Things can change over the next six weeks — ask Kieran Donaghy — but if football’s All Stars were handed out in August, our GAA correspondent would be shaking hands and back-slapping with the following summer achievers.
PAUL DURCAN (Donegal):
Being forced to punt by Mayo impacted on Donegal’s kick-out retention but the 31-year-old had a solid season. Coming from where his head must have been after last September, it has been a fine recovery. A major player in Donegal reaching a fifth consecutive Ulster final.
Brendan Kealy (Kerry), Niall Morgan (Tyrone).
MARC Ó SÉ (Kerry):
Draw a line from last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay to last Sunday week’s win over Kildare — the 35-year-old’s form has hardly wavered in its impressiveness. Difficult to believe his age given how instrumental he continues to be.
VINNY COREY (Monaghan):
Not his nor most of his Monaghan colleagues’ greatest day on Saturday but he had an excellent Ulster campaign, edging out his team-mate Ryan Wylie for selection. Michael Murphy was once again tamed by the Clontibret defensive general.
SHANE ENRIGHT (Kerry):
Built on shutting out Brian Hurley in the two Munster finals with a commanding showing against Kildare. Marc Ó Sé might have had the more difficult tasks but Enright has been a rock for Eamonn Fitzmaurice this summer.
LEE KEEGAN (Mayo):
In the form Aidan O’Shea is in, it took an awesome performance to beat him to claim the man of the match accolade at the weekend but that’s exactly what Keegan did. It’s not as if it came from nowhere: The Westport man looked the all-round performer again in Connacht.
KEITH HIGGINS (Mayo):
The captaincy is befitting of one of the county’s finest servants and he thrived tracking Colm McFadden further out the field last weekend. Before that, he had a couple of thoroughly composed outings in Connacht.
JACK McCAFFREY (Dublin):
Few have displayed the same level of consistency as McCaffrey has this year, his fine vein of form traced back to the early stages of the league. He looks considerably more comfortable defending this year.
Colm Boyle (Mayo), Jonny Cooper (Dublin), Tom Cunniffe (Mayo), Frank McGlynn (Donegal), Philly McMahon (Dublin), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Paul Murphy (Kerry), Karl O’Connell (Monaghan), Aidan O’Mahony (Kerry), Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin), Donie Vaughan (Mayo), Ryan Wylie (Monaghan).
DAVID MORAN (Kerry):
In the form of his interrupted career and in less than 12 months he has shown himself to be the best midfielder in the country. His relationship with Anthony Maher is an extremely effective one but he adds that touch of finesse to the pair.
MATTIE DONNELLY (Tyrone):
This man has an engine that few can match, a testament to the work he has done to improve himself as a player. Among Tyrone’s best three players in at least three of their five wins.
Neil Gallagher (Donegal), Anthony Maher (Kerry), Tom Parsons (Mayo), Seamus O’Shea (Mayo).
PETER HARTE (Tyrone):
Even when Tyrone have struggled, Harte has been one man who can hold his head high. But over the course of these last five straight victories, he has been a colossal figure transitioning so smoothly between defence and attack.
CIARAN KILKENNY (Dublin):
We’ve seen so many players struggle in their first year back from a cruciate problem. Kilkenny has bucked that trend and done more than enough to keep Alan Brogan out of the starting line-up.
DIARMUID CONNOLLY (Dublin):
Once the Ronnie O’Sullivan of Gaelic football, Connolly looks more focused these past few years. He’s putting all of the magnificent poise and balance he possesses to good use. A top-class Leinster run.
CONOR McMANUS (Monaghan):
He mightn’t hang onto this berth by the time the All Stars come around but it’s been another fine season for the Monaghan captain. Even a defence as vaunted as Donegal’s couldn’t handle him on Ulster final day.
AIDAN O’SHEA (Mayo):
Maybe No. 11 is his lucky number but it’s full-forward where he has made home in recent months. Some of his performances have been simply brilliant, his strength proving too much for every full-back he’s met.
BERNARD BROGAN (Dublin):
Brogan has been rolling back the years with the strength of his outings. That he is one of the top championship scorers with all his efforts coming from play says plenty about an established star still hitting the heights.
Mark Collins (Cork), Tomás Corrigan (Fermanagh), Jason Doherty (Mayo), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Paul Geaney (Kerry), Odhrán Mac Niallais (Donegal), Conor McAliskey (Tyrone), Darren McCurry (Tyrone), Stephen O’Brien (Kerry), Cillian O’Connor (Mayo), Dean Rock (Dublin), Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry).
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