If Stephen Cluxton is finally honoured with the Footballer of the Year award on Friday, it will have little or nothing to do with his team-mates.
It’s been a long-held view among Dublin players that when it comes to deciding between two or three of their own, they abstain from the voting process.
Young panel members may elect for the captain, Jack McCaffrey or Con O’Callaghan but the majority of this illustrious squad will not vote simply because they don’t want to pick one colleague over another.
That may in part explain why in 2016 and ’17 a Mayo player picked up the award. In ’16, Lee Keegan was favoured by inter-county players over Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny. The following season, Andy Moran picked up the top individual award ahead of David Clarke, Cluxton and James McCarthy.
Since then, the Gaelic Players Association have changed their voting format from first past the post to proportional representation but as Dublin don’t vote for their own (when it’s between their own) it doesn’t help their cause.
At least last year and 2015, their peers couldn’t but pick a Dub as all three nominees hailed from the capital.
We’ve mentioned this before but just as it is entirely appropriate Jim Gavin picks up a long due second Signify (formerly Philips) manager of the year award, few could quibble if Cluxton is considered the best this season.
In our eyes, Con O’Callaghan was just that but this isn’t like 2012 when Karl Lacey beat the outstanding footballer of the season, Colm McFadden. Sure, just as Lacey’s career was recognised so too would Cluxton’s were he also to be crowned the best Gaelic footballer of 2019 but in this year of all years it isn’t just excusable but fitting.
Obviously, O’Callaghan and McCaffrey will join him in the PwC All-Star team but in spite of the five in a row, Dublin may not dominate the 15. Michael Fitzsimons and Paul Mannion are two certs, Brian Howard is close to one and despite being below his lofty standards in the final games, Brian Fenton should hold onto a midfield spot. Davy Byrne is in with a chance but Kilkenny and McCarthy are outsiders for their fourth All-Stars.
Given 2019 was a forwards year, where Howard is actually selected is up for debate. As per the selection rule change in 2018, a player nominated in one area can be chosen in another — as was the case with Colm Cavanagh. Howard did spend time in the half-back line as well as midfield and the attack is jam-packed with worthy contenders.
Shifting Howard elsewhere may not be to traditionalists’ liking but honouring the best players is the aim of the game. Besides, it’s not as if Gaelic football has become so static that such accommodations can’t be made.
Any other year and Paul Geaney (2-17 from play this past summer) would be included — and might be yet — but outside of the Dubs and Cathal McShane nailed down for a full-forward position, Michael Murphy has to be considered in either the sextet or midfield, and from Kerry the likes of David Clifford, Stephen O’Brien, and Seán O’Shea probably have stronger shouts in attack.
The Sunday Game team of the year omitted Clifford, who scored 22 points from play in seven outings and O’Brien, who was a footballer of the year contender going into the drawn final. If Fenton is to be picked in spite of his displays in the last two matches of the Championship, then so too should O’Brien, who put in a decent replay performance.
As for the hurling team, there is a distinct possibility that for the second year in a row, the All-Ireland champions may have just one representative in the forward line — Graeme Mulcahy was the sole Limerick man in the honoured attack in 2018.
Tipperary captain Seamus Callanan, having been previously nominated for hurler of the year on three occasions, is fancied to pick up the top gong (at least his team-mates don’t have to pick between him and another one or two of their own) but it remains to be seen if Jason Forde and/or John O’Dwyer join him.
Tipperary will be well represented elsewhere with the other major question being will Wexford, who lost one Championship match, pick up as many if not more awards than Kilkenny, who reached the All-Ireland final but were defeated on three occasions? It’s 15 years since a Wexford man last claimed an award when Damien Fitzhenry was lauded but that should be bridged with the presence of at least Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Lee Chin in the team.
There is one certainty and that is that each team announced later this week — hurling on Thursday morning and football on Friday evening — will be contested and debated. Officially in its 48th year, it’s the least its creator, the late Mick Dunne, would expect.
Six years ago, Galway GAA chief executive John Hynes explained to delegates in no uncertain terms how bad the county board’s finances were. Combining the ill-fated purchase of Mountain South and costs associated with Pearse Stadium and the centre of excellence in Loughgeorge, Galway were €3.9 million in debt.
“Our annual repayment on loans is €271,000,” he revealed.
“To help manage and sustain our repayments, we will need to dispose of some assets and we will need to increase our utilisation of our other assets.
“A review of our 2013 revenue and costs shows clearly that an increased focus on cost reduction and cost avoidance is needed. We have no option but to ‘cut our cloth to measure’ to ensure that we can sustain our activities and remain self-sufficient in the future.”
The disturbing details of the internal audit conducted last year, published by RTÉ and The Sunday Business Post in recent days on top of the independent audit the Irish Examiner revealed last December, don’t suggest much, if any cloth, was cut subsequently.
The SBP reported a total of €53,279 was spent on the county board’s credit card with “no documentary support” to explain the expenditure and that it had been utilised for personal use. There was €46,997 of so-called bonuses awarded, which had not been approved, and €8,150 worth of expenses “which were contrary to proper procedure”.
In 2005, Croke Park prevented Roscommon from signing cheques, given the financial crisis in the county. Why GAA chiefs didn’t take the same approach, in this case, is a question that needs answering.
As Dr Crokes and South Kerry played into the dusk of the first evening of wintertime, a thought crossed our mind. No, it wasn’t questioning the lack of floodlights in Fitzgerald Stadium but how much longer can counties afford replays?
That might sound like a contradiction in terms but at the exact same time in Ballybofey Gaoth Dobhair and Naomh Conaill couldn’t be split after extra-time in their Donegal SFC final replay. They face off for a third time tomorrow night, where there must be a result ahead of the champions facing Castlerahan in the Ulster club championship on Sunday. Four games in the space of two weeks? It’s almost cruelty.
It’s been quite the autumn for replays already, with the Clare and Kildare football finals also having to be rerun last weekend, and then there was the Antrim saga, the Monaghan and Wicklow semi-finals, and a Kilkenny SHC quarter-final, while the Meath hurling final needed a second game as well.
Should Dr Crokes win a fourth consecutive Bishop Moynihan Cup, next Sunday will be their third of five consecutive weekends in action including a Munster semi-final on November 17. They are no strangers to short turnarounds from county to province but the gaps are shrinking. As Eoghan Cormican of this newspaper reported early this month, the Leinster Council are starting their 2020 club championship two weeks early to finish in time for the All-Ireland semi-finals in December.
It’s a step closer to the calendar year but the squeeze is sure to pit integrity of county competitions against those of the provinces and something, not just replays, will have to give.