Big three reign supreme


2005 All Stars: It was Abraham Lincoln who first said you can't please all of the people all of the time. So goes it with the GAA All Stars.

With the 2005 football team announced at last night's awards banquet in Dublin, and the hurling team announced on Wednesday, the debate over who should or shouldn't have been included reaches full voice.

In fact, fewer counties will be pleased this year than ever before. Players from just three counties make up the football selection, the lowest in All Star history - the previous lowest was four (1976 and 1977).

There are no representatives from the Leinster champions (Dublin) or the Connacht champions (Galway), and it's the big three that reign supreme - Tyrone, Kerry and Armagh.

As with the hurling selection, the most successful counties dominate the player-of-the-year awards, also announced last night. Tyrone full forward Stephen O'Neill is named Footballer of the Year, with Armagh defender Aaron Kernan named Young Footballer of the Year.

Cork's Jerry O'Connor is Hurler of the Year, a slightly more surprising choice than that of O'Neill, as his All-Ireland winning team-mate John Gardiner was an equally strong contender.

Beaten All-Ireland finalists Galway got a crumb of consolation with defender David Collins named Young Hurler of the Year.

Among the other big winners last night was Tyrone's Peter Canavan, who collected his sixth All Star (11 years after his first) when named at centre forward - another nice prize to take into retirement.

Kerry goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy also stepped up, to collect his second successive award, knowing he'd marginally outclassed Armagh's Paul Hearty.

And there were first awards for Tyrone's Owen Mulligan and Ryan McMenamin and Armagh's Andy Mallon.

Although most of the decisions surrounding this year's football team were relatively straightforward, it's still an exceptional selection given how few counties figure. All-Ireland champions Tyrone easily dominate with their eight award winners, with beaten finalists Kerry claiming four, and the remaining three going to Armagh.

The selection committee gave one midfield place to Armagh's Paul McGrane, and the other to Tyrone's Seán Cavanagh. Although Cavanagh did play most of his best football at centre forward, his midfield performance in the final against Kerry more than justified his inclusion in that position.

Part of the All Star selection policy is to include the six best forwards in the country, regardless of what position they actually starred in.

The full-forward line more or less picked itself, as Kerry's Colm Cooper and Armagh's Steven McDonnell were always going to join O'Neill. Having already won the GPA and Texaco awards, O'Neill has completed a clean sweep of honours for 2005.

Tyrone captain Brian Dooher was always going to be accommodated as well, and was named in his familiar right wing forward berth. That left two places for at least five candidates - Canavan, Mulligan and also Tyrone's Brian McGuigan, Ross Munnelly of Laois, and Derry's Paddy Bradley.

Although Canavan was in and out of the Tyrone starting line-up all summer, his impact was nothing less than sensational.

Mulligan's season was also a little slow to get going, but once it did he tormented the opposition. That ultimately meant there was just no room for McGuigan, Munnelly and Bradley.

It was the same story with the defence. The full-back line of Ryan McMenamin, Michael McCarthy and Andy Mallon could only have been unanimous, and there can't have been much debate about the half-back line either. Kerry's Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O'Mahony, as well as Aaron Kernan, had exceptional seasons, but not quite exceptional enough to displace Tomás Ó Sé, Conor Gormley and Philip Jordan.

There are only five repeat winners from last year - Murphy, McCarthy, Ó Sé, Cavanagh and Cooper. Three first-time winners (Mallon, McMenamin and Mulligan) is also relatively low, especially given the fact 11 of last year's winners were first-timers.

Football All Stars

Diarmuid Murphy (Kerry)
(Also 2004)
Ryan McMenamin (Tyrone)
Michael McCarthy (Kerry)
(Also 2000, 2004)
Andy Mallon (Armagh)

Tomas O’Se (Kerry)
(Also 2004)
Conor Gormley (Tyrone)
 (Also 2003)
Philip Jordan (Tyrone)
(Also 2003)
Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone)
(Also 2003, 2004)
Paul McGrane (Armagh)
(Also 2002)
Brian Dooher (Tyrone)
(Also 2003)    
Peter Canavan (Tyrone)
(Also 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2003)
Owen Mulligan (Tyrone)
Colm Cooper (Kerry)
(Also 2002, 2004)            
Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone)
(Also 2001)
Steven McDonnell (Armagh)
(Also 2002, 2003)

Hurler of the Year                               
Jerry O’Connor (Cork)

Young Hurler of the Year                    
David Collins (Galway)

Footballer of the Year             
Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone)

Young Footballer of the Year  
Aaron Kernan (Armagh)