Last week the PwC All-Star players of the month for July and August were revealed.

Dublin had representatives in Brian Fenton and Jack McCaffrey up against Colm Cavanagh in contention for this month’s title. The Tyrone midfielder was voted by his peers to take the award and a €1,000 cheque.

Nothing unusual there — Cavanagh has been exceptional of late.

However, it was the fourth time the masterful Fenton has been overlooked for the monthly award, previously missing out in September 2015, ’16 and April this year.

Yet to lose a Championship game, he may be the lucky general on the field but in terms of these gongs he’s Ed Harris on Oscars night.

As the Evening Herald pointed out last week, Fenton and his Dublin colleagues feature often in the monthly shortlists at this time of year.

Compiled by the All-Stars steering committee, the inter-county player body then vote electronically from the three names. But Dublin, not just Fenton, rarely benefit in such polls. Since the beginning of the 2015 Championship in which they claimed their first of three consecutive All-Ireland titles, they have picked up just three of 21 monthly accolades — Paddy Andrews (September 2015), Ciarán Kilkenny (April 2016) and James McCarthy (September 2017), two of them in a three-year Championship period where they have been next to flawless.

Indeed, McCarthy winning last September’s award was somewhat surprising as he had been lagging behind Chris Barrett in the early voting.

Even though they are often ignored in the early months of the summer when the stars of football’s lesser lights are backed, by our estimation Dublin’s three monthly awards came despite at least 12 occasions when they have had at least one nominee.

It’s a dismal acknowledgment for a team for the ages.

Making matters worse is the fact McCaffrey was their last Footballer of the Year (2015). Lee Keegan and Andy Moran have claimed the top individual honours since then, besting Dublin players in the process.

The selection of the player of the month — and year — awards follow similar procedures except for the fact the entire All Stars committees pick the nominations and, from last year, proportional representation was introduced instead of first-past-the-post criteria with players asked to pick their players in order of preference.

The decision, made by the GPA, came in the wake of two non All-Ireland winners claiming the footballer and hurler of the year honours in 2016.

Often has been the case that votes for Dublin have been “split” by there being two of them as opposed to one from another county. This month’s shortlist is the latest example but there was September 2016 when Patrick Durcan edged out Fenton and Michael Fitzsimons and April this year as Damien Comer was favoured over Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny.

July’s GAA footballer of the month Conor McManus of Monaghan with his hurling counterpart Clare’s Peter Duggan
July’s GAA footballer of the month Conor McManus of Monaghan with his hurling counterpart Clare’s Peter Duggan

There could be no claims of split votes last year, though, when Stephen Cluxton and McCarthy were lined up alongside Moran and David Clarke.

It should be noted that two of Dublin’s individual awards in this area of dominance came when they have stacked the deck. McCaffrey, their last footballer of the year, was the choice ahead of Bernard Brogan and Philly McMahon. In September ’15, Andrews landed the monthly award when up against Fenton and McMahon.

It’s at the stage now where unless Dublin fill all the nomination positions the chances are they are going to lose out such is the manner in which they are disregarded. Anti-Dublin?

It’s an argument that is becoming more difficult to counter but then only 50% to 60% of players vote in these matters. Scrape away the indifference, though, and there would appear to be a feeling Dublin get enough without the trimmings of individual awards.

The GPA have not ruled out making further adjustments to how the players of the year are chosen but the message they and everyone else is receiving is that there’s envy in their ranks.

Behind Fenton, Kilkenny and McCarthy, Brian Howard is next to a cert for an All-Star and yet there is a feeling in the capital that up against David Clifford for young footballer of the year he could lose out as much for the profile of the Kerry forward as his heroics in his county’s ill-fated Super 8 campaign.

Beat Tyrone on Sunday and not only should Dublin trouble their record number of All-Stars (they earned seven last year and in 2015) but Jim Gavin must be handed the Philips Manager of the Year award after Micheál Donoghue claimed it ahead of him last year.

Even in an ultra-competitive year for managers as 2018, a fourth straight Sam Maguire would supersede the achievements of everyone else.

Dublin, though, know their appreciation society isn’t fully subscribed.

Harte has the know-how on football’s biggest day

Earlier this year, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte couldn’t pass a microphone without having a pop at those who dumped all of Gaelic football’s ills at his door. It annoyed him and he was letting everybody know it did.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte

That negativity heaped on Harte and his team was inaccurate, as is the idea Tyrone suddenly saw the light and changed tactics.

Colm Cavanagh, now one of the game’s best readers, continues to protect the “D” and races back there as soon as the opposing team either gains a turnover or they claim their kick-out. Justin McMahon was charged with that duty in 2016.

The impressive scoring totals, though, mask the reality that Harte has not deviated from his principles in the wake of criticism following the heavy loss to Dublin last season. At the same time, Harte isn’t complaining that those handsome scores fly in the face of the claims made by former captain Seán Cavanagh that the manager’s style was suffocating the team’s best forwards.

Undoubtedly, Harte will have to bring something new to the table on Sunday but it will have more to do with match-ups like how the McMahon brothers silenced Kerry’s Twin Towers of Donaghy and Walsh in 2008.

If John Small is, as expected, given the detail on Peter Harte, don’t be shocked if Harte brings him to full-forward to try give Tyrone the jump. Mattie Donnelly may be asked to do a similar leech job on Ciarán Kilkenny as Lee Keegan did on the Dublin forward last year.

But in doing so, there’s a danger Peter will be robbed to pay Paul. As Tyrone went over their game plan on their training trip this past weekend, Harte will have delivered his solutions. They mightn’t work but this is a stage where he’s never suffered fright.

Cahill makes his case to be Tipp senior manager

Unlike other challengers, action was Liam Cahill’s best means of staking a claim for the position of Tipperary senior hurling manager and it sure spoke volumes for him in Limerick on Sunday.

The result obviously means a lot but the display would undoubtedly have convinced the selection committee charged with finding Michael Ryan’s successor of Cahill’s acumen. These U21s were shell-shocked following that 13-point hammering in the Munster final but in just over seven weeks he was able to rehab the squad. It meant changing a third of the team but the transformation was incredible. 

Liam Cahill and the Tipperary team celebrate their U21 All-Ireland final win over Cork
Liam Cahill and the Tipperary team celebrate their U21 All-Ireland final win over Cork

How they adapted to the conditions in the second half, never mind the questions they asked of Cork, had to be put into practice, yet the leadership shown by Cahill and coach Michael Bevans was evident.

Earlier this month, former Tipperary star Michael Cleary spoke of how a big personality might not be needed to succeed Michael Ryan. 

Cahill mightn’t be a household name but then neither was John Kiely. Both are no-nonsense, straight talkers who have earned their corn at under-age level, as is Cahill’s fellow Ballingarry man Willie Maher, who is also in the running.

One game shouldn’t decide who should or should not get an inter-county managerial position but what Cahill has overseen from July 4 to August 26 has been an incredible achievement. If he is handed the big one, nobody can begrudge him, not even those who want the role for themselves.

 

  •  john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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