SELDOM is an All-Ireland final set to play such a pivotal role in determining the best 15 from a season.
The amount of individual baubles that Cork and Down collected will be influenced hugely by Sunday’s decider.
At the moment Stephen Cluxton just edges out Alan Quirke and Brendan McVeigh for the goalkeeping position. The speed and accuracy of Cluxton’s restarts have been exceptional all year while his dead ball prowess added a scoring weapon to his arsenal.
In the full-back line Tyrone’s Justin McMahon gets the nod for his excellence during their march towards Ulster honours. Rory O’Carroll gets the number 3 jersey after shining all year especially when nullifying Armagh’s Steven McDonnell in the qualifiers. Michael Shields staves off the claims of Kildare’s Peter Kelly to complete the full-back line, after impressive qualifier displays and doing as well as anyone tasked with curbing Bernard Brogan.
Emmett Bolton recovered from a disastrous Leinster opener against Louth and gets the right half-back position just ahead of Tyrone’s Phillip Jordan. Kevin McKernan has anchored Down’s defence brilliantly from centre-back and Paudie Kissane gets the number 7 shirt after a terrific year for Cork. Michael Dara MacAuley’s superb work rate was a key reason for Dublin turning their season around during the qualifiers and Paddy Keenan was a shining light in a turbulent year for Louth. Some colossal displays by John Galvin and Kalum King saw them challenge hard at midfield. In attack Danny Hughes and Marty Clarke have spear-headed Down’s drive from their opening day to last month’s thrilling semi-final win over Kildare. Patrick Kelly’s energy and eagerness to dictate matters all summer for Cork gets him the nod at number 12.
Bernard Brogan has locked down the left corner-forward spot after a series of phenomenal freescoring displays and while Colm Cooper did not feature in an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in his intercounty career, that should not detract from his excellence in the Munster championship. James Kavanagh completes the full-forward line; he tore Leitrim and Monaghan apart in the qualifiers while his quarter-final goal against Meath was a gem.
Graham Reilly, John Doyle and Benny Coulter are all unlucky to lose out in the forward shake-up.
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