Long and hard road to All-Star fame

Over 1,000 senior inter-county football players set their personal and team goals at the start of each season.
Long and hard road to All-Star fame

Will I keep my place on the extended panel? Will I make the match day 26? Will I get game-time? A lot of pressure on young men’s shoulders. They train hard, they sacrifice a lot.

Nobody forces them to train or commit. Their own personal choice. The good managers encourage their participation, coach, and educate them to be better and praise them when they achieve their realistic and achievable goals.

The lucky players are the ones who get regular league and championship football. We forget that sometimes. We are blessed and privileged to witness so many committed young men willing to entertain us for nine months of the year.

One team claims the big prize, but so many individuals claim personal accolades, especially an All-Star.

The 2017 bunch are no different. Consistent delivery of skilful performances. With stadiums erupting with noise levels at the higher end of the Richter scale, they think and play with ice in their veins. There is no perfect All-Star team.

Ten counties were nominated this year, yet 34 teams participated in the championship. Has there ever been agreement with the chosen 15 in the PJ Carroll, BOI, Powerscreen, Eircell, Vodafone, or Opel-sponsored teams? I doubt it.

This year is no different. Personally, I agree with 13 of this year’s PwCs. The two unlucky ones? Stephen Cluxton and Tom Parsons.

David Clarke and Colm Cavanagh had good seasons and were leaders for their teams. Colm Cavanagh made hundreds of shuttle runs back into his rearguard throughout the season, shoring up his defence and always offering himself as an outlet.

If he can sprint in the opposite direction next season, Tyrone could be more successful. Clarke made the saves on the road to keep Mayo in the championship.

But Cluxton and Parsons had excellent seasons for their teams and were consistent when their teams needed them. I know Stephen Cluxton doesn’t need an All-Star to prove he’s had a super season.

Leaving all his records aside, he made the big saves, was the master of his defence and kicked unerringly for the majority of the season. Are the All-Star selectors penalising him for not finding his men in the first half of the final?

I hope not, or we need new All-Star selectors! I thought Tom Parsons, like James McCarthy, put in trojan shifts in every game that he played. He worked quietly and unselfishly, rolled up his sleeves and contributed on the scoreboard.

If Mayo are to reach the last four in 2018, Tom Parsons will be one of the main reasons. What about the Mayo men who were honoured?

Five thirtysomethings plus our International Rules captain, wee Aidan at 27. Clarke (34), Boyle (31), Barrett (30), Higgins (32) and Moran (34). Thankfully, no age discrimination with PwC. What ferocious warriors they all are.

Their appetite for success is unquestionable and their conquest has not been yet conquered.

Their individual skills and spirit make them the darlings of the Green n Red army. Boyle, Barrett and Higgins were tremendous at the back.

While Andy captured the scoring headlines in 2017, I think Aidan was the bravest of all the Mayo lads. What tripe and manure was fired at him all year.

He took more twitter crap than Donald Trump earlier in the season and unlike Trump, Aidan held his counsel and dignity.

The Dubs. Three pairs and a single. Two Croke’s, two Kickhams, two Cuala’s and one Clontarf.

First ever All-Stars, hurling or football, for the Cuala club. Mick Fitz has been a rock for Dublin over the years. Whether starting or introduced, he’s been a linchpin for the Dublin defence in their recent All Ireland hauls. Con produced the Georgie Best wonder goal moments of the summer.

I have no doubt that Con O’Callagha would also win an All-Star in hurling, if he ever decides to combine both intercounty hurling and football. Rock nailed the frees and McCarthy provided the nails. Cian O’Sullivan was the king on the chessboard and Paul Mannion showed how determination and perseverance can reward you.

When King Brian Boru won The Battle of Clontarf, it lasted from sunrise to sunset in April 1014. I’m sure Clontarf’s Jack McCaffrey will battle from sunrise to sunset every day, to get back in a Dublin jersey soon.

The Dingle shooter, Paul Geaney kept Kerry’s hopes alive throughout the summer after annexing the National League.

All good forwards can win their own ball, whether in space or in a 50-50 situation. Great forwards can then use their possession wisely and class forwards can rack up big scores with either foot. Geaney has hese attributes.

Congratulations one and all. What joy and pride the townlands of Ballina, Belmullet, Dalkey, Ballyhaunis, Ballindine, Stillorgan, Clontarf, Moy, Ballymun, Breaffy, Dingle, and Ballaghaderreen feel today.

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