Clux­ton’s omis­sion the main talk­ing point of All Stars se­lec­tion

Dublin and Mayo dom­i­nate with com­bined to­tal of 13 awards

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Malachy Clerkin

It wouldn’t be the All Stars with­out a bit of a snub hub­bub. Stephen Clux­ton’s omis­sion from the foot­ball se­lec­tion seemed to be the main talk­ing point at last night’s cer­e­mony at the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Dublin, the three-in-a-row win­ning cap­tain of the Dublin team miss­ing out in favour of Mayo’s David Clarke for the sec­ond year run­ning.

Also for the sec­ond year in a row, the Foot­baller of the Year award went out­side the All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons, with Mayo’s Andy Mo­ran fol­low­ing his team­mate Lee Kee­gan on the roll of hon­our.

On the whole, the se­lec­tion is most no­table for the fact that it con­tains 13 play­ers from the two All-Ire­land fi­nal­ists, the most of any All Stars team since the scheme be­gan in 1971.

Nar­row fo­cus

While it’s cer­tainly not un­prece­dented for the All Stars to nar­row their fo­cus down to as few as four coun­ties – it hap­pened as re­cently as 2014 – never be­fore has there been such a con­cen­tra­tion of selections from the two Septem­ber sur­vivors.

Dublin lead the way with seven gongs, with Mayo ap­pro­pri­ately close on their tails on six. Colm Ca­vanagh of Ty­rone and Kerry’s Paul Geaney round out the team, leav­ing ev­ery­one else star­ing at their shoes. For the sec­ond year in a row, the Con­nacht cham­pi­ons leave All Star night empty-handed, Roscom­mon fol­low­ing Gal­way in 2016 as pro­vin­cial win­ners who didn’t last long enough to suf­fi­ciently im­press the se­lec­tors.

But for those sniff­ing out the red meat of con­tro­versy, the choice of Clarke ahead of Clux­ton will be the first port of call. On the face of it, it is a cu­rio that Clux­ton, the man roundly hailed as hav­ing had the great­est ef­fect of any one player on the sport over the past decade, has now gone four years with­out an All Star nod.

Es­pe­cially when Dublin have put to­gether three All-Ire­lands in a row in that pe­riod. For his­tor­i­cal con­text, the only other times three-in-a-rows were done in the life of the All Stars – 1978-81 and 1984-86 – then Kerry goal­keeper Char­lie Nel­li­gan took home an award some­where along the way on both oc­ca­sions.

Though it isn’t the sort of thing Clux­ton will get too per­turbed about, there are likely to be plenty of voices raised on his be­half. He con­ceded just two goals all sum­mer, one of them an in­jury-time con­so­la­tion against Kil­dare.

The flip-side of that coin is that Dublin’s general dom­i­nance meant he only faced six shots at his goal in the whole cham­pi­onship.

As Ed­win McGreal of the Mayo News pointed out dur­ing the week, Clarke was by far the busier goal­keeper, fac­ing 18 shots over the course of Mayo’s nine-game marathon and sav­ing 10 of them. And per­haps sur­pris­ingly – with­out wish­ing to com­pletely steal the fine work of said pub­li­ca­tion – Clarke and Clux­ton’s kick-out num­bers are more or less iden­ti­cal, both across the sea­son and in the fi­nal. Clux­ton’s omis­sion will be a de­bat­ing point, for sure. But it’s pos­si­bly stretch­ing mat­ters to gin it up into an out­rage.

Un­for­tu­nate

In the tra­di­tional net-cast­ing to find other names who can count them­selves un­for­tu­nate to miss out, All-Ire­land foes Lee Kee­gan and Ciarán Kilkenny are prob­a­bly high­est up the list. There’s a small irony to be found in the fact that Kilkenny was surely bang in the run­ning un­til Kee­gan erased him from that pul­sat­ing fi­nal in Septem­ber. Con O’Cal­laghan’s bril­liant early goal and Dean Rock’s four points from play prob­a­bly did for their Dublin team-mate. O’Cal­laghan was the straight­for­ward choice for Young Foot­baller of the Year.

As for Kee­gan, his out­stand­ing All-Ire­land fi­nal dis­play ob­vi­ously came too late. His thun­der­ous quar­ter-fi­nal against Roscom­mon apart, the 2016 Foot­baller of the Year had too many so-so games to squeeze into the se­lec­tion. That said, he must have run Cian O’Sul­li­van rea­son­ably close in the fi­nal reck­on­ing.

In any other year, Tom Par­sons would have been a strong choice for one of the two mid­field spots but once Ca­vanagh was nom­i­nated in that cat­e­gory, he and James McCarthy were never go­ing to be shifted.

Keith Hig­gins and Colm Boyle pick up their fourth award apiece, draw­ing level with Kee­gan at the top of the all-time list of Mayo play­ers with the most All Stars. Ca­vanagh and Chris Bar­rett both pick up their first award de­spite hav­ing crossed the Ru­bi­con into their 30s.

The hurl­ing team hav­ing been an­nounced on Thurs­day, all that was left of the night’s busi­ness was the Player of the Year awards.

In a nice touch by the or­gan­is­ers, the late Tony Keady’s daugh­ter Shan­non pre­sented Joe Can­ning with the Hurler of the Year award. And as ex­pected, Gal­way cor­ner for­ward Conor Whe­lan took the Young Hurler of the Year.

