2013 Football All-Star Predictions – prior to All-Ireland Mayo v Dublin final

Having written a hurling counterpart following the conclusion of the semi-finals, it is now time to look at the football end of year honours as the build-up continues to the final between Mayo v Dublin on Sunday the 22nd of September.

Dublin will face Mayo in what probably is a case of the two form teams reaching the final. The hurling prediction was relatively vague but that fell down to the fact that the hurling championship was so open, that there were a lot of contenders and as always, the winners very often take more plaudits than any other side. Again this a selection prior to a final which is often the most decisive factor in who wins the individual awards. Anyway here is my prediction as to how the football all-stars are looking.

1.                     Stephen Cluxton

It’s impossible to not see Cluxton being selected between the posts. Robert Hennelly was third choice Mayo goalkeeper and no other shot stopper has set the world alight. Cluxton’s value to Dublin continues to grow. He was their top scorer against Cork with his long range free-taking. The way he adjusted his kick-out strategy against Kerry was also vital to Dublin’s turnaround. Should he lift Sam Maguire and have a heavy influence on Dublin’s scoring, a footballer of the year could be on the cards. Imagine if we had two goalkeepers honoured with Player of the Year? I think it is a possibility.

2.                     Marc O’Sé / Jonny Cooper

I think both of these players are in with a shout. For me O’Sé has shown his ever consistent excellent form in this year’s championship. Despite the fact that he isn’t getting younger, his footballing intelligence and experience allow him to continuously perform to a high level. Cooper has had a good debut season for Dublin. He has coped well with various opponents and I think he is in contention.

3.                     Rory O’Carroll / Ger Cafferkey

This position will be decided by which player has a better final. It could still occur that both players could be honoured with one moving to the corner. They are the leading full-back’s in the country at the moment. Cafferkey won an all-star in this position last year and he has maintained god form this season. O’Carroll has continued to grow into a very good defender. He has dealt with various challenges very well this season and would justify the number three shirt. Tyrone’s Conor Clarke also had a good year but these two are ahead.

Proudly Supporting Mayo

4.                     Chris Barrett

He has been very effective since his introduction to the Mayo side and provided he has a good final, I think it is highly likely that he will make the selection. His first start was in the quarter-final against Donegal and he played a very important role in their semi-final victory. He scored two vital points before half-time that really settled the team after a slow start and this was the beginning of Mayo’s comeback.

5.                     Lee Keegan / Dessie Mone

Lee Keegan has been in excellent form again this season. His attacking talents have been very valuable to Mayo and he has popped up with some vital scores at times. I felt Dessie Mohan from Monaghan also had an excellent year in the half-back line. I thought he was the pick of Monaghan’s defenders as they claimed provincial success and came very close to getting to a semi-final. He was very prominent in the games that I watched Monaghan playing.

6.                     Donal Vaughan

Vaughan is definitely the favourite for the centre-back position. He has added a new level to his game this year as he attacks with a much greater purpose. We are used to seeing Vaughan attack but this season he seems to either score or create something every time he enters opposition territory. He has been important in their run to the final. Peter Harte of Tyrone is worth a mention but realistically I don’t think he will make the team.

7.                     Jack McCaffrey

Despite a quiet game in the semi-final against Kerry, McCaffrey is still almost a certainty for a position at wing-back. He has been a breath of fresh air to the championship, with his pace, link up play and finishing ability. He is also almost certain to claim Young Player of the Year and I think it will be fully deserved. I think a good final would nearly give him a chance of winning a double Player of the Year award.

8 & 9.         Aidan O’Shea / Michael Darragh MacAuley / Sean Cavanagh

These are three players that many would think all have to be included but three does not divide into two. Official all-star selectors may opt to move one of these players elsewhere to accommodate all three. Each of these three should be all-stars based on their 2013 form but if I had to pick only two to play midfield, I would go for O’Shea and MacAuley. While Sean Cavanagh has had a great year, I think the other two have been that extra little bit better.

Proudly Supporting Dublin

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10 & 12.          Diarmuid Connelly / Paul Flynn / Ciarán Kilkenny / Alan Dillon / Kevin McLoughlin / Donnchadh Walsh / Cian Mackey /

I think the two wing-forward positions will realistically be decided by the final. For me Diarmuid Connelly is the one certainty at the moment. I think he has had a great season and has become a great leader for Dublin, particularly against Cork and Kerry. Paul Flynn is one of the favourites for Footballer of the Year. Kerry’s Donnchadh Walsh and Cavan’s Cian Mackey are both in with a shout. Mayo’s pair could both put themselves in strong contention if either have a strong final or Sean Cavanagh could also possibly be moved to the half-forward line. These are two hard places to call.

11.                   Colm Cooper

Yet again Gooch showed his absolute sheer class to the footballing world this season. He was repositioned to centre-forward and he showcased his broad array of talents in every outing this season. He displayed all the traits of a great forward. He showed excellent playmaking skills. He created chances for others and also bought teammates into the game. He still kept up his impressive scoring record and continued to show that no matter what systems are in place, there is no substitute for raw talent.

13.                   Cillian O’Connor / Paul Mannion / Bernard Brogan / James O’Donoghue

I think there is probably one corner-forward position up for grabs and again it could all boil down to what happens in the final. If Cillian O’Connor was to play in the final and have a significant impact on the scoreboard then it is hard to imagine him not featuring. Dublin pair of Mannion and Brogan have had ‘up and down’ seasons but should either top score from play in the final to win the trophy then they will have a chance. The other player in contention is Kerry’s James O’Donoghue who had a fine season. He really showed that he has the ability to be a star for the Kingdom for many years to come.

14.                   Alan Freeman / Brian Hurley

Alan Freeman is in pole position for the full-forward berth. He has had a good season and particularly showed great bravery and maturity to assume free taking and scoring responsibility when Cillian O’Connor had to be withdrawn through injury. A good performance in the final will see him make sure of his spot. Either of the players mentioned in contention for corner-forward could also see themselves moved inside closer to goal to full-forward and Cork’s Brian Hurley may have a chance but there are probably players ahead of him.

15.                   Conor McManus

This is a player that I think deserves to be included. Monaghan should be given a lot of credit for the season that they put in and this man was a vital part of their team. At times he was a sole attacker and he showed outstanding ability to win his own possession and turn it into scores. If it hadn’t been for Sean Cavanagh’s famous tackle then he could have scored a goal to put Monaghan into an All-Ireland semi-final. I think he had a great season and in a year that hasn’t been a vintage one for inside forwards, I think McManus should be honoured.

Player of the Year

If Mayo win – Aidan O’Shea

If Dublin win – Michael Darragh MacAuley, Paul Flynn, Jack McCaffrey, Stephen Cluxton

Same as my hurling prediction, I really think the award for Footballer of the Year will depend on the winners of the final. If Mayo win, then I think Aidan O’Shea is pretty much nailed on to win the award. Dublin have many contenders. I mentioned four above and I think the award would depend on whichever one of these players would have the biggest influence on a Dublin win as all have shone a different stages this season.

Young Player of the Year

Jack McCaffrey, Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion or Cillian O’Connor

Jack McCaffrey is definitely the favourite here but I still wouldn’t rule out McCaffrey winning the senior Player of the Year award. If it was to occur it would be interesting to see if he would be awarded a double. Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul Mannion are both in with a realistic chance and it also wouldn’t be ridiculous to rule out Cillian O’Connor winning the award for the third year in a row.

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