able but has a bit of class too. Against Down, with midfield struggling he was a little overrun, but was comfortable on Conor Maginn who didn’t score, was his side’s best player and a guy all those minor winners should be looking up to as Tipperary continue to climb the ladder.

8. Ambrose Rogers (Down)

(Ambrose Rogers has been in excellent form for Down – INPHO/James Crombie)

Right. That’s it. He’s the best midfielder in Ulster and he just keeps showing why. Against Monaghan, he stood up when others faltered. It was no different against Donegal, and against Tipperary, he gave an imposing display that saw him win Man of the Match. He’s a really good high fielder but he’s mobile too, and when he comes down with the ball, he never stands still for very long and has an accurate shot.

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9. Michael Foley (Kildare)

The All Star full-back is looking at home in centrefield of late and this isn’t the first time we’ve handed him this jersey. Against Sligo, he was the dominant force as Kildare pushed up from kickouts with the wind. He controlled possession and even with the elements in his face after the break the ball belonged to him. In our eyes, he was the Man of the Match in that game.

10. Ross Munnelly (Laois)

Some in the county still aren’t convinced that this group have finally bought into Justin McNulty’s defensive system. But he’s the most obvious argument that they have. He has become a willing first line of defence in recent weeks and if anything, being involved out of possession looks to have improved him when in possession. Scored a penalty and a free against Meath but most importantly, pitched in with three points from open play.

11. Mark Poland (Down)

That was probably his best championship game since Kerry in 2010 and it was a timely reminder of what Down can do against anyone but the very best, when they’ve their tails up. They have the midfield to win ball, they have dangerous forwards inside and when Poland plays like this, he can link the two and create a whole lot of openings. As if that wasn’t enough, he threw over three points from play against Tipp as well.

12. John Doyle (Kildare)

The only forward on his team not to score, yet the only forward on his team to make this line-up. Confused? Don’t be. In recent weeks we’ve seen his role change and while there are others around him that can pitch in with points, his work rate has become vital. He started corner-forward, but by the finish, he was carrying ball up and down the field like a wing-back, distributing well and was there to scoop up some breaking ball.

13. Colm Kelly (Laois)

Whatever about the ups and downs of his side this summer, his reputation has only gone one way. He’s still a bit short of being an elite corner-forward, but he is willing and mostly able. Is always looking for the ball, can take a score and had two from play at the weekend. But most importantly in terms of the Meath game, he showed he’s aware when winning the penalty when nothing was on. In saying all that, Donal Keoghan’s injury did help.

14. Benny Coulter (Down)

How Tipperary will have wished he could have been injured a little longer, because without him, they’d just have had Conor Laverty inside to worry about and might well have won the game. His goal, five minutes into first-half injury-time, may have been simple, but it was also the game changer. He hit two other points on the way to top-scoring, and just his presence meant more leeway for his compatriot in that inside-forward line.

15. James O’Donoghue (Kerry)

Didn’t score as much as Gooch on his record-breaking day, and Donaghy does look to be getting back to his best. There wasn’t much between any of them but he gets the nod because expectation levels around him have been lower and over the last two games, he’s looked a top-quality corner-forward in the making. Has a great habit of drifting into good positions and we all know he can finish. Hit 1-3 against a dire Clare in 52 minutes, but he’ll be welcomed to a strange, new world at the weekend.

Do you agree with these selections? Let us know in the comments section below.

Read: Talking Points: Kilkenny v Limerick, All-Ireland SHC quarter-final>

Read: As It Happened: Joe Brolly v Pat Spillane>

About the author:

Ewan MacKenna

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