SATUR­DAY

AIB club cham­pi­onships [All matches at 2.0]

Con­nacht SFC quar­ter-fi­nal Castle­bar Mitchels (Mayo) v Mo­hill (Leitrim), MacHale Park – Castle­bar are back on the road with their an­nual chal­lenge, which has taken them all the way to St Pa­trick’s Day in two of the past three sea­sons. There was a sense of their pick­ing up speed in a fran­tic Mayo cham­pi­onship, cul­mi­nat­ing in three matches, in­clud­ing a mid­week semi-fi­nal re­play, in the fi­nal week. They picked it up in the fi­nal with Barry Mo­ran in good form, scor­ing 0-3, and Ger McDon­agh ex­cep­tional at full back even get­ting for­ward for scores. Mo­hill have been the dom­i­nant side in Leitrim un­der the guid­ance of former Long­ford for­ward Pádraic Davis, sweep­ing all tro­phies ex­cept last year’s cham­pi­onship and pack­ing some tal­ented foot­ballers like this year’s un­der-21 Keith Beirne, who was top scorer in the county fi­nal. Mitchels won’t how­ever be stopped at this point.

SUN­DAY

Le­in­ster SHC quar­ter-fi­nals

Kil­cor­mac-Kil­loughey (Of­faly) v Castle­town-Geoghe­gan (West­meath),

O’Con­nor Park – The 2012 All-Ire­land fi­nal­ists swing back into the prov­ince af­ter a fourth Of­faly ti­tle in six years. The county fi­nal was a bat­tle with Kil­cor­mac im­pos­ing them­selves and sur­viv­ing the come­back by St Ryangh’s. Man­ager Stephen Byrne was able to field a full-strength team for the first time in a while and the re­turn of Dan Cur rams was es­pe­cially wel­come. Castle­town, spear­headed by Aonghus Clarke, were im­pres­sive in de­pos­ing Ra­har­ney but home ad­van­tage is un­likely to be dis­turbed.

Cam­ross (Laois) v Mount Le­in­ster Rangers (Car­low), O’Moore Park –A tight con­test with the 2014 All-Ire­land fi­nal­ists at last back in the pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship to put all of that ex­pe­ri­ence to good use. There is new blood with hurl­ing-shinty in­ter­na­tional Chris Nolan an emerg­ing star but MLR still have the free tak­ing of De­nis Mur­phy and the so­lid­ity of the Coadys. Cam­ross won a thrilling Laois fi­nal but that was a while ago and in the mean­time Dwane Palmer sus­tained a bro­ken leg. Zane Keenan’s car­ries the threat from the home side but this could be an away vic­tory.

Cuala (Dublin) v Dicks­boro (Kilkenny), Par­nell Park (Live, TG4]– The All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons

are quickly out of the traps, as they like their op­po­nents - only con­cluded their county cham­pi­onships last week­end. By all ac­counts Dicks­boro knocked the cel­e­bra­tions on the head early in the week to con­cen­trate on this whereas Cuala also had to scrap through the Dublin fi­nal but they are pick­ing up steam. The cen­tre back con­test may well be mem­o­rable, as Cil­lian Buck­ley was out­stand­ing for the Kilkenny cham­pi­ons and Seán Mo­ran hurled him­self Man of the Match for Cuala. Dicks­boro have learned plenty this sea­son as a young and up­wardly mo­bile team, just about es­cap­ing from tight spots on the way to the ti­tle but this looks a step too far.

The cham­pi­ons have qual­ity in all sec­tors and es­pe­cially in at­tack with David Treacy’s free tak­ing, Colm Cronin’s form and Con O’Cal­laghan’s threat likely to crown a bril­liant week for the club.

Mun­ster SHC semi-fi­nals

Ballygunner (Water­ford) v Sixmilebridge (Clare), Walsh Park – Ballygunner were still stand­ing af­ter a mon­u­men­tal bat­tle with Thurles last week and thor­oughly de­serv­ing win­ners. They’re pushier up front un­der Fer­gal Hart­ley and re­lent­lessly pres­surised the Tipp cham­pi­ons. They do have the bur­den of an eighth suc­ces­sive week in ac­tion but

Hart­ley was un­con­cerned about that last week even go­ing into ex­tra time. Sixmilebridge had their own ar­du­ous progress, need­ing a re­play to see off Clooney-Quin. Shane Golden’s marks­man­ship - five from play - was a fea­ture of the Bridge’s vic­tory and they are a com­ing team with well-known per­form­ers like Séadna Morey, Jamie Shana­han and Cathal Malone as well as six-time county medal­list Niall Gil­li­gan. There won’t be much quar­ter given in all of this, as both are phys­i­cally strong teams but from newly dec­o­rated All Star Stephen O’Ke­effe to the Ma­hony’s plus top-class club hurlers like Shane and David O’Sul­li­van the Water­ford cham­pi­ons have the edge.

Na Piarsaigh (Lim­er­ick) v Black­rock (Cork), Gaelic Grounds – Black­rock are nom­i­nated, as their county fi­nal con­querors Imokilly are a divi­sional side, but they have to travel to take on the high achiev­ing Lim­er­ick cham­pi­ons, who won the All-Ire­land the sea­son be­fore last and have never lost a Mun­ster cham­pi­onship match - adding the prov­ince to their county ti­tle each time since they first emerged in 2011. The bad news is that Shane Dowl­ing whose dead ball ac­cu­racy made foul­ing Na Piarsaigh some­thing of a mug’s game, is out for the medium term but there is a still an im­bal­ance be­tween the sides, which favours the Lim­er­ick city club.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: TOMMY DICK­SON/INPHO

Mayo’s Andy Mo­ran in ac­tion against Dublin in the drawn All-Ire­land fi­nal: He was the best for­ward in the coun­try this sum­mer, the lead­ing scorer from play with 3-24 to his name.

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