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Comment & Analysis | Sport

The August All-Stars

 

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh
Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh, footballer of the year so far

It might look as if Mickey Harte and Eamonn Fitzmaurice have the most difficult jobs in football as they try to stop the Mayo and Dublin juggernauts heading their way.

But we should also spare a thought for anyone attempting to pick the 2013 football All-Stars.

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Take, as an example, the right-half forward position. Cian Mackey from Cavan, Ross Munnelly from Laois, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Graham Reilly from Meath have all been superb this season.

That already has you considering whether Tyrone’s Matthew Donnelly should be considered elsewhere on a select half-forward line.

It would be hard enough to choose between those four, but we haven’t even mentioned two of the best in the business: Dublin’s Paul Flynn, who often looks pound-for-pound the best half-forward in Ireland, and Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin, so harshly denied an All-Star last year, and now very much back to something like his 2012 form.

The final three games of the season might make the job easier, but we’re gluttons for punishment here at Irish Post Manor, so we’re going to pick an August All-Star selection.

This is not a prediction of who will be taking to the stage in a couple of months’ time, but an attempt to pick the team of the season so far, before we are all swayed by the All-Ireland semi-finals and final.

1. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)

Monaghan’s Rory Beggan and Kerry’s Brendan Kealy both have claims, but Cluxton’s six-point haul against Cork would tip the balance in his favour if the All-Stars were handed out today.

It’s a testament to his longevity that if he were to take his fifth All-Star award this year, it would come 11 years after he won his first.

2. Colin Walshe (Monaghan)

Competition for corner-back spots is already heating up and with Keith Higgins nailed on in the other corner, it came down to a straight shoot-out between Walshe and Killian Clarke for our other corner-back spot.

Clarke has been outstanding for Cavan, but Walshe’s performance against the Breffni men in the Ulster semi-final was one of the best individual displays we’ve seen all year, and he was in similar form against Donegal.

3. Conor Gormley (Tyrone)

The one selection on our team who certainly will not win an All-Star, at least not at full-back, because he tends to play a half-back/sweeper role for Tyrone.

But, here we are, two years after Gormley and his colleagues were made look sluggish against Dublin, and he is still here, playing like a warrior, particularly in the qualifier victory against Meath.

Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll and Mayo’s Ger Cafferkey will probably face off for the All-Star — and we should also give an honourable mention to Drew Wylie of Monaghan.

4. Keith Higgins (Mayo)

You could perhaps argue that Higgins might end up an All-Star half-forward, but we accommodate this superb player in accordance with the number on his back.

5. Colm Boyle (Mayo)

Half-back might yet be the most difficult line to select, and we are picking Boyle out of position, just about giving him the nod over his teammate Lee Keegan and Dublin’s brilliant James McCarthy.

6. Donal Vaughan (Mayo)

Strange to think it is not too long since many of us questioned his ball-playing ability. His scoring feats against Galway and Donegal show we were wrong, and the leadership he provides will be crucial if Mayo are to end their 62-year wait.

Ger Brennan of Dublin will be among his rivals.

7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)

Watching the Ulster final, you might have thought Monaghan’s Dessie Mone would have a great chance of nabbing this spot, but Mone is unfortunate to play the same position as this freakishly talented Dub.

McCaffrey’s astounding tackle on Paul Cribbin against Kildare and his fine goal against Cork will feature on any self-respecting highlights reel of the season.

8. Michael Darragh Macauley (Dublin)

Anyone who wants to beat Dublin will have to find a way to stop a man who seems to run at full tilt for 70 minutes, linking play and creating a series of goal chances. Cork had no answer.

9. Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)

Perhaps along with Sean Cavanagh the only player who would win an All-Star even if their season ended tomorrow. His performance against Donegal was one of the best midfield shows put on since his Kerry namesake Jack was in his prime.

10. Cian Mackey (Cavan)

As we suggested above, Flynn or McLoughlin are likely to take the All-Star, but Mackey has just about been the outstanding number 10 so far, setting the tone with his goal against Armagh. It is heartening to see him turn his career around.

11. Colm Cooper (Kerry)

It’s highly likely that Dublin will beat Kerry and Ciaran Kilkenny will take a deserved first All-Star, but for now, Cooper deserves recognition.

He looks rejuvenated by the move to the 40 and Kerry’s hopes of springing a surprise will rest heavily on him producing the type of magic he showed with his goal against Cork.

12. Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone)

The footballer of the year so far, and the fuss over his foul on Conor McManus should not detract from that. If the selectors pick him at midfield, Diarmuid Connolly will have a good chance of taking the number 12 spot.

13. Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)

To describe him as 2013’s Ray Cosgrove is to do him a disservice. Six goals in two games is almost unheard of, and the scary thought for Mayo’s rivals is that he might not yet be at full tilt.

14. Kieran Hughes (Monaghan)

Alan Freeman of Mayo might yet deny him, but Hughes’ gloriously defiant contribution against Donegal will put him in the shake-up.

London supporters will be watching the nominations for this position closely to see whether Lorcan Mulvey gets the nomination his performances merit.

15. Paul Mannion (Dublin)

Though operating at 13, he has done enough so far to be preferred to Andy Moran of Mayo, Conor McManus of Monaghan and James O’Donoghue of Kerry.

His classy goal against Meath is a prime example of the technique and composure he has brought to Jim Gavin’s side.

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Eamonn O Molloy
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Eamonn O'Molloy is Gaelic Football columnist withThe Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @EamonnOMolloy

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