There’s been some discussion in the comments over the last week or so about what’s likely to happen in relation to this year’s All-Stars and with the list of nominations due out any time now I guess it’s as good a time as any to think about this.
When I was looking at this last year, a handy starting point I used was the teams selected by the GAA,The Sunday Game and others as this helped to highlight the major areas of agreement and disagreement on the likely destination of the awards. It makes sense to do so again this year so here are a few selections to get us going: GAA, The Sunday Game, Irish Independent – Ciaran Whelan and Tomás Ó Sé.
Having done so, however, I’m going to rapidly eliminate the last two, as they’re both badly biased ex-player picks. Whelan, one of the better analysts on TSG it must be said, can’t resist being over-generous to his native county, giving them a wholly undeserved three gongs while Ó Sé’s pick makes no sense whatsoever, for the reasons Davy J has already outlined so well in the comments.
If we look, then, at the GAA and TSG teams, it becomes immediately apparent that ten of this year’s All-Stars are going to be pretty easy to sort. Aidan O’Mahony, Neil McGee and Keith Higgins are all certainties in the full-back line, Kerry duo Paul Murphy and Peter Crowley will win out in the half-backs, David Moran is a cert for midfield, Paul Flynn and Ryan McHugh are likewise in the half-forward line while Cillian O’Connor and James O’Donoghue look to be bolted-on for the full-forward line (though as I argue in a bit our man might possibly lose out here depending on how the chips fall).
That leaves five places – goalkeeper (which is between Donegal’s Paul Durcan and Kerry’s Brian Kelly), one of the half-back slots (with Frank McGlynn and Colm Boyle the favourites here), one of the midfield places (almost certain to be Donegal’s Neil Gallagher but the GAA team has Michael Murphy there), centre-forward (where Aidan O’Shea has a big shout, with Diarmuid Connolly also in the running and Murphy too) and full-forward (where it’s a shoot-out between Michael Murphy and the Kieran Donaghy).
As ever, geopolitical considerations will come into it, i.e. what the macro share-out should be. I’d expect Kerry to get 5-6, Donegal most likely 5, ourselves 2-3, Dublin definitely no more than two.
If Kerry get six, then in addition to O’Mahony, Murphy, Crowley, Moran and O’Donoghue, they’ll get either Kelly or Donaghy. Donegal’s five are likely to be Neil McGee, Neil Gallagher, Ryan McHugh, Michael Murphy and one of Durcan or McGlynn. Keith is our banker and Cillian should be too but if he gets squeezed out again (which would be a gross injustice but if Murphy and Donaghy are both picked in the full-forward line he will be) then one of Boyler or Aido (maybe both but I doubt it) will get it. Dublin will definitely get Flynn (excellent again this year but only against lesser opposition) and might at a push get Connolly.
I’m not holding out too many hopes for over-reward for us so while I hope we get three, I think it’s likely we’ll get two. I also think Kerry will get six, Donegal five, which would then mean that, once more, Dublin will get more than they should, i.e. two rather than one. Here’s how I think it’ll pan out: Kelly; O’Mahony, McGee, Higgins; P Murphy, Crowley, McGlynn; Moran, Gallagher; Flynn, Connolly, McHugh; O’Connor, M Murphy, O’Donoghue.
Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year are both slam-dunks, with Kerry’s O’Donoghue confirming his poster-boy status by winning the former while Ryan McHugh will take the latter.