Will Cork tyro Mark Coleman be honoured with an All-Star having been the outstanding hurler in the Munster championship? What are the chances Galway match or beat their previous record haul of seven accolades in 1988? Will Waterford evergreen Michael Walsh pick up his fourth All-Star 10 years after claiming his first?
Subjective as they are, the All-Stars are always a subject of debate but will be regarded even more keenly this year. Here’s what you need to know about the coming days:
The selection process has been augmented as well as streamlined in recent years with members submitting their best players post-Allianz Leagues, post-provincial championships prior to providing their best 45 players (three goalkeepers, 18 defenders, six midfielders, 18 forwards) in each for the nominations meetings. This quantitative process is a means of ascertaining consensus quickly although, as has been proven at a number of meetings, there is still room for qualitative arguments. It has also made the scheme more reflective of the season as a whole and transparent.
In 2015, the All-Stars steering committee voted in favour of doing away with assigning players to two defensive and two attacking lines. In the interest of acknowledging the fluidity of positions in both codes as well as ensuring the best six backs and six forwards were honoured, the decision was taken to select 18 nominees in each area. It hasn’t been to the liking of some traditionalists, some of whom argue it goes against the grain of the awards, but it mirrors the modern game. It also adds to the suspense between the nominations meetings and the All-Stars announcements.
Members of the All-Stars steering committee appear on both football and hurling selection committees with the exception of Kenny Archer (Irish News) who is football only. They are: Martin Breheny (Irish Independent), Brian Carthy (RTÉ Radio); John Fogarty (Irish Examiner); Michael Lyster (RTÉ TV); Gordon Manning (Irish Sun); Seán Moran (Irish Times); Pat Nolan (Irish Mirror) and Karl O’Kane (Irish Star). The football committee members are: Declan Bogue (Belfast Telegraph); Micheál Clifford (Irish Daily Mail); Colm Keys (Irish Independent), Seán McGoldrick (Sunday World); David McIntyre (Newstalk); Fintan O’Toole (the42.ie) and Frank Roche (Herald). The hurling committee members are: Seán Bán Breathnach (Raidió na Gaeltachta); John Harrington (gaa.ie); Vincent Hogan (Irish Independent); Philip Lanigan (Irish Daily Mail); Damian Lawlor (Freelance); MacDara Mac Donncha (TG4); Enda McEvoy (Irish Examiner) and Denis Walsh (Sunday Times). Selections meetings are chaired either by the GAA president or the GAA director general.
Since the GAA and GPA combined award schemes in 2011, GPA members have chosen the individual awards (footballer and young footballer of the year, hurler and young hurler of the year) from shortlists compiled by the All-Stars committees. All-Stars selection committee members also nominate the player of the month candidates from which the inter-county playing body also pick.
U21 players qualify for the young footballer and hurler of the year awards although that could change next year as the U21 grade in football drops to U20.
It has been the tradition for the All-Ireland winning managers to present the footballer and hurler of the year awards on the night of the black tie event. As more often than not, they are giving it to a player of their own team it is a custom that has run smoothly over the years. However, last year both awards went to non All-Ireland winners, Austin Gleeson and Lee Keegan.
Both selection meetings take place tomorrow with embargoes placed on when the two 15s can be revealed. The 2017 hurling All-Stars will be announced on Thursday morning with the football 15 and top individual awards declared at the ceremony in the National Convention Centre in Dublin, which will be televised live by RTÉ from 7pm on Friday.
The All-Stars tours work out in alternate years. Last year, the 2015 and ’16 football winners were invited on a trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The 2016 and ’17 hurling winners will be offered a trip to Singapore in early December. The last hurling tour was to Austin, Texas two years ago. Each All-Star winner also receives a €1,500 cheque; the footballer and hurler of the year each collect €5,000, all for the use of their images for promotional purposes.
A Donegal motion passed at Congress earlier this year proposed an enhanced awards scheme for the club championships. The media will have an input in the selection process.
With a four-year deal, PriceWaterhouseCoopers last month became the sixth sponsors of the All-Stars following Opel (2011-16), Vodafone (2001-10), Eircell (1997-2000), Powerscreen (1995-96), Bank of Ireland (1979-84) and Carroll’s (1971-78).