Football All Stars: Dublin dominate with six as Cooper and Rock earn reward

David Clarke one of four Mayo picks; Michael Quinlivan becomes second Tipp footballer to win All Star

 

This year’s GAA-GPA football All Stars, sponsored by Opel, features six players from the Dublin team that dominated the year, winning League, Leinster and All-Ireland titles.

Of the half dozen, two are first-time awards: Jonny Cooper at full back and right corner forward Dean Rock.

The Rock family become the 10th to span the generations between father and son, joining the McHughs (Martin and Mark, Ryan), McCaffreys (Noel and Jack), Brogans (Bernard senior and Alan, Bernard), Reynoldses (Pat and Paddy), Earleys (Dermot senior, Roscommon, and Dermot, Kildare), Kennellys (Tim and Tadhg), O’Neills (Liam, Galway, and Kevin, Mayo), McGuigans (Frank and Brian) and Morans (Denis and David).

Dean’s All Star comes in the footsteps of father Barney and rewards a year in which his exceptional free taking was a key element in Dublin’s first back-to-back All-Ireland in 39 years. During the championship he aggregated 1-58, having scored 1-40 during the successful league campaign last spring.

Team-mate Brian Fenton maintains the startling trajectory of his two-year intercounty career with a second All Star and he is shortlisted for Footballer of the Year, as is Dublin colleague Ciarán Kilkenny, who also wins a second successive award. Philip McMahon and Diarmuid Connolly also pick up a second award.

Next in terms of county representation are defeated All-Ireland finalists Mayo, who have four, including newcomers David Clarke in goal and corner back Brendan Harrison, as well as Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle.

Keegan, the third nomination for FOTY, is the most decorated of the All Star selection with his fourth award.

One of the stories of the selection is Clarke’s inclusion as goalkeeper. At 32 he is one of the oldest players to receive a first-time award but more unusually he was dropped for the All-Ireland replay despite having had, in the eyes of many, a good drawn match during which a couple of saves kept out Dublin goals.

He was replaced because of management concerns about his kick-outs, a decision that came back to haunt them when replacement Rob Hennelly had an unhappy match, culminating in giving away a penalty and picking up a black card.

Clarke’s performances during the All-Ireland campaign up until the final had established him as a front-runner and – as Hillary Clinton will be hoping to do – he survived the ‘October surprise’.

Mayo spent the summer coming through the All-Ireland qualifiers after sustaining a first defeat in six years in the Connacht championship. Their conquerors and successors as champions, Galway, became the first provincial standard bearers since 2010 not to be represented on the All Star team.

Ulster champions Tyrone have two players on the team, Peter Harte for the first time – capping a number of years as a significant performer for his county, which won McKenna Cup, AFL Division Two and Ulster titles this year – and Mattie Donnelly for the second year running.

Donegal’s Ryan McHugh is honoured for the first time after an exceptional year, while Kerry’s Paul Geaney gets a first All Star in recognition of a championship in which he was one of the most dangerous forwards.

Another debutant in the awards, Michael Quinlivan, becomes only the second Tipperary footballer to be honoured after a memorable season stretching back to his club Clonmel Commercials’ first All-Ireland adventure, which was ended by eventual champions Ballyboden only after extra time. He went on to play a major role in the county’s first run to an All-Ireland football semi-final in 81 years.

Previously, Declan Browne was honoured in 1998 and 2003, whereas Brian Lacey, who had played for Tipp but moved to Kildare, won one in 1998 with his adopted county.

Five of last year’s selection retain their places: Donnelly, McMahon, Keegan, Fenton and Kilkenny.

This is a break from 12 months ago when no All Stars managed to hang on to their award.

The awards will be presented at a banquet in Dublin’s National Convention Centre this Friday, when this year’s hurling team will be unveiled, as will the winners of the player and young player of the year awards. The event will be broadcast live on RTÉ between 7.0 and 8.0pm.

GAA-GPA FOOTBALL ALL STARS

(*denotes a first award) David Clarke (Mayo)* Brendan Harrison (Mayo)* Jonny Cooper (Dublin)* Philip McMahon (Dublin) 2nd award Lee Keegan (Mayo) 4th award Colm Boyle (Mayo) 3rd award Ryan McHugh (Donegal)* Brian Fenton (Dublin) 2nd award Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone) 2nd award Peter Harte (Tyrone)* Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin) 2nd award Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin) 2nd award Dean Rock (Dublin)* Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary)* Paul Geaney (Kerry)*

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