Every year the All-Star awards never fail to cause controversy and tonight’s version was no exception. While the first fourteen gongs in the football awards went in the direction expected (from our perspective, Ger Cafferkey losing out to Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll was a bit disappointing but it wasn’t a surprise), there proved to be a sting in the tail with championship top scorer Cillian O’Connor overlooked in favour of Monaghan’s Conor McManus for the final place on this year’s team. Worse was to follow for Cillian, though, when, in a truly bewildering decision – one made, it should be noted, by the playing fraternity themselves – he found himself beaten to the YPOTY award by Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey.
I know, I know – these awards mean little or nothing in the larger scheme of things and set against All-Ireland medals they’re all but worthless. But all the same if gongs are being handed out you’d like to think we’d get our fair share of whatever is going. This plainly didn’t happen tonight.
Leaving personalities aside for a minute, winning fewer than five All-Stars for us tonight left us short-changed. Dublin undoubtedly deserved their six (though their three hurling ones – the same number as beaten finalists Cork received – was but the latest example of the kind of serial over-rewarding that goes their way) and Kerry’s two were probably justified as well. I know Monaghan won Ulster but from what I saw of them in their All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tyrone they looked very, very ordinary. Did they deserve two awards? When Tyrone, who knocked them out of the championship without too much bother, only got one?
Turning to personalities, how can it be right that Cillian – the championship’s top scorer and the only man ever to score a hat-trick of goals in successive championship matches – should lose out to Conor McManus? Don’t get me wrong, the Monaghan man is a talented forward and had a good year. But an All-Star? Ahead of Cillian?
When our man lost that one my immediate reaction was that the journo fraternity were doing this knowing he was getting a third successive YPOTY award. If ever there were a bolted-on certainty, then this was surely it – championship top scorer against two pretty boy Dubs lads who had shown promise this summer but who had both wilted badly when the going got tough at the business end of the season.
I’d say Cillian is pissed off at losing both awards but seeing Jack McCaffrey – who was hauled off in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final, having been posted missing on both matches – win the YPOTY award ahead of him has to be the one that hurts the most. The fact that it was his fellow players who voted on this only adds insult to injury.
I’m delighted for Keith and Lee – who both picked up a second All-Star tonight (Lee also lost out to MDMA for POTY but you can’t quibble with that) – and I’m also very happy to see Colm Boyle and Aidan O’Shea claim deserved awards for the first time. But I’m disgusted at how Cillian has been treated and I’m disappointed that we’re leaving tonight’s awards with less than our fair share of gongs.
Nothing for it, then, but to pack this injustice away as yet another hurt that screams out to be righted in 2014.