The All-Ireland champions had 12 representatives included on the list of 45 players released last night, two more than 2007 and three more than 2006. They previously received a dozen nods back in 2004.
The only players from last Sunday’s starting 15 to miss out were Killian Young, Darragh O Sé and captain Darran O’Sullivan. Two of Kerry’s nominees – Tommy Griffin and Tadhg Kennelly – are up for the first time.
How many survive the next round of cuts remains to be seen. Kerry have provided six players to the final All Star selection on the four previous occasions they have won the Sam Maguire in the current decade.
The largest representation from any All-Ireland winners in that time was eight, back in 2005, when Tyrone were the chief suppliers. In all, there are 17 players in the running for the first time this year with only five of last year’s All Star team – Justin McMahon, Davy Harte, Tomas O Sé, Declan O’Sullivan and Colm Cooper – reappearing.
Cork are, predictably, the next best represented outfit in the list with ten of their players making the cut and half of them are newcomers to such elite surroundings.
The full breakdown of nominations county-by-county is: Kerry (12), Cork (10), Tyrone (5), Dublin (4), Kildare (3), Donegal, Limerick, Wicklow and Mayo (2 each), Sligo, Meath and Antrim (1 each).
In all, 12 counties are represented on the preliminary list, consistent with the spread for most of the current decade, and it is a list that is surprising only in the lack of surprises.
That contrasts with the hurling selection earlier this week which saw Tipperary receive one nomination more than Kilkenny yet, on the basis of the football season as a whole, it is arguable that the same could have happened with Cork and Kerry.
Instead, the absence of Darragh O Sé and Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh are the nearest things there are to real talking points. The team that is picked in the weeks to come will, therefore, be the first since the 2001 vintage not to feature either the Kerry or Tyrone player in its ranks. Strangely, they have never featured in the same year.
As ever though, there will be quibbles. Some will be based as much on collective performances as on individual ones, which are, of course, the only criteria that should count. For instance, Mayo may well feel under-represented in comparison to the other provincial winners. Dublin have twice the number of players despite falling at the same hurdle and much more spectacularly. One of John O’Mahony’s men, Trevor Mortimer, will be hoping to make it a family hat-trick after Kenneth, in 1996 and 1997, and Conor, in 2006, made the final selection itself.
While the final team will inevitably lean towards the All-Ireland finalists, the committee has made a point of doffing its hat to the performances of some lesser lights.
John Galvin and Johnny McCarthy are there from Limerick, Sligo have Johnny Davey, Antrim have Michael McCann and Wicklow have both Ciaran Hyland and Leighton Glynn. That will be the least Mick O’Dwyer will have expected after his side’s odyssey through the qualifiers and selector Kevin O’Brien said likewise yesterday.
“It’s brilliant for the two lads,” said the man who won Wicklow’s only All Star in 1990. “To be honest, we were hoping there might be more but I suppose we would be selfish. We thought Tony Hannon, Rory Stafford and Seanie Furlong were in the running too.”
Kildare’s impressive season, where they ran both Dublin and Tyrone close, was recognised with three nominations. Of those, Dermot Earley is all but assured of a place in the final selection. The midfielder was last nominated in 2002 and won his one and only All Star in 1998 at left-half forward.