JOHN FOGARTY: Revamped All-Stars will honour the game’s best

It’s All-Stars week and in the interest of keeping you informed, there is a change in the selection process from last year — an outfield player can be chosen for an award in an area other than the one they were nominated in, writes John Fogarty 

The decision taken by the All-Stars steering committee this year was a means of reflecting just how fluid both games but particularly Gaelic football has become.

At the same time, had such adjustability been in place last year Tom Parsons, may not have lost out on a midfield berth as either Colm Cavanagh or James McCarthy would have picked up a gong in the defensive sextet.

Given Cavanagh’s guardianship of Tyrone’s D and McCarthy’s role between the 45-metre line and midfield, their selection in that territory would have been as justifiable as a role in the middle of the field.

Parsons might be considered a victim of a selection system that is only now catching up with the game but then journalists were asked to provide their nominations the day after the All-Ireland football final with a nominations committee meeting later that week.

The incredibly tight time-frame didn’t allow for much contemplation and analysis (it may also have been a contributory factor in two goalkeepers being chosen as footballer of the year candidates).

Traditionalists will baulk at the idea of a nominated midfielder becoming a selected defender. As the All-Stars are now picked with the best 15 players in mind as opposed to the best in each position as was the case for the majority of the scheme’s 47-year history, it may be interpreted as the latest erosion of the initiative’s core meaning. 

However, when two-man full-forward lines are de rigueur and three-man midfields are becoming the norm — Mattie Donnelly refers to himself not as a midfielder but a “middle third” player — such flexibility is necessary.

It will be a handy tool this year particularly if Cavanagh, who has again been nominated in midfield, can be shifted to accommodate a player who has a stronger claim for an All-Star in midfield or in the forward line than one of those 18 shortlisted in defence.

McCarthy, who has a great chance of claiming a third All-Star, is among that group and is unlikely to be moved forward even though he started the All-Ireland final and semi-final there this year. Brian Howard, in line for his first All-Star, was more of a midfielder than McCarthy and could be picked there as deservedly as the forward division where he has been nominated.

Like Donnelly, Peter Harte could be classed in more than one department as might the likes of Niall Scully, Ryan McHugh, Pádraig Hampsey, and Ryan McAnespie, all of whom will be in tuxedos in Dublin’s Conference Centre on Friday night.

Hurling is more rigid although the advent of the provincial round-robin structure has made it a squad game and the All-Stars nominations duly have to acknowledge that changing landscape. Given the strength of his substitute performances, Shane Dowling last month came close to claiming his second All-Star nomination.

It would have meant 16 of Limerick’s All-Ireland winning panel being included in the 45 but tradition goes out the window with the end of knockout games in Leinster and Munster.

Revamped All-Stars will honour the game’s best

It’s incumbent upon the journalists to ensure the All-Stars represents the best. We can recall an interview with Tomás Ó Sé 11 years ago when he spoke of how important individual recognition was to him.

When he was taken off early in Kerry’s 13-point All-Ireland final win over Mayo, it almost felt like a defeat to him. 

We can remember Donal Keenan, who received the Gaelic Writers Association’s Lifetime Achievement award last week, once revealing he had informed a player he was an All-Star before it was confirmed simply because the player was a nervous wreck?

There was another reminder of the awards’ significance recently when Carlow’s Paul Broderick spoke about how his father informed him of his nomination.

He rang me at about seven in the morning to tell me. I hadn’t known until then. I’d have that relationship with him, we’d ring each other. When he said it I told him to ‘feck off’. And he laughed and said, ‘No, I’m deadly serious’. I’m a teacher and I went into school and they made a big deal of it in school. I know how big a deal it is from looking in from the outside. But until I had the experience I never realised how big it is.

The All-Stars are an imperfect science, subjective and sometimes cruel (we think back to 2010 and how none of the All-Ireland-winning Cork forward unit were picked in the final 15 or Peter Canavan chosen ahead of Brian McGuigan in 2005). It is not their intention to keep everybody happy but they endure because dispassionate analysis is the best means of recognising the best. The latest development is an example of that.

Five-step plan to curb violence

In the wake of the scenes in Austin Stack Park and Páirc Uí Rinn last week, there was plenty of “down with this sort of thing” from GAA officialdom but not much in the way of answers

In Saturday’s Examiner Sport, former GAA president Liam O’Neill and Jack Anderson did provide guidelines about what can be done and here are five more to consider:

Extend inter-county sideline regulations to club level: That means insisting each team may only populate the sideline with five people — the manager, the runner/maor foirne selector, a physio, a medic and a water/hurley carrier. Everyone else must either remain in the dugout or in the stand with exceptions only be made for players who are warming up.

Mandatory sideline monitors: As we mentioned last week, counties have taken to appointing sideline monitors whose role it is to make sure everybody is behaving. It shouldn’t fall upon just the fourth official.

Heavier penalties for management: One of the anomalies in the GAA Official Guide is that management team members are determined to be the same as players when it comes to striking opponents. Given they are in senior/mentoring positions, they should be held to higher account and their punishment for not doing so should be interpreted as if they were violent to referees.

Strict match privileges: O’Neill has mentioned before how captains or at least designated players should only have speaking rights with referees. If a player seeks an explanation for a decision then that’s fair enough but anything else should be articulated through one or two others.

Separate sidelines: It might be interpreted as being too close to the nuclear option but keeping opposing management and substitutes at a safe distance from each other mightn’t be such a silly idea.

Calendar issues remain unsolved

The news last week that Kildare’s first O’Byrne Cup game falls on the same December date they are permitted to return to collective training was an embarrassment for the Leinster Council.

In light of the achievements made by Croke Park in contracting the GAA calendar this year, it served as a reminder that not everyone is on the same page.

Never mind that those who scheduled the Lilywhites’ game against Offaly were oblivious to the collective training moratorium, the pre-Christmas start to the pre-season competition flies in the face of the CPA and GPA’s concerns about there being no effective closed season.

Revamped All-Stars will honour the game’s best

After the publication of the ESRI report which GAA director general Tom Ryan described as “sobering” in relation to the demands placed on players, Kildare’s December 8 game sends out the signal that not much has been learned from it.

What the Leinster Council can’t be blamed for, though, is the arranging of St Patrick’s Leinster club SFC clash with Rhode 24 hours after they beat Rathnew in the Wicklow final replay.

Wicklow, who exited the All-Ireland SFC on June 9, had ample time to complete their championship so that the matter of a final replay would not have impinged on their winners’ advance in the provincial championship.

Leinster couldn’t be seen to be making allowances for those who had already taken great liberties with the running of their premier competition.

- Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

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