The football All-Stars were announced at a big bash out in CityWest earlier this evening and, as expected, neither Andy Moran nor Trevor Mortimer made it onto the final fifteen (full details on the team here). As well as that, Aidan O’Shea lost out to Donegal’s Michael Murphy for the Young Player of the Year gong. To be honest, it’s difficult to quibble with either outcome from our perspective, though I’d say that Cork’s Colm O’Neill will have been a bit miffed to have lost out to Murphy for the YFOY prize.
I’m deliberately refraining from saying much about the All-Star team itself, except to make the point that handing twelve of the fifteen places to Cork and Kerry is a fair distance the other side of the extreme and it’s the first time that any province has dominated the awards to this extent. While we’re getting all provincial, it’s worth noting how badly Connacht has fared in relation to the share-out of the All-Star awards, both on this occasion and over the past decade.
Just how badly Connacht has done may be seen from the table, where I’ve set out details of where, by province, the All-Stars have gone to over the course of this first decade of the new millennium. Fair enough, you might reasonably say – given that all but one All-Ireland in the Noughties has been won by teams from Ulster or Munster, then it’s only right and proper that these two provinces between them have accounted for 71% of the decade’s All-Stars. But Connacht has supplied one All-Ireland champion and three beaten finalists over the course of the last ten years whereas our chums in Leinster have managed just one beaten finalist (and a well beaten one at that) so how come they’ve managed to end up with 27 All-Star baubles over this period while players from Connacht have been awarded just 17?
Connacht’s treatment in this regard is pretty galling and once again this year Leinster has been rewarded for a fairly mediocre season on the field with an All-Star for Kildare’s Dermot Earley whereas this is the third year in a row that no player from Connacht has made it onto the final fifteen (a fate that has befallen Leinster just the once, back in 2005). A quick perusal of the yearly lists in the table above shows that the hind-tit treatment being meted out to players from Connacht has exacerbated sharply in recent times: over the past five years, the only All-Stars that have been awarded to players from Connacht were the two won by Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer back in 2006. Over the same period, players from Leinster have been showered with eleven All-Stars, with luminaries such as Stephen Cluxton (twice), Alan Brogan (twice), Barry Cahill, Ciaran Whelan, Shane Ryan, Stephen Bray, Gary Connaughton and John Keane all making it to the podium (as well as Dermot Earley) over this period. Not bad going for a province that hasn’t managed to get a team as far as the All-Ireland final for the last eight years.
Obviously, the best way to ensure that more All-Stars come west is for the counties within Connacht to up their game and start competing properly once more at All-Ireland level. But, then again, the same statement is equally true of our underperforming Leinster brethern and it hasn’t prevented a steady stream of All-Star awards from landing into their undeserving laps in recent times. So maybe we should instead just take a handy short cut and start buying up loads of national newspapers so those lazy-minded journos who pick these teams would then begin to think that they need to placate us in the way they’ve been doing all these years with those well-populated counties further east.