The year 2002 was a difficult one for me as I spent most of it injured with a complicated ankle problem, writes Tony McEntee.
Bone bruising to a talo-calcaneal fusion with severe ligament damage is what they told me. All I remember was the many hours on a trampoline and aqua jogging to minimise the weight bearing as the injury slowly healed. It was a taster of what athletic sports people or non-team orientated athletes endure and accept as the norm.
For me, there was no self-satisfaction and the drive to keep going was simply the knowledge that we (Armagh) were on a pathway to something special: “I will believe where all those have failed before me.”
My moment eventually came. I can’t quite remember the detail, but I came on as a sub in the All-Ireland final against Kerry, for who I don’t know, and played my part in turning our fortunes around and winning Armagh’s first title. There was a few breaking balls won, maybe an interception and a couple of passes to set up attacking moves. Very blurry, but in the end, I’m hugging Geezer and Croke Park is overcome with emotion.
Six Armagh men got All Stars in 2002 with my brother John, and Ronan Clarke, being very unfortunate to miss out after an outstanding year.
Me? I was never realistically going to get one but if All Star selections tell you anything, it is that everything is possible.
This year’s All Star selection is hard to quibble with, especially when you accept at face value the positions in which people have been nominated.
But pretend for a moment you don’t. Would you select Paul Murphy at right corner back, when he played his best games as a man-marking half back against Donegal’s Ryan McHugh and Galway’s Shane Walsh? Even more obvious is the accommodation of Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy at centre half-forward and full- forward respectively. I am a huge fan of both players but is such accommodation necessary?
The All Star committee purports to select players based on merit, not favouritism, and I agree that they do a good job on the surface. But somewhere in that discussion, populism won through. The unfortunate consequence is that Ryan McHugh has missed out on an All Star. At 19, he had an exceptional year and will likely be rewarded with the young player of the year accolade. Scant reward for his efforts.
Dublin’s James McCarthy must surely consider himself fortunate to be selected. Having had a good league and Leinster championship, Dublin’s defence was dramatically exposed and their shortcomings laid bare for all to see. On that faithful day against Donegal, the Dublin half-backs were completely anonymous; this is in stark contrast to Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly, who excelled for periods of play and rightly deserve their awards.
Who was a better player and should be selected? The question should be who was more consistent? And the answer is Donegal’s Frank McGlynn.
Frank had a consistently solid year and was even switched to corner back in the final to marshal the hitherto rampant Paul Geaney — which he was effective at.
The truth is that the All Star team selected isn’t that far away from reality. Naturally it is a consensus document and within that committee, a unanimous decision will not have been possible on all positions.
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