O’Connor twins look certain to make Allstar hurling history

THERE is the possibility - if not indeed the probability - of a little bit of history being made today when the Vodafone Allstar hurling team for 2005 is chosen in Dublin.

Based on their outstanding form in the hurling championship with Cork, both Jerry and Ben O’Connor are favourites to be selected. And, while to date 15 sets of brothers in hurling (and six in football) have been honoured, there has never been a case of twins receiving awards.

Jerry is one of eight members of the 2004 team to be nominated, while Ben has yet to win an award, despite having been nominated four times previously.

Other than the Newtownshandrum pair, the only other high profile twin brothers currently involved are the McEntees from Armagh. However, only one of them - John - has been nominated (twice, 2002 and 2003) for an award. So far, the honour has eluded Tony.

Two other sets of brothers are included among the hurling nominees - Eoin and Paul Kelly from Tipperary and Fergal and Niall Healy from Galway.

As with the O’Connors, the two Kellys are considered live prospects for awards, with Eoin viewed as virtually an automatic choice for a place in the full-forward line. Paul is seen as a leading contender for the second midfield position (after Jerry O’Connor), with Tom Kenny in close pursuit and Colin Lynch also strongly favoured after another outstanding campaign with Clare.

Eoin Kelly is in line for his third award in four years, while Paul won an award in 2002 (at left half-back). Neither of the Healy brothers was previously nominated and Galway’s sole Allstar over the past three seasons was Ollie Canning - also a nominee.

Overall, Cork and Galway received 22 nominations between them. And, apart from the eight 2004 Allstars who are again eligible for selection, only twelve other players nominated last year are included.

Henry Shefflin and Tommy Walsh represent Kilkenny’s best chance of an award.

In contrast to last year, when only Ryan McMenamin and Stephen O’Neill were named from Tyrone, the All-Ireland football champions have eleven of their players nominated, followed by eight each from Armagh and Kerry. In contrast, Galway forwards Micheal Meehan and Padraic Joyce were the only Connacht nominees.

Tomas O Sé, one of the Kerry players regarded as certain to receive an award, was sent off in a club game last weekend. However, while in the past players under suspension at the time of the awards banquet were ineligible to receive awards, this stricture no longer applies following a relaxation in the rules about ten years ago.

The goalkeeping position will be interesting for the reason that Cavan’s James Reilly has been the preferred choice in a number of published selections - ahead of Kerry’s Diarmuid Murphy and Armagh’s Paul Hearty.

Only two Cavan players have received awards since the scheme was inaugurated in 1971. Defender Ollie Brady was the first in 1978, to be followed by Dermot McCabe, better known as a midfielder but chosen at wing-forward in 1991.

Peter Canavan is considered a strong candidate for a position in the full-forward line - where competition will be especially strong, taking account of the claims of Colm Cooper, Stephen O’Neill (both automatic), Paddy Bradley and Owen Mulligan. Canavan holds five awards, the first won in 1994, and this is a record for a player from Ulster. He announced his retirement after the All-Ireland final.

Overall, only four players in football have won more than five awards. Pat Spillane holds the record with nine, followed by Michael Sheehy with seven and both Jack O’Shea and Ger Power on six each.

DJ Carey tops the list in hurling, also with nine awards, followed by Noel Skehan with seven and Nicky English (six). Jimmy Barry-Murphy is one of nine hurlers who won five awards and he picked up two more in football.

The Allstars are chosen by a panel of national journalists representing the print, radio and television media and GAA President Sean Kelly is non-voting chairman of the committee.

The names of the hurling Allstars will be published tomorrow and the football winners will be announced live on RTÉ Television on Friday night, along with the respective Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year winners.

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