SportsNewsIreland’s Eddie Kirwan names his Gaelic Football Team of the Year
Goalkeeper: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
The first name on the teamsheet and an automatic choice on the team! He conceded just three goals during the entire campaign. At the other end of the field he also showed his shooting prowess by firing over 11 vital points including the one that will be remembered as long as Gaelic football is still played. Along with all this, he is also the most accurate goalkeeper in the country with his kickouts and these have become a weapon for Dublin. He will probably go on to win footballer of the year and this will be entirely justified.
Right Corner-Back: Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin)
He has really grown into one of the best man-markers in the game and grown into one of the leaders if the Dublin team! That Dublin went into the All-Ireland final without any fear of him ending up marking Colm Cooper shows how far he has come in such a short space of time. At 23 years of age, he has many years in front of him as well and this may not be his last All-Ireland.
Full Back: Neil McGee (Donegal)
For all the criticism Donegal received for their tactics this year, it is easy to forget that they had quite a successful year. At the beginning of the year, if they were offered an Ulster title and losing to the eventual champions by 2 points, I think they would have taken it. At the forefront of all of this was McGee at full-back providing a defensive lynchpin which proved almost impossible to break through.
Left Corner-Back: Karl Lacey (Donegal)
This guy is one of the best corner-backs to have graced the game of the last decade and if he was from Kerry or Tyrone, he would probably be ranked as one of the best of all time. Honestly, he is that good. Although he has plenty of help this year in keeping out opposing forward lines, he once again stood out as one of if not the best corner-backs in the game.
Right Half-Back: Noel O’Leary (Cork)
This is probably a controversial choice but I think O’Leary has really grown as a footballer in the last couple of years. He seemed to have lost his way a few years ago and had a tendency to get involved in a lot of nonsense during games, particularly when Paul Galvin was around. He has put all that behind him and settled down to become one of the best wing-backs around.
Centre-Back: Kevin Cassidy (Donegal)
I have used journalistic licence here and have picked Cassidy in the rather unfamiliar position of centre-back, although I have no doubt that if this were a real team to take to the field, he would have no problem in playing there. Cassidy is one of those players who gives his all everytime he takes to the field and who will ever forget that tremendous point he kicked with his left foot, to knock Kildare out at the quarter-final stage/
Left Half-Back: Emmet Bolton (Kildare)
Although it wasn’t a vintage year for Kildare and they will probably see it as a lost opportunity, Bolton was one of the players who stood out. In many ways, he is the epitome of this Kildare side and has really bought in to what Kieran McGeeney is trying to achieve. His energy levels are unreal and he has a fantastic knack of popping up and scoring important points as well.
Midfield: Bryan Sheehan (Kerry)
At the start of the year, if someone told me that Bryan Sheehan would be in line for an all-star award at midfield, I would have been amazed. I always thought he did not have the work-rate or the aerial prowess to be an asset in the position but to his credit he played very well there all year. He had a spectacular final and if Kerry had closed the deal in the last 8 minutes, he may well have been in line for man of the match in the final.
Midfield: John Doyle (Kildare)
Is the game of football changing? Two men more used to the full-forward line winning positions as midfield on the team of the year! Perhaps it says more about the dearth of top class midfielders that are in the game at the moment. This was another fantastic year for Doyle and I was very impressed by his ability to win high-balls in the centre of the field. He has an enormous leap which helps him to out-field players that are much taller than him.
Right Half-Forward: Darran O’Sullivan (Kerry)
With about 7 minutes left in the All-Ireland final, O’Sullivan probably had the man of the match award and the footballer of the year titles in the bag. During the Munster championship, he went to town on opposition defences, scoring at will and looking like the complete forward. In the All-Ireland final, he showed a different type of game, setting up Cooper’s goal with a searing run and winning a world of ball in the middle third. He hasn’t always been Jack O’Connor’s first choice but at this stage he is a crucial member of the Kingdom squad.
Centre-Forward: Kevin McManamon (Dublin)
People might think that this is a controversial choice but when you look at it logically, it is an obvious choice. If he had started the semi-final and final and had the impact that he did, he would be a shoo in for an all-star. Looking back, he scored the goal that brought them back into the All-Ireland, won the free from which the winning score was kicked and also turned the All-Ireland final when introduced.
Left Half-Forward: Alan Brogan (Dublin)
Again, I have shuffled things around, but in fairness, for long periods of the All-Ireland final, Brogan did play in a deeper role than where he was named in the corner. The elder Brogan was written off by a lot of people a few years ago but this year, he bounced back and won back his place on the team. In many ways he has matured and has become one of the spiritual leaders of this team. He will get a well-deserved all-star later on in the year and maybe the footballer of the year title.
Right Corner-Forward: Colm Cooper (Kerry)
Once again this year, the Gooch was in inspirational form this year, particularly in the semi-final and final when he illustrated just why he is being spoken of as one of the greatest players if all time. Still only 28 years of age, Cooper is going to be around for another few years. His work out the field in the final showed just how much he wanted to win an All-Ireland as captain. Hopefully he will get another opportunity to banish the number 13 curse on ‘Sam’
Full-Forward: Andy Moran (Mayo)
The West’s awake, or is it? The only representative from Connacht on the team and outside of team mate Donal Vaughan, the only one within an asses roar of it. The news today, that he has broken his leg whilst training for the Irish International rules team could be a huge blow to Mayo but with 9 months to go before they play in the championship again, he has plenty of time to get fit. A bustling, scoring full-forward, we wish him the best in his recovery.
Left Corner-Forward: Bernard Brogan (Dublin)
Ironically this year more than last year, Brogan showed me that he is the real deal. As good as he was last year, I would allow anyone one exceptional year but this year, he really showed how good he is. He scored two excellent points in the final, one with each foot. He also showed great maturity in calling up Cluxton to kick the winning free when lesser men may have been tempted to have the shot for glory themselves.