Tipperary footballers' odyssey rewarded with five All Star nominations

A point separated them in the All-Ireland final replay five days ago but Dublin and Mayo claim an equal share of the spoils in this year’s Opel GAA-GPA All Star football nominations, each picking up 11.
Tipperary footballers' odyssey rewarded with five All Star nominations

Back-to-back champions Dublin had the same number of candidates last year, one fewer than their 2011 and 2013 totals, with Mayo earning a larger selection than their 2012 and 2013 runners-up seasons when they picked up 10 on each occasion.

Just eight counties, all of them All-Ireland quarter- finalists, are represented among the 45 nominations. Nine counties were represented last year and 10 made up the shortlist in 2014.

Tipperary’s memorable season is capped with an impressive five nominations, one more than Kerry who beat them in the Munster final, while Jimmy Feehan and Josh Keane are shortlisted alongside Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor for young footballer of the year.

Last year’s winner, O’Connor, is the strong favourite to emulate his brother Cillian’s achievement of back-to-back U21 awards, which he claimed in 2011 and 2012.

Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny are the two Dublin players who will be considered for the ultimate individual award with Mayo’s Lee Keegan. Both are expected to add to their first All Stars last season with Keegan primed to collect his fourth.

Both the footballer and young footballer of the year awards will be decided by the GPA membership after the candidates were chosen at a meeting of national journalists in Croke Park yesterday.

Tipperary’s quintet comprises goalkeeper Evan Comerford, defender Robbie Kiely, captain and midfielder Peter Acheson, and inside forwards Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney. Bill Maher and Brian Fox were considered but didn’t make the cut.

Kerry’s Mark Griffin is another who is unfortunate to miss out, while his team-mates Shane Enright, Killian Young, Paul Geaney, and Paul Murphy make the grade.

In helping Clare reach the last eight, captain Gary Brennan will compete with Fenton, Acheson, Galway’s Paul Conroy, and Tyrone pair Colm Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly for a midfield spot. Brennan is the Banner County’s first footballer to be nominated for an All Star since 1997 when defender Frankie Griffin and forward Martin Daly were acknowledged.

All of Mayo’s backline, from goalkeeper David Clarke to left-half-back Patrick Durcan, have been included, although there is no place for any of midfielders Seamus O’Shea, Tom Parsons and Donie Vaughan.

Kevin McLoughlin is considered in defence having played as a sweeper for the vast majority of the championship. In attack, Aidan O’Shea has been chosen, as have Andy Moran and the O’Connor brothers.

Bernard Brogan and Paul Flynn are the most notable absentees among Dublin’s 11 but their four forward nominations — Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin McManamon, and Dean Rock — all have strong shouts for All Stars. Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Philly McMahon, Cian O’Sullivan, and John Small will go close for honours in defence.

Next best to Dublin and Mayo in the representation stakes are Ulster champions Tyrone who, apart from their midfielders, also have Cathal McCarron, Seán Cavanagh, Peter Harte, and Niall Sludden down for deliberation.

Ulster runners-up Donegal are given three nods with Ryan McHugh expected to claim his first All Star and Paddy McGrath and Paddy McBrearty in the hunt too. Joining Conroy for Connacht victors Galway are Declan Kyne and forwards Damien Comer and Danny Cummins.

None of the three goalkeepers shortlisted this year featured in 2015.

In total, there are 19 footballers up for nominations that were also recognised last year: McHugh (Donegal), Connolly, Cooper, Fenton, Kilkenny, McCarthy, McMahon, and O’Sullivan (Dublin), Enright and Geaney (Kerry); the O’Connors, Higgins, O’Shea (Mayo); the Cavanagh brothers, Donnelly, Harte, and McCarron (Tyrone).

This year’s best 15 will be revealed on November 4 at the All Stars banquet in Dublin’s Convention Centre.

They, along with last year’s winners, will travel on this year’s All Stars tour to Abu Dhabi and Dubai between November 23 and 29, with a game taking place in Abu Dhabi on November 25.

The hurling shortlist is announced tomorrow morning.

2016 Opel GAA-GPA All-Star Football Nominations

Goalkeepers: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin); David Clarke (Mayo); Evan Comerford (Tipperary).

Defenders: Paddy McGrath, Ryan McHugh (Donegal); Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Philly McMahon, Cian O’Sullivan, John Small (Dublin); Declan Kyne (Galway); Shane Enright, Killian Young (Kerry); Colm Boyle, Patrick Durcan, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin (Mayo); Robbie Kiely (Tipperary); Cathal McCarron (Tyrone).

Midfielders: Gary Brennan (Clare), Paul Conroy (Galway), Brian Fenton (Dublin); Peter Acheson (Tipperary); Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone).

Forwards: Paddy McBrearty (Donegal); Diarmuid Connolly, Ciarán Kilkenny, Kevin McManamon, Dean Rock (Dublin); Damien Comer, Danny Cummins (Galway); Paul Geaney, Paul Murphy (Kerry); Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor, Diarmuid O’Connor, Aidan O’Shea (Mayo); Michael Quinlivan, Conor Sweeney (Tipperary); Seán Cavanagh, Peter Harte, Niall Sludden (Tyrone).

County breakdown: Dublin 11; Mayo 11; Tyrone 6; Tipperary 5; Galway 4; Kerry 4; Donegal 3; Clare 1.

Footballer of the year: Brian Fenton (Dublin); Lee Keegan (Dublin); Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin).

Young footballer of the year: Jimmy Feehan (Tipperary); Josh Keane (Tipperary); Diarmuid O’Connor (Mayo).

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