A strange summer leaves some familiar faces absent

CHOOSING an Allstar selection before an All-Ireland final is like building a sandcastle at high tide: it’s fun at the time but you know it won’t last long.

Who would have bet that an August All Star team – never mind the real one a month later – could possibly be picked without a stake-holding from Meath or Sligo when we were still anticipating the four provincial finals last July? Think of it. David Kelly, Charlie Harrison, Ross Donovan, Graham Reilly and Joe Sheridan were just a few of the front-runners at the time.

Happenings since mean that none could take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the event of being omitted.

No doubt about it, it has been a strange year, but there is nonetheless a fair sprinkling of ‘certainties’ with one game still to go. Bernard Brogan and Marty Clarke top that category and one or the other seems destined for the tag of Footballer of the Year.

Others towards the top of the ‘probables’ bracket are Alan Quirke who has been steady, Paudie Kissane who has been Cork’s best defender and Kevin McKernan whose emergence at centre-back has been crucial to Down’s newfound balance.

Paddy Keenan’s contribution at midfield has outshone all others in that department while wing-forward Danny Hughes has been one of James McCartan’s best performers since their opening extra-time defeat of Donegal in May.

So, seven down, eight still to go.

Peter Kelly gets the nod in a full-back line that had no shortage of candidates after his stunning emergence from the shadows. His rise mirrored that of Dublin’s Philly McMahon.

Michael Shields completes the first line of defence having managed to avoid a serious case of burns while on Bernard Brogan in the semi-final while Philip Jordan joins McKernan and Kissane in the half-back line.

Another bolter from the blue joins Keenan at centrefield. Michael Darragh MacAuley may still be raw at inter-county level but he was the driving force behind Dublin’s summer.

Meath’s Reilly pushed Paddy Kelly hard for the last slot in the half-forwards but the Ballincollig man gets the vote because of a superior work-rate in comparison to Reilly who tended to explode in patches and disappear for others.

Kerry’s summer may have been considerably shorter than last year’s but Colm Cooper’s form was noticeably better. With Brogan a shoe-in that leaves it to Benny Coulter to provide the 15th and last berth, just ahead of Johnny Doyle.


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