Little to separate Dublin and Mayo in starring roles

Like their last two All-Ireland final clashes, champions Dublin have pipped Mayo by one in the 2017 PwC All-Stars, picking up seven to Mayo’s six.

Kerry’s Paul Geaney and Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone are the only two players selected from counties outside of this year’s finalists.

While Geaney has claimed a second successive All-Star, it is Kerry’s worst representation in an All-Stars team since 2012 when they failed to win any.

Cavanagh is one of five first-time recipients alongside Dublin trio Mick Fitzsimons, Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion as well as Mayo defender Chris Barrett.

Mayo stalwarts Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle are the most celebrated in the group as they each claim their fourth All-Star. They now join Lee Keegan as the most honoured Mayo footballers in the history of the All-Stars. Higgins’ first honour came in 2012, this latest one is his first since ’14, while Boyle has collected his four over the last five seasons.

David Clarke, who was nominated for footballer of the year alongside Stephen Cluxton, edged out the Dublin captain to follow up his success from last season. Cluxton can consider himself slightly unfortunate in what was a glorious year for the pair although Clarke’s litany of saves couldn’t be ignored. Cluxton’s last of his five All-Stars came in 2013 and he stays on the same total of gongs as his predecessor John O’Leary. A sixth award would have been a record for a goalkeeper.

Also unlucky not to make the cut are Ciarán Kilkenny and Jonny Cooper but then so are the Mayo quartet of Tom Parsons, Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty.

However, this year’s runners-up have representation in attack of the form of Aidan O’Shea, winning his third All-Star after his 2013 and ’15 successes, and the brilliant Andy Moran, who matched his 2011 honour. In all, it is Mayo’s largest haul of All-Stars since 1996.

With six players 30 or over and Cian O’Sullivan aged 29, it is one of the oldest All-Star teams to be named in recent times. With seven All-Stars, Dublin matched their total of 2015 — in their previous All-Ireland winning seasons this decade (2011, ’13 and ’16) they took home six. Fitzsimons’ consistency over the entire season is rewarded as is 2015 footballer of the year McCaffrey, who despite damaging his cruciate ligament early in the All-Ireland final, had a fantastic year having taken a break in 2016.

James McCarthy, so integral to the win over Mayo, is chosen for the second time as is Rock not just for his terrific free-taking but goals in the past championship. O’Callaghan, man-of-the-match on two occasions during the summer, was a no-brainer of a choice as was Mannion whose speed terrorised defences.

Eleven players from the ’16 All-Stars team had been nominated again – Clarke, Brendan Harrison, Cooper, Philly McMahon, Keegan, Boyle, Brian Fenton, Peter Harte, Kilkenny, Rock and Geaney. McMahon, Keegan and Kilkenny had been aiming to attain a third consecutive accolade.

Incidentally, there are three current All-Stars that will be on the flight to Australia tomorrow morning for the International Rules two-test series. Captain O’Shea will be joined by his fellow Mayoman Barrett and Kerry star Geaney, who will be accompanied by county colleagues Peter Crowley and Paul Murphy. Mayo’s Harrison, an All-Star last year, is also heading to Oz for the Adelaide and Perth tests on November 12 and 18 respectively.

Joe Kernan’s 23-man squad fly into Melbourne on Monday evening where they will acclimatise and train for three days at their base close to St Kilda before heading to Adelaide on Thursday. There they will be joined by AFL players Pearce Hanley and Zach Tuohy. Following Sunday’s first test in the Adelaide Oval, they will go into camp outside Perth prior to the second clash on the Saturday, which will be the last major game in the Subiaco Oval.


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