All-Stars reaction: Dublin’s record-equalling haul and did Mayo deserve more than two?

THE FOUR ALL-Ireland semi-finalists make up the entire All-Star football selection, one that’s predictably dominated by six-in-a-row champions Dublin.

Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny and Oisín Mullin of Mayo both picked up All-Stars.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin had nine players selected and even then Stephen Cluxton, Robbie McDaid and Sean Bugler made decent cases for inclusion.

It’s only the third time a side have enjoyed such a high representation the All-Star team, summing up the current state of the Gaelic football landscape.

Kerry (1981) and Dublin (1977) were the other two teams to have nine players chosen.

The Kingdom’s four-in-a-row winning season concluded with awards for Jimmy Deenihan, Paudie Lynch, Paidi O Se, Jack O’Shea, Sean Walsh, Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran, Pat Spillane, Mikey Sheehy and Eoin Liston. 

Four years earlier, Dublin’s second straight Sam Maguire victory saw Paddy Cullen, Gay O’Driscoll, Robbie Kelleher, Tommy Drumm, Pat O’Neill, Brian Mullins, Anton O’Toole, Bobby Doyle and Jimmy Keaveney honoured on All-Star night. 

The first time winners for Dublin were John Small, Niall Scully and Eoin Murchan.

At 28, it’s somewhat of a surprise that Small hasn’t been selected before. His tradition of getting sent-off in All-Ireland finals probably didn’t help his case over the years. More often than not, he was operating on the same half-back line as stand-outs James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey.

Small has been a rock at the back over the years, a consistent, fiery defender who goes about his business with minimal fuss. A guaranteed 7/10 performer every week. He’s a player you’d hate to play against but would love to have as your team-mate.

Scully is probably the most under-rated player on the Dublin team. His hard work and engine are central to the Sky Blues game plan. The ground he covers in a game is remarkable, he always takes the right option and is so good off either foot it’s hard to determine which is his stronger side. 

Dublin’s Niall Scully.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Completing the all-Dublin half-back line is Murchan, whose inclusion ahead of Paddy Durcan and Eoghan McLaughlin will raise some eyebrows out west. 

Durcan’s injury in the final against Dublin that forced him off at half-time might have cost him.

Mayo will feel hard done by with just two players – Cillian O’Connor and Oisin Mullin – chosen by the selection committee after 12 were nominated. 

Since the millennium, Tyrone (2018), Armagh (2003) and Kerry (2002) have all won just two All-Stars after losing the final. When Cork fell in the 2007 decider to Kerry by 10 points, Graham Canty was their sole representative on the team.  

The 4-9 he posted against Tipperary in the semi-final guaranteed O’Connor’s spot. His overall tally of 5-40 in the championship is a remarkable figure that left him 22 points clear of second placed Conor Sweeney. 

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Mullin’s stunning breakthrough campaign saw the rookie pick up his first award and he’s favourite to land the Young Footballer of the Year prize on Saturday night.

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Another nominee for that prize McLaughlin can also consider himself unlucky to miss out on an All-Star, but it sums up how difficult it is to win one.

The change to the rules in recent years which allows players nominated in one position to be selected in another meant that midfield nominee McCarthy reverted to the half-back line to accommodate Thomas Galligan (nominated as a forward) at centre-field. 

It was a fourth award for McCarthy and Ciaran Kilkenny. Fellow ever present Dean Rock picked up his third. Cuala clubmates Mick Fitzsimons and Con O’Callaghan have won their three All-Stars in the same seasons – 2017, 2019 and 2020. 

Since making his debut in 2015, only once (in 2017) has Brian Fenton failed to finish the season with an All-Star. The 27-year-old’s fifth award at midfield takes him past Anthony Tohill and leaves him one behind Jack O’Shea. There’s plenty more to come from the Raheny man.

Cavan and Tipperary will cherish their selections in the XV.

It’s a big day for Cavan. Before 2020, they had just two All-Star recipients Ollie Brady and Dermot McCabe. They’ve more than doubled that tally following their stunning Ulster success with Raymond Galligan, Padraig Faulkner and Thomas Galligan all included. 

The Cavan keeper’s highlight reel across the five championship games includes a host of critical saves and this sensational winner to dump out their dearest rivals.

Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan with the point of the day. 👏

Some way to win an Ulster championship match against your close rivals. 🔵⚪️pic.twitter.com/TbT3c4kF6i

— The42.ie GAA (@The42GAA) October 31, 2020

Faukner and Thomas Galligan gave heroic displays right through their run to the provincial title.

A season that saw them progress to the last four of the All-Ireland series from the Ulster preliminary round put the Breffni boys firmly in the national spotlight. The comeback wins over Monaghan and Donegal, in particular, were joyous occasions.

Ciarán Brady gave a strong display in the loss to Dublin and deserves a mention as another close call. 

Tipperary were rewarded for a breakthrough Munster title with Sweeney’s place at full-forward. He wins the Premier’s fourth All-Star following fellow inside forwards Declan Browne (two-time winner) and team-mate Michael Quinlivan.

A rich reward for an immensely talented player who persevered through the bad days. Without his sensational leveller to force-extra-time against Limerick, the season could have looked so different to David Power’s side.

Tipperary have forced extra time against Limerick after this superb free from Conor Sweeney deep into added time.

