A league of their own - Division 1 All-Star team

The gulf in class between the top flight and the rest of the divisions has perhaps never been as wide as this year. So who exactly have been a class apart in the league of its own?

A league of their own - Division 1 All-Star team

Here are our Division 1 All Stars following the seven round games:

Ken O'Halloran (Cork)

Charged with orchestrating Cork's new, short to mid-range kick-out strategy, O'Halloran's done extremely well and for us keeps Rory Beggan and Stephen Cluxton out of the goalkeeping spot on the basis there's been more of an onus on him this spring. O'Halloran may have made a blunder against Kerry but it was a small blot in an otherwise largely flawless copybook.

Jonny Cooper (Dublin)

There's little doubt there's a meaner streak to Cooper's game than there might have been a couple of years ago. It most certainly suits him, though, and his major asset is his in-game adaptability. Many's a time Jim Gavin has switched him onto the opposition's most prominent forward and Cooper has gone and done a job. It's a second excellent league campaign in a row for the Na Fianna man.

Rory O'Carroll (Dublin)

If Stephen Cluxton is indispensible for Dublin then O'Carroll isn't too far behind. He is a primary reason why Dublin have enjoyed five clean sheets this season. It's been in the dour games against Tyrone and Derry where O'Carroll has arguably been at his best although he was also just as impressive against Mayo and Monaghan.

Ryan Wylie (Monaghan)

It says a lot about a defender when a forward can score 2-1 off him and yet be considered to have finished the game even with his marker. That's exactly what happened in February when Wylie had the better of Colm O'Neill only for the Corkman to strike two second-half goals. Undeterred, Wylie has managed to juggle a sound league run with his U21 commitments.

Conor Dorman (Cork)

The young Bishopstown man has banked himself a spot in the Cork half-back line with a string of fine performances. He started as he meant to go on when scoring two points on the opening day against Dublin, including the winner, and has since continued to impress especially as a supporting forward. It was he who crossed the ball for Brian Hurley to palm the ball to the net and steal a win against Mayo 13 days ago. Against the likes of Tyrone and Derry, he's also popped up for scores.

Frank McGlynn (Donegal)

A defender every manager would love to have, McGlynn put in tremendous shifts against Cork and Tyrone. He's otherwise been solidness personified as he stays true to his reputation as the quintessential modern day defender who can jockey both defending and attacking. To think, there were rumours about the Glenfin man, only 29 this year, retiring before the start of the season.

Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)

Dublin might be more wary at the back but it hasn't stopped McCaffrey's forays forward. On the basis of this campaign, the Clontarf man appears to have put his "second difficult season" of 2013 fully behind him. His goal against Donegal was brilliantly executed as it was made by his dazzling run but he has shown since that he can go the donkey work just as good. He has since excelled against Mayo and Monaghan.

David Moran (Kerry)

Moran just about pips Darren Hughes who admittedly outperformed him in Tralee a fortnight ago. Eoin Cadogan deserves a mention too but Moran has carried on from where he left off in Limerick last year. Dust the match footballs for prints and his would be all over them. His team-mates mightn't have matched his contribution but bar the Cork game he's been one of Kerry's best players in every outing.

Mark Collins (Cork)

Cork's best performer in this campaign where he was deservedly acknowledged as man of the match in the victories over Monaghan and Kerry. Whether it has been operating in midfield or on the half-forward line, Collins has the perfect complement of size and ability to mix it with his fellow six-footers but also possesses the flight of foot and vision to supply Colm O'Neill and Brian Hurley inside.

Kevin O'Driscoll (Cork)

It might have taken longer than he would have liked but O'Driscoll has planted himself in the Cork half-forward line. Like his brother Colm, he operates well without the ball as he does with it and is a key component of Cork's re-emergence as a more defensively-minded side. Stand-out games for O'Driscoll include the win over Kerry and the narrow defeat to Donegal where he was industrious in Cork's fightback.

Aidan O'Shea (Mayo)

In an otherwise middling Division 1 for Mayo, O'Shea has further cemented his position as one of the best in the game. Mayo's bounty of options at midfield and the experimentation of Donal Vaughan there meant he has played at both centre and full-forward. In his earlier years, he struggled in those roles but his understanding of each has improved no end. From the time he came on as a substitute against Kerry, O'Shea has hardly put a foot wrong even in that heavy loss to Dublin.

Kevin McManamon (Dublin)

Once upon a time it was Declan Quill who was recognised as the best league player only to come up short come championship. McManamon hasn't exactly been poor in the summer but once again he is blazing a trail in the secondary competition but what will it amount to in the championship? He'll want to lose the super-sub moniker but for now he's doing all he can to remain in the team. As he has shown against Donegal, Mayo and Monaghan, he is as unselfish as he is versatile.

Colm O'Neill (Cork)

The highest scorer in the top flight with 3-32, it must also be remembered that the Ballyclough man sat out the Derry game last weekend. Of that tally, 3-8 has come from play and O'Neill has been just as influential in feeding on-running players for scores. Brian Cuthbert's decision to coax him back to full action after a third cruciate surgery looks to be bearing fruit and tomorrow the 26-year-old returns to a venue where he's known to catch fire.

Dean Rock (Dublin)

Ever-present for the defending league champions this spring, Rock's free-taking has been exquisite but he's also contributed 1-5 from play. Before Eoghan O'Gara's injury, Rock had been operating mostly at centre-forward but is now stationed at the edge of the square where his height and size not to mention skill could prove an invaluable foil to the likes of McManamon and Bernard Brogan. Rock's certainly advanced from being left out in the cold by Pat Gilroy and the "two-point sub" in Jim Gavin's first year.

Paddy McBrearty (Donegal)

In games like the narrow win over Cork in Ballyshannon and last Sunday's victory over Mayo, McBrearty has shown a level of maturity that suggests he's ready to become a front-liner for Donegal. It was suggested in some quarters last year that he was too comfortable in coming off the bench. The former young player of the year looks ready to rival Colm McFadden as the go-to man after Michael Murphy.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up