Mark set to bring little bit of cheer to Fermanagh

FERMANAGH’S 22-year wait for a second Allstar award will come to an end this afternoon when the Vodafone football team are chosen by a panel of national media in Dublin.

And in the 34th year of the scheme, the Northerners’ Mark Little could collect the 1,000th award.

Since the scheme’s inception, 990 awards have been presented - under four different sponsors, PJ Carroll, Bank of Ireland, Powerscreen and Vodafone.

The football wing-forward Allstar will reach the millennium figure.

In the history of the scheme, 25 counties in football and 14 in hurling have had players honoured. Louth, Carlow and Longford have never been represented.

An Allstar team has probably never met with universal approval and the teams to be picked this afternoon (with the football winners announced tomorrow in the newspapers and the hurlers revealed live on RTÉ television on Friday night) will arouse considerable debate. And some controversy.

One of the main past criticisms was selections were dominated by teams involved in the closing stages of the All-Ireland championships, and specifically by the finalists.

However, the introduction of the qualifiers has reduced the number of Allstars going to the runners-up in football. Armagh only received two last year and it was the same with Kerry in 2002.

Mayo have only five players in contention, the same as Fermanagh, while Kerry received 12 nominations.

Since Peter McGinnity was chosen as Fermanagh’s first Allstar in 1982, only seven players from the county have received nominations. Of the five nominated this year, only full-back Barry Owens was previously named.

Much more intriguing, however, will be the composition of the half-back line in hurling. It’s generally accepted that Ronan Curran and Ken McGrath each deserve the centre-back berth and that Seán Óg Ó hÁilpín and JJ Delaney are the only real candidates for right and left half-back.

The selectors can either bite the bullet and pick one over the other, or accommodate one of them elsewhere.

The flexibility afforded the selectors means the Waterford captain could end up at midfield, or even half-forward, even though he has only been nominated for the defence.

Brothers Ben and Jerry O’Connor will make history if they are both chosen, because twins have never received awards.

And McGrath and Brian Corcoran could make their own history if chosen in defence and attack respectively.

McGrath received an award at left half-forward two years ago, while Corcoran was twice selected - 12 years ago at right corner-back and in 1999 at centre-back.

Offaly’s Brian Whelahan is the only player to have received Allstars for his performances in both defence and attack.

The selection is made by journalists from the major newspaper, radio and television outlets in an open meeting. Players have to be proposed, seconded and a case made for their selection. GAA President Sean Kelly chairs the selection committee, but doesn’t have a vote.

The committee comprises the Steering Committee (which frames the rules and reviews procedures), plus three additional selectors for hurling and three for football, who are involved over a three-year period. The Steering Committee comprises Brian Carthy (RTÉ Radio), Michael Lyster (RTÉ Television), Jim O’Sullivan (Irish Examiner), Martin Breheny (Irish Independent), Keith Duggan (Irish Times), Eamonn O’Hara (Irish News) and Damian Lawlor (The Star).

Additional selectors in football are: Adrian Logan (UTV), Alan Milton (The Irish Sun) and Jerome Quinn (BBC Television)

Hurling: Martan O Ciardha (Raidió na Gaeltachta), Denis Walsh (Sunday Times) and Vincent Hogan (Irish Independent).

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