Rejuvenated Rebel Rover Quirke has kicked on this year

1. Alan Quirke (Cork): Could not be faulted for any of the three goals conceded in championship football this year.

What differentiates him from his nearest challenger, Brendan McVeigh, is his ability to vary his kickout. Like last year’s All-Star goalie, Diarmuid Murphy, he has reinvented his game at a late stage in his career.

2. Justin McMahon (Tyrone): Brother Joe provides the back-up but this guy can play football when he comes out of the shell.

3. Michael Shields (Cork): Gives Cork some forward momentum coming out of the backs and did as good a job as could be done when moved over on Bernard Brogan.

4. Philip McMahon (Dublin): Solid in all Dublin’s championship games. Game-winning contribution against Armagh and two spectacular points in quarter-final and semi-final.

5. Phillip Jordan (Tyrone): A dearth of quality at wing back. After much head scratching I’ve opted for Jordan, back to the 2008 form and played well in trying circumstances in the defeat to Dublin.

6. Kevin McKernan (Down): Footballing centre back who supports the ball carrier at every opportunity.

7. Paudie Kissane (Cork): Athletic player whose fitness and stamina were key in Cork’s strong finish against Dublin.

8. Kalum King (Down): One of the unsung heroes against Kerry. Huge contribution against Kildare in the absence of Rogers. Big, forceful type who has to do an amount of horsing given the nature of Brendan McVeigh’s kick-out.

9. Paddy Keenan (Louth): Louth’s best performer in a great Leinster campaign. Edges out Ambrose Rogers, Michael Darragh McAuley, Dermot Earley and John Galvin.

10. Daniel Hughes (Down): Another player who has changed his game to fit in with Down’s work ethic. A breaking ball winner non pareil.

11. Martin Clarke (Down): Appears to be moving at a slower pace than others around him but rarely gives the ball away. Shows a huge appetite for graft to add to his passing ability. Has made Benny Coulter’s season.

12. Patrick Kelly (Cork): Forget his free-taking against Limerick. Has consistently been Cork’s best forward and like Kissane, his fitness and energy are one of the main reasons Cork are in the final.

13. Colm Cooper (Kerry): His best season in some time and that’s saying something! Gooch is operating on a different level to almost every other forward in the game.

14. Bernard Brogan (Dublin): A scoring machine, who’s had to carry so much of the burden this year while training in Eoghan O’Gara and playing with so many non-scoring forwards.

15. John Doyle (Kildare): Heroic late catch against Down symbolised his season. Has toughened upstairs to such an extent that it’s hard to believe he’s the same player as a few years back.


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