Dublin's record equalling four-in-a-row All-Ireland success has been complemented by seven PwC All Stars in the 2018 awards selection but for the fifth year running there is no place for goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, who has captained the team to all four wins as well as the 2013 championship, and is recognised as having revolutionised the goalkeeping position during his lengthy career.
The team announced on Thursday matches the county’s best return of a remarkable decade but is two short of the county record set in 1977 when nine players were honoured.
In a piece of history the centrefield combination is from the same club – Dublin's Raheny which is home to three-time award winner and Footballer of the Year nominee Brian Fenton and his club mate Brian Howard, the former under-21 All-Ireland winner who became a regular starter with the county just this year. In the past the two All Stars in the middle have come from the same county only twice: Derry's Brian McGilligan and Anthony Tohill in 1993 and the Kerry pair Jack O'Shea and Seán Walsh in 1981.
There are also All Stars for the champions' other two Footballer of the Year nominees, Jack McCaffrey and Ciarán Kilkenny, who both win a third award, as does James McCarthy. Paul Mannion and Jonny Cooper complete the Dublin contingent. Goalkeeper and captain Stephen Cluxton remains becalmed on five All Stars but despite not having added to his total since 2013, continues to hold the joint-record for the position with one of his predecessors as Dublin goalkeeper and captain John O'Leary.
In a selection that features representatives of six counties and all four provinces, there are six first-time award winners: Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan, his team-mate Karl O'Connell, Tyrone defender Pádraig Hampsey, Dublin's Howard, Galway corner forward Ian Burke and Kerry prodigy David Clifford – the first teenage recipient since Colm Cooper 16 years ago and who follows in the footsteps of another Kerry star and current selector Maurice Fitzgerald who was 19 when presented with his first All Star in 1988.
Monaghan have registered their best return in the scheme's history with three All Stars for Beggan, Karl O'Connell – the county's lightning-fast wing back – and forward Conor McManus, who equals the county's record award holder Nudie Hughes with a third.
This year's team was selected on the basis of amended rules with players eligible for selection in any area of the field, provided they had played there sufficiently often to be credible candidates. The two award winners reflecting this change of emphasis are Colm Cavanagh, listed at centrefield but in recent years playing in a defensive role as sweeper or auxiliary defender. He is positioned at full back whereas Howard, who started at both wing back and wing forward but played periods of several matches at centrefield – taking a series of spectacular catches, especially in the quarter-final group match against Donegal – takes up that position.
Cavanagh also makes history, as his family joins three others with brothers who have won multiple awards – the Ó Sés (Darragh, Tomás and Marc), the Spillanes (Pat and Tom – Mick also won one award) and the Brogans (Alan and Bernard).
For the first time in three years all provincial champions have players included. In 2017 and 2016, the Connacht title holders didn’t have an All Star but Galway’s Ian Burke is named at left corner forward after a memorable year that saw him win an All-Ireland club medal with Corofin, in recognition of which he was also honoured in the club All Stars selection earlier this year.
Between scoring and providing assists Burke contributed to 30 per cent of Galway's championship scores but missed out on the county's league campaign, which saw them reach the final where they lost to Dublin, doing so again in August's All-Ireland semi-final. He wins the county's first All Star since 2003 when current Galway manager Kevin Walsh was chosen.
Ryan McHugh played a pivotal role in Donegal’s progress to this year’s Ulster title and wins a second award, this time at wing forward, having been selected at wing back in 2016.
The awards will be presented and the hurling All Stars announced on Friday evening at the awards banquets in Dublin’s National Convention Centre. At the same event, the winners of the player and young player of the year awards, voted on by members of inter-county panels.
2018 All Stars team (* indicates first award)
1. Rory Beggan (26, Monaghan) *
2. Jonny Cooper (28, Dublin) 2nd award
3. Colm Cavanagh (31, Tyrone) 2nd award
4. Pádraig Hampsey (24, Tyrone) *
5. Karl O’Connell (30, Monaghan) *
6. James McCarthy (27, Dublin) 3rd award
7. Jack McCaffrey (25, Dublin) 3rd award
8. Brian Fenton (25, Dublin) 3rd award
9. Brian Howard (21, Dublin) *
10. Paul Mannion (25, Dublin) 2nd award
11. Ciarán Kilkenny (25, Dublin) 3rd award
12. Ryan McHugh (24, Donegal) 2nd award
13. David Clifford (19, Kerry) *
14. Conor McManus (31, Monaghan) 3rd award
15. Ian Burke (25, Galway) *
Totals by county