Season starts in August in year of few real highlights

HONESTLY? It’s been a poor year for football.

And the hype surrounding Kilkenny’s drive for five this month has further dampened the build-up to Sunday’s blue-riband football event.

Tyrone’s demolition of Monaghan and Kerry’s ability to outlast Cork were the season high points before Martin Sludden and Joe Sheridan hijacked the agenda in July. Kildare threatened to burst from the undergrowth, but ultimately the significant movement came from Down.

Sunday’s other finalists, Cork, will hardly care about art or All Stars if they end a 20-year wait for an All-Ireland title on Sunday; Conor Counihan has said as much. One point to nil will do.

It’s been a stumble to September and stand-out individuals in Rebel red have been few and far between. In fact, the best Cork performances have come from subs and freetakers under pressure. Where many believe Paudie Kissane is Cork’s well-they-have-to-get-one All Star (in defeat, that is), I’d give that to Paddy Kelly. It’s only at pitch level that you truly see the torrent of energy that he brings to his play. It’s endless. People shouldn’t blame the man because free-duties were foisted upon him in the qualifiers.

If Cork win, Kissane and Michael Shields might slip in under the blanket of general mediocrity. Neither has done much wrong, and Kissane had a red-letter day in Killarney way back when.

Notwithstanding Down’s arresting form since the August Bank holiday, their certainties are the terrific triangle of Hughes, Clarke and Coulter. And yet Coulter loses out here to the ageless wonder from Kildare.

I’d still argue that the individual performance of the season was Paul Galvin’s tour de force for Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but Hughes has done a passable impression of his fellow No 10.

Why John Galvin? Why not? Box to box (as they say), he’s relentless, he’s adding a few scores to his game and, by the by, he was the victim of the worst no-penalty decision of the season in the qualifier against Cork.

It will take something extraordinary from a Down player on Sunday to deny Bernard Brogan the player of the year gong. Even in victory, no-one from the deep south is even in contention to stop the full-forward. Imagine if he had Colm Cooper and Coulter or Doyle alongside...

So no-one from provincial winners Roscommon and Meath and only one from Kerry. Maybe the season really does start in August.


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