A third of the Kerry team that started last month’s All-Ireland win over Donegal will be awarded GAA-GPA Opel All Stars tomorrow evening, three of them first-time winners.
While the Kingdom have no representative in the half-forward line where Donnchadh Walsh and Johnny Buckley miss out, they figure in each of the other four with Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, David Moran, Kieran Donaghy and James O’Donoghue selected. However, their total of five is the lowest number for All-Ireland champions since Cork picked up four in 2010.
O’Donoghue, the favourite for footballer of the year, collects his second consecutive gong after his scintillating Championship season. Joining him in the full-forward line for his remarkable intervention in the drawn game against Mayo as well as his impressive displays in the replay and final is Donaghy who claims his third award, his first since 2008.
Rathmore’s Murphy, man of the match in the All-Ireland final, was an easy choice in the full-back line but he could just as easily been nominated among the half-backs, having shown such versatility during the summer.
His club-mate Aidan O’Mahony can consider himself unfortunate to have not been selected in the half-back line where there was a stiff battle for spots from Mayo’s Colm Boyle and Dublin’s James McCarthy, whose father John, a three-time All-Ireland winner, never managed to be among the chosen 15.
Laune Rangers’ Crowley takes the No6 slot largely down to the leading performances he provided in the latter stages of the Championship, especially in the epic All-Ireland semi-final replay in Limerick.
Just four counties — this year’s provincial champions Kerry, Donegal, Dublin and Mayo — are represented in the team. However, the same also applied recently in 2012 when Donegal, Mayo, Cork and Dublin comprised the 15. This time around, beaten finalists Donegal have four in the group with semi-finalists Dublin and Mayo each receiving three.
Along with the Kerry debutant trio, McCarthy and Cillian O’Connor, Diarmuid Connolly is honoured with his first All Star after a season where he was instrumental in league and Leinster victories for Dublin, as well as St Vincents’ All-Ireland senior club title.
Following another strong campaign capped by his absorbing battle with O’Donoghue in Limerick, Mayo’s Keith Higgins is a third All Star in a row. Boyle makes it two in a row as he continued his excellent form from 2013.
Despite his disappointment in the second half of the final, Paul Durcan was elected as the best goalkeeper this season on the back of a series of inspiring showings up to September. He is one of four Donegal men honoured, player of the year nominee Neil McGee chosen in the full-back line. His namesake Neil Gallagher’s superb string of games during the summer also saw him picked.
Having been nominated in the half-forward line, it had been widely anticipated Michael Murphy would be battling it out with team-mate Ryan McHugh for a slot. There the Donegal captain is flanked by Connolly and Flynn who claims his fourth consecutive All Star.
Along with Donaghy and O’Donoghue, Championship top scorer O’Connor is included in the full-forward line. He will be presented with his first All Star having previously been named young player of the year on two occasions.
GAA president Liam Ó Néill congratulated the shortlisted 15. “It was another superb year for our championships and the 15 footballers named on this team played their part in that, producing superb performances that powered their respective counties’ challenges.
“After an All-Ireland medal, All Star awards are cherished and the tradition and significance attached to them remind us of legacy that previous winners have left behind. I congratulate and laud all of the winners and those who featured on the nominees’ list.”
The hurling team will be announced live at the event in the National Convention Centre in Dublin on RTÉ tomorrow evening. The player and young player of the year winners will also be announced during the broadcast.
O’Donoghue is nominated for the main individual award along with Connolly and McGee. Donegal’s McHugh faces competition from his club-mate Paddy McBrearty and Galway’s Shane Walsh for the young player of the year.
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