All-Ireland football champions Tyrone have emulated their hurling counterparts Limerick by securing 15 nominations in this year’s PwC All Stars long list for 2021. The Ulster champions haven’t quite the same prospects as Limerick, given that seven of their players have been nominated for six positions in defence.
This is a reflection of the fluidities of the champions’ game, which saw several Tyrone players moving between the half backs and half forwards with effortless versatility.
For instance Conor Meyler performed a superb man-marking job on Kerry's Paudie Clifford in the All-Ireland semi-final before reverting to a more conventional wing-forward role in the final, which included laying on a brilliantly weighted ball for Cathal McShane to score Tyrone's first goal.
McShane makes a bit of history by getting nominated despite not starting a match, such was his influence off the bench from which he scored goals in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final.
He follows in the footsteps of other replacements whose championships were so influential that they were deemed worthy of All Star nominations, such as Dublin's Kevin McManamon, whose goal turned the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry and Maurice Fitzgerald, whose performances when controversially at the time omitted from the starting team throughout the championship, played a major role in Kerry's 2000 All-Ireland success.
McManamon had started one of Dublin’s championship matches, against Laois.
Meyler is also rewarded with a nomination for Footballer of the Year together with team-mate Kieran McGeary, another who spent his season switching between wing forward and the half backs. The third nomination goes to Mayo’s Lee Keegan, who was the county’s best player in the All-Ireland semi-final and final.
Goalkeeper Niall Morgan may be accounted unlucky to not to be shortlisted for FOTY after an exceptionally good season, culminating in a terrific performance in the All-Ireland final. He is nominated for an All Star together with Rob Hennelly (Mayo) and Rory Beggan (Monaghan).
Both of Tyrone's centrefielders Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick are nominated.
Mayo’s representation in the nominations falls from 12 to eight despite being beaten finalists in both years.
There is a more precipitous fall for last year’s six-in-a-row All-Ireland winners Dublin. They secured 13 nominations last season – and a joint-record nine awards – which this time around declines to five.
The other beaten semi-finalists Kerry have seven, including the Clifford brothers, twice honoured David and his older brother Paudie, for whom it is a first nomination.
The O'Neill brothers from Armagh are also both nominated, Oisín at centrefield and Rian in the forwards. There is also recognition for outstanding individual performances on teams that didn't feature in the later stages. Clare's Eoin Cleary is listed among the forwards whereas Seán Meehan from Cork is included after a great season that saw him keep David Clifford scoreless in the Munster football final.
The 2020 Young Footballer of the Year Oisín Mullin is again shortlisted, together with Galway's Matthew Tierney and rising Tyrone star, Darragh Canavan.
This is the 50th anniversary of the All Stars.
"The idea of these All Star awards came from the journalists and won the immediate imprimatur of the Central Council," said then association president Pat Fanning, at the launch of the scheme in August 1971.
“It is indicative of the journalists’ commitment to the GAA that they should undertake the organisation and the preparation of the entire operation. They have found willing allies in PJ Carroll and Company through whose generous sponsorship a fine idea becomes a reality.”
“ The nominations were chosen by a panel correspondents from across, print, radio, TV and digital media, chaired by GAA president Larry McCarthy. The PwC All-Stars for Football 2021 will be announced live on the night of the awards which will be held on December 10th. The presentation will take place in a televised ceremony.
2021 PwC All Star Football Nominees
Goalkeepers: Niall Morgan (Tyrone), Robert Hennelly (Mayo), Rory Beggan (Monaghan).
Backs: Pádraig Hampsey (Tyrone), Peter Harte (Tyrone), Michael McKernan (Tyrone), Frank Burns (Tyrone), Ronan McNamee (Tyrone), Kieran McGeary (Tyrone), Conor Meyler (Tyrone), Stephen Coen (Mayo), Patrick Durcan (Mayo), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Pádraig O'Hora (Mayo), Brian Ó Beaglaoich (Kerry), Tom O'Sullivan (Kerry), Gavin White (Kerry), Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin), Brian Howard (Dublin), Seán Meehan (Cork), Ryan McAnespie (Monaghan).
Centrefielders: Brian Kennedy (Tyrone), Conn Kilpatrick (Tyrone), Matthew Ruane (Mayo), David Moran (Kerry), Oisín O'Neill (Armagh), Brian Fenton (Dublin).
Forwards: Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone), Conor McKenna (Tyrone), Niall Sludden (Tyrone), Darren McCurry (Tyrone), Cathal McShane (Tyrone), Tommy Conroy (Mayo), Ryan O'Donoghue (Mayo), David Clifford (Kerry), Paudie Clifford (Kerry), Seán O'Shea (Kerry), Cormac Costello (Dublin), Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin), Jack McCarron (Monaghan), Daniel Flynn (Kildare), Michael Langan (Donegal), Rian O'Neill (Armagh), Eoin Cleary (Clare), Shane Walsh (Galway).
PwC Footballer of the Year nominees
Conor Meyler (Tyrone), Kieran McGeary (Tyrone), Lee Keegan (Mayo).
PwC Young Footballer of the Year nominees
Matthew Tierney (Galway), Oisín Mullin (Mayo), Darragh Canavan (Tyrone).