For the first time since 2006 when Kerry succeeded Tyrone as All-Ireland champions, the 15 chosen are completely different to those picked in 2014 with All-Ireland, Leinster and Division 1 champions Dublin honoured with seven selections. The only other occasions when the All tar team has contrasted entirely to the season before came in 1992 and 2002 when Donegal and Armagh’s All-Ireland successes followed those of Down and Galway respectively.
In total, there are a massive nine first-time winners including Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey, who was announced at the awards ceremony in the Convention Centre Dublin last night as Footballer of the Year as voted by his fellow players, Philly McMahon, Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny. It’s the most All-Star debutants since 2012 when there were 10.
The other inaugural recipients are Kerry’s entire representation of four – Brendan Kealy, Shane Enright, Anthony Maher and Donnchadh Walsh – as well as Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly. Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor missed out on an All-Star but was chosen by his peers as Young Footballer of the Year.
Bernard Brogan, who was nominated for Footballer of the Year along with McMahon and McCaffrey, wins his fourth All-Star and is the most decorated in the team. Lee Keegan is a three-time winner having been given the nod in the half-back line while Rory O’Carroll, Cian O’Sullivan, Aidan O’Shea and Conor McManus are all acknowledged for a second time.
Dublin’s haul of seven is their largest since 1995 when they attained the same amount in that All-Ireland winning year. In the two previous seasons they claimed the Sam Maguire Cup in 2011 and ‘13, they were honoured with six awards.
McManus is the only player among the 15 from a county that did not feature in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Incidentally, the last time beaten quarter-finalists were represented was in 2013 when McManus and team-mate Colin Walshe were picked.
For his excellence in the Ulster championship and All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Tyrone, the Monaghan captain was an obvious choice as were Aidan O’Shea and Brogan in the full-forward line, which proved to be the most clear-cut line in the team.
In goal, Kealy was also an unmistakable winner having pulled off a string of fantastic saves in all three Munster games as well as in the All-Ireland semi-final and final. After losing his starting spot to Brian Kelly last season, the award capped a return to form for the Kilcummin man.
His team-mate Enright was a most deserving beneficiary based on his excellent marking jobs on the likes of Brian Hurley and Bernard Brogan this summer. He is joined in the full-back line by Dublin pair Rory O’Carroll and McMahon who had a year to remember given his displays against O’Shea and Colm Cooper.
Keegan, who outscored his opposite number Diarmuid Connolly in both semi-final games with Dublin, is the odd man out in the half-back line where versatile O’Sullivan and McCaffrey annex awards for Dublin.
There was no question Fenton in midfield was this year’s bolter extraordinaire, with Fenton making the team and Kerry’s Maher partnering him, having shown more consistency throughout the summer to beat his central colleague David Moran to take the honour.
Donnelly beat competition from Tyrone team-mate Peter Harte and Donegal captain Michael Murphy to walk the steps to the stage for the first time. In doing so, he became his county’s first All-Star since Sean Cavanagh two years ago.
Kilkenny’s touch of class at centre-forward for Dublin this year made a telling impact not to mention his handsome scoring tallies up to the All-Ireland final. To his left, Walsh at the age of 31 is acknowledged for the first time. After a third consecutive nomination, it is a fitting tribute to a player who ran the risk of becoming one of Kerry’s greatest unsung footballers.
Mayo’s collection of two awards is their lowest number since 2011 when Andy Moran was their sole victor. Dublin’s Paul Flynn was unable to make it five All-Stars in a row having not been nominated this year while a dip in form towards the end of the season meant his fellow wing forward Connolly was never going to be in the running for a second successive award.