I happened to be in the car last night when Andy Moran’s interview with Oisin Langan on Newstalk’s Off The Ball show was on. Andy was his usual forthright self and despite showing plenty of obvious disappointment over Sunday’s latest near-miss with Sam he was also bullish about the future. He was asked about whether or not James Horan was likely to stay on as manager next year and replied that he couldn’t envisage James leaving at this stage. It’s a good interview, well worth a listen.
Discussion about who’ll feature in the All-Stars always tends to get going far too early – the thread on the topic on gaaboard.com began this year before July was over – despite the fact that, as any fool could tell you, the shape of this particular team only starts to become clear once the All-Ireland final has been played. Now that it has, I think it’s safe enough to declare open season on this activity.
From what I can see, three different stabs have been made so far at a Team of the Year or possible All-Star line-up, i.e. RTÉ’s Sunday Game, GAA.ie and Martin Breheny in today’s Irish Independent. The three teams are all different but it’s clear that there’s a lot of commonality between them and given this I think this year’s All-Stars should be relatively easy to nail down. I know other players will feature on the shortlist but I’d say that most of the debate will be concentrated on the names that feature on the three lists published so far so for the sake of simplicity I’ll restrict my discussion of the likely permutations to these players.
In terms of county representation, The Sunday Game go for six for Dublin, five for us, two for Kerry and one each for Tyrone and Monaghan. Breheny does the same whereas the GAA.ie pick takes one off Dublin and gives it to Cavan (more on that anon – this switch makes no sense at all at all). From our perspective, I’d be very disappointed if we don’t come away with five from this year’s team.
Looking at individual picks, a total of eleven names appear on all three lists: Stephen Cluxton, Colin Walshe, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Cian O’Sullivan, Michael Darragh Macauley, Colm Cooper, Sean Cavanagh, James O’Donoghue, Bernard Brogan and Cillian O’Connor. I’d say all of these are bolted-down, nailed-on, racing certainties for gongs.
Because there’s a bit of switching going on as regards positioning – with Cian O’Sullivan shoe-horned into centre-back on both The Sunday Game list and the GAA.ie one (despite the fact that he only played half a match there all summer), while he’s at midfield on Breheny’s list – that means that ten places appear to be fairly well set in stone. Much of the selection debate is, then, likely to revolve around the remaining five places – full-back, centre-back, left half-back, midfield and right half-forward.
Full-back would appear to be between Rory O’Carroll and Ger, centre-back between Cian O’Sullivan and Donie, left half-back between Jack McCaffrey and Boyler, one of the midfield slots between Cian O’Sullivan and Aido and right half-forward between Paul Flynn and Cavan’s Cian Mackey. Two of these are no-brainers – there is no way on this earth that Colm Boyle should lose out to the media darling from Clontarf and the notion that Cian Mackey could be picked ahead of Paul Flynn is equally insane. Both McCaffrey and Mackey were selected on the GAA.ie team, by the way, which would make you wonder what matches they were watching in Croke Park (and beyond) this summer.
I think Rory O’Carroll will edge out Ger at 3 (partly on form, partly because Ger won last year) with the final two places dependent on where Cian O’Sullivan is selected. If he gets midfield, then Donie gets 6 (and we get a clean sweep in the half-backs) whereas if O’Sullivan is picked at 6 we get Big Dawg at midfield.
My own guess? I’d go with the one picked on The Sunday Game, to be honest.
The publication of the nominations for this year’s All-Stars may, as they were last year, be delayed until early October due to the hurling final replay. The awards themselves will be announced at the end of next month.