Having twice been shortlisted for the top individual award, six-time All-Ireland winning captain Stephen Cluxton is in the shake-up to claim his first footballer of the year as one of Dublin’s 13 PwC All-Star nominations.
Senior inter-county footballers will be asked to pick between the 38-year-old and two of his five-in-a-row team-mates Jack McCaffrey, a previous winner in 2015, and Con O’Callaghan, young footballer of the year two seasons ago.
Having been pipped for the All-Star goalkeeper the past three seasons (by David Clarke on two occasions and Rory Beggan last year), Cluxton is all but certain of claiming a sixth All-Star when the awards are announced on November 1, his previous accolades coming in 2002, ’06, ’07, ’11 and ’13.
The footballer of the year prize is also a major consideration as much as O’Callaghan was most people’s favourite before the trio was announced. In a monumental year for Dublin, Cluxton’s peers may feel it appropriate to crown the game’s most influential player.
Jonny Cooper and Niall Scully are the only Dublin regulars that miss out on being selected, vice-captain Cooper having missed the entirety of the Leinster championship and only made his first start in the second round Super 8 game against Roscommon.
David Clifford could match the feats of the O’Connor brothers Cillian (2011, ’12) and Diarmuid (2015, ’16) in Mayo and claim the young footballer of the year accolade for the second year in a row. He is selected alongside Kerry colleague Seán O’Shea and Armagh forward Rian O’Neill.
Runners-up and Munster champions Kerry are honoured with nine nominations, their best since winning the 2014 All-Ireland final against Donegal, and it’s the Ulster champions who are next best on the list with six nominees, three more than Tyrone and two better than Mayo.
As Clifford, Paul Murphy, David Moran, Paul Geaney are again acknowledged, the first-time nominees are Shane Ryan, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan, Stephen O’Brien and O’Shea.
Cork’s Brian Hurley is a most deserved selection in the forward line, his second nomination following his 2014 nod, although his colleague Liam O’Donovan was unfortunate to miss out on making the list having impressed from half-back during the summer.
Eleven counties are represented in the 45, all the Super 8 teams as well as Armagh who pick up two, Cavan and Clare, who had strong cases for two players, Gary Brennan and Jamie Malone, but it’s the latter that makes the cut after a string of impressive performances.
Meath’s three nominations — joint captains Donal Keogan and Bryan Mention and full-back Conor McGill — is the county’s best representation since 2010, while Conor Moynagh is Cavan’s first since three of their players were listed in 2013.
Among Dublin’s 13, six — McCaffrey, James McCarthy, Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul Mannion — could claim a second successive All-Star as could Clifford and Ryan McHugh.
Thirteen of the 2018 long-list are again included, the other five being Cluxton, O’Callaghan, Dean Rock, Michael Murphy and Mattie Donnelly. Mannion is fancied to claim a third consecutive All-Star and Fenton, McCarthy and Kilkenny have been nominated for a fifth consecutive season.
Picking up his first nomination, Donnelly’s Tyrone team-mate Cathal McShane is expected to go close for an All-Star as is Ronan McNamee in defence. However, their return of three nominations is a considerable drop from last year when they recorded seven when they reached the final.
Behind Leinster with 16, Munster are the best represented province in the 45 with 12 followed by Ulster’s 11 and Connacht’s six.
Apart from Cluxton, those hoping to claim a third All-Star or more include Boyle seeking an impressive fifth, Fenton, Kilkenny McCaffrey, McCarthy and Aidan O’Shea who are in the running for a fourth and Donnelly, Geaney, Michael Darragh Macauley, Mannion, McHugh, Murphy and Rock who are looking for a third.
The best 15 — as well as the footballer and young footballer of the year — will be announced at the All-Stars gala event at the National Convention Centre in Dublin on November 1. The PwC All-Stars team is selected by a group of journalists who also shortlist the footballer and young footballer of the year candidates from which the inter-county players vote on a proportional representation basis.
Football All-Star nominations
Shaun Patton (Donegal); Stephen Cluxton (Dublin); Shane Ryan (Kerry).
Conor Moynagh (Cavan); Ryan McHugh, Stephen McMenamin (both Donegal); David Byrne, Mick Fitzsimons, Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, John Small (all Dublin); Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy, Tom O’Sullivan (all Kerry); Chris Barrett, Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan (all Mayo); Donal Keogan, Conor McGill (both Meath); Niall Daly (Roscommon); Ronan McNamee (Tyrone).
Jarlath Óg Burns (Armagh); Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh MacAuley (both Dublin); David Moran (Kerry); Aidan O’Shea (Mayo), Bryan Menton (Meath).
Rian O’Neill (Armagh); Jamie Malone (Clare); Brian Hurley (Cork); Jamie Brennan, Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy (all Donegal); Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan, Dean Rock (all Dublin); David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien, Seán O’Shea (all Kerry); Conor Cox (Roscommon); Cathal McShane, Mattie Donnelly (both Tyrone).
Dublin 13; Kerry 9; Donegal 6; Mayo 4; Meath 3, Tyrone 3; Armagh 2, Roscommon 2; Cavan 1, Clare 1, Cork 1.
Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, Con O’Callaghan (all Dublin).
Rian O’Neill (Armagh); David Clifford, Seán O’Shea (both Kerry).