Beggan is the All Star but Cluxton will endure like The Beatles
Dubs goalkeeper can feel hard done by but he’s the one who defined modern goalkeeping
Dublin’s goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton acknowledges Hill 16 after winning the All-Ireland. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
In all of this, we must remember that when The Beatles put out Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever as a double A-side single, it didn’t make it to number one. It was in the charts for 11 weeks in 1967 but only made it as high as number two, kept off top spot by Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me. A snapshot in time never tells the full story.
Rory Beggan isn’t a better goalkeeper than Stephen Cluxton. He is certainly a better goalkeeper because of Cluxton and bows to nobody in his admiration for the Dublin number one. He wouldn’t be picking up a statue tomorrow night without having studied, admired and aped what Cluxton has done. The selectors have gone with him this year but when we’re all old and dimmed, the Dublin man will endure.
Was he a better goalkeeper in 2018? It’s arguable either way. A personal view would be that he wasn’t – Monaghan conceded late goals in three matches through the simplest route possible, high balls into the square not being dealt with by Beggan or his defenders. Against Tyrone, it didn’t matter. Against Fermanagh, it did.
Against Kerry in Clones, you can posit that it wasn’t his job to be tangling with Kieran Donaghy but even allowing for the majesty of David Clifford’s finish, Beggan could surely have covered off the angle better. In 2016 and 2017, David Clarke won the All Star on the strength of his shot-stopping – it would be hard to push Beggan’s case this time around on that score.
Cluxton had his issues under the high ball as well, of course. Most notably, Damien Comer’s goal in the All-Ireland semi-final was a grisly error, Cluxton coming so far out of goal as to make it easy for the Galway full-forward to score as long as he got first touch on the ball. Against that, Cluxton turned the game soon after with a penalty save from Eamonn Brannigan.
Beggan won man of the match against Kerry on the strength of his kick-out display – and it was clearly one for the ages, especially for the first hour. But when Monaghan’s wobbles started down the stretch, Kerry grabbed three of his last five kick-outs, doubling the amount they had won up to that point.
And anyway, arguably the best kick-out of the season belonged to Cluxton. If you have an idle minute, go back and check out his arrowed effort to set Jack McCaffrey away in the 18th minute of the All-Ireland final at a time when Dublin were four points down and struggling to get out of their own half.
All of this is in the eye of the beholder, of course. There’s no definitive right, no egregious wrong. You may think it’s odd that the most influential player on one of the greatest teams in history has gone each year of the four-in-a-row without taking the goalkeeping All Star. But sometimes the cookie crumbles that way. To read anything more into it – as the perpetually aggrieved online no doubt will – is a nonsense.
Cluxton would have got this corner’s vote. But it’s no outrage that Beggan ultimately prevailed.
And whatever happens, Cluxton will be Strawberry Fields forever.