Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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# XV
Well played: here’s your Gaelic football team of the week
Ewan McKenna runs through the best XV from this weekend’s football action. No club hurlers are included.

1. Paul Durcan (Donegal) – It’s not like his side to give up a chance having worked so hard to all-but advance but having been underworked throughout, he was still focused enough to pull of a brilliant save from Martin Penrose deep into garbage time.

2. Donal Keoghan (Meath) – Shadowed and got very much the better of Micky Conway early on and even as Kildare rotated their forwards, he maintained his performance level. By the finish he was even getting the better of a tired-looking John Doyle.

3. Graeme Molloy (Wexford) – And so, after his trials against Longford, he returns to form and looked like the player we’ve touted as one of the better defenders in the game time and again. His misjudgment led to the second goal but apart from that he was flawless.

4. Ciarán McDonald (Tipperary) – The return of Niall McNamee – even though he wasn’t right – was Offaly’s trump card yet it didn’t win them a hand as the corner-back looked comfortable in their battle, holding his man to a measly and game-changing two points.

5. Donnacha Tobin (Meath) – Questions began to be asked as to just who he was and where he had come from as he picked up John Doyle early and excelled. He’s young but he’s tough and he never backed down from the day’s challenges and won them all.

6. Michael Quinn (Longford) – His team inch forward in the qualifiers and in terms of progress while he inches towards an All Star. Their game is about numbers but he is the leader in defence, a ball-winner in midfield and has the class to assist and to score.

7. Frank McGlynn (Donegal) – Perhaps the most underrated footballer in the game at this moment. We’ve said it when he’s been on this team of the week before but he is why Donegal’s gameplan works as he carries ball and plays the role of many men.

8. Conor Gillespie (Meath) – The opposition tried everything in midfield but he went toe-to-toe with Daryl Flynn, and floored Alan Smith, John Doyle, Emmet Bolton and Pádraig O’Neill. An exhibition of high fielding, the best we’ve seen in a long time.

9. Joe McMahon (Tyrone) – The jack of all trades and the master of many of them, particularly at midfield. He’s versatile but he’s probably best playing here as he’s involved all the time. He’s as tough a footballer as he is smart.

10. Cathal Cregg (Roscommon) – We certainly didn’t see this coming. His team’s performance was immense and he was the best player on the field. Dictated the pace of his side’s attack. Then he went and hit an unlikely winner.

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11. Damien Carroll (Meath) – He was as energetic as he was good and what was perceived as a weak area of this side turned into a massive bonus. He may have only kicked a point but got on a huge amount of ball, played link man and showed great composure.

12. Ryan Bradley (Donegal) – The Man of the Match in Clones and that took some doing after a game of exhausting intensity and great discipline. Huge patience on the ball and always made the right move and played the right pass. Defended tirelessly too.

13. Seán McCormack (Longford) – So nine were frees but 11 points is a massive haul and made him top scorer in the country this summer. Lovely dead-ball striker but has worked so hard on his game in open-play that he’s now outshining even an in-form Brian Kavanagh.

14. Kevin McManamon (Dublin) – The Brogans didn’t function, Diarmuid Connolly showed his true colours for the 100th time and the team were in trouble. But he’s evolved and is no more an impact sub. His speed, his finishing and his 1-4 showed he’s a key component.

15. Colm McFadden (Donegal) – We’ve been critical of him before for being ponderous and one-footed but the change in his team’s style has helped him. But more than that, with the game on the line on Saturday, he stood up, took responsibility and won it.

Cavan confident of incident-free qualifier clash with Kildare >

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