Watch all the weekend's action on The Sunday Game @rte2 from 9.30pm #rtegaa pic.twitter.com/5Bk3CYJ8WT

— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) November 7, 2020

As ever, the All-Star team will draw plenty of conversation and debate, but it’s hard to argue with this one for the most part.  

Why is women’s sport being hit so much harder by the Covid-19 pandemic?

A general view of Irish rugby players, Ciara Griffin, Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang and Nichola Fryday.

THREE DAYS INTO February, the word finally arrived, even though it had been promised much earlier.

Full details of the rescheduled 2021 Women’s Six Nations were to be announced “by the end of January”, as per a statement released on the 13th of that month.

But the wait went on for the Irish team and others, who, of course, continued to train with nothing set in stone, having gone through enough uncertainty over the last while.

With the build-up for Andy Farrell’s men’s opener against Wales in full swing, news finally filtered through of new dates and a condensed tournament in April.

“Great to see fixtures set in stone and an actual end goal in sight for players,” Irish legend Niamh Briggs tweeted at the time, though uncertainty still reigns over the World Cup qualifiers, with the finals tournament taking place in New Zealand in September.

The Six Nations was one of several high-profile women’s sport events — sport is sport, but the qualifier is needed in this article to differentiate — impacted in January as the Covid-19 crisis continued.

A small snapshot of the state of play in women’s sport at the time, as noted by ESPN’s Kathleen McNamee, read:

  • FA Cup suspended – no return date
  • Six Nations postponed – no return date
  • RWC qualifiers postponed – no return date
  • No start date for Ladies European Tour

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There has been mass postponement of major female sporting events over the past few months, while most male tournaments continue.

As the men’s FA Cup was in full flow across the water, a coin toss and the drawing of lots were among the options being considered to decide matches in the women’s competition, which was postponed due to its non-elite classification.

124 men’s teams take part in the FA Cup from the third round on: 20 Premier League sides, 72 in total from the Championship, League One and League Two, plus the 32 surviving teams out of 644 in the lower tiers.  

In all, 158 men’s teams — including all of the above, along with the National League, National League North and National League South — are considered elite, while just 23 women’s sides are, across the Women’s Super League and the Championship.

While the Women’s FA Cup, albeit a lot further along, was impacted last year, the final took place in the autumn. Could it not continue this time around, like the men’s competition?

Despite the massive backlash over the past few weeks, the coin toss and drawing of lots are still possibilities, though the FA will review the situation as restrictions loosen.

That said, the prospect of the lower-tier [3-6] seasons being declared null and void is becoming increasingly likely, while the Scottish Women’s Premiership, which was due to start two weekends ago, remains at a standstill.

While the Covid situation varies across Europe and around the world, most other women’s football leagues are ongoing.

On these shores, Women’s National League [WNL] fixtures have been announced and it’s set to kick off on Saturday, 27 March, while it’s understood that Vera Pauw’s Ireland team will utilise the next international window for friendlies, having missed this one.

A general view of Brighton and Hove Albion players warming up for a Women’s Super League [WSL] clash.

Source: Steven Paston

In terms of where Irish internationals play their club football, the US National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL] recently announced its schedule, while Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Feminine Division 1 all continue, with the exception of unavoidable Covid-19 match cancellations.

The Australian Women’s Football League [AFLW] is underway too, although it has been impacted by snap lockdowns. There’s Irish links to that, of course, with 14 involved in the 2021 season. 

Most of those will return to these shores to play inter-county football, though that also remains up in the air, just like their male GAA and camogie counterparts.

On an international scale again, there is no start date in place for the Ladies European Tour, with a lot of the initial events pencilled in for France and South Africa. While golfers suffer, tennis players have availed of extra events and small tournaments put on by the Women’s Tennis Association [WTA] to keep them ticking over.

Back to team sports, and coming full circle: while we now have a clearer picture of the Six Nations, it’s a World Cup year and we don’t know if Ireland are going to be there, with no further word on the Rugby Europe qualifiers which were postponed in December.

Or if the World Cup will even go ahead. Yes, similar uncertainty surrounds the Olympics, but at least it’s being discussed. The never-ending speculation can be damaging to those directly involved, but at least it is being talked about. There is little to nothing about the World Cup. Just imagine for one minute if it was the men’s equivalent. 

Ultimately, the big question is why is women’s sport being hit so much harder by Covid? Postponing major events and tournaments is surely not good enough at this stage.

“That’s the thing that I keep coming back to with the cancellation of women’s sport, we did have an entire year of events being cancelled and postponed,” McNamee nods, in conversation with The42.

“I think most people at the time were pretty happy to say, ‘That’s fair enough, we’re going through something that’s totally unprecedented. We don’t know how to go forward, and it’s probably safer to just take the year.’

“But at the same time, you would think that those same organisers would be thinking in their head last year, ‘Well, worst case scenario for next year is we’re still going through Covid. Best case scenario is we can have games going ahead, and we can have fans.’

“For me, the main issue with all of this is it’s not only organisers failing to appreciate that, and set things in motion quicker. It’s also just an exacerbation of all the problems that were there before we even had a pandemic.”

McNamee interviewing global football sensation Ada Hegerberg.

Source: Kathleen McNamee/ESPN.

That is the bottom line: this has really shown up the structural inequalities and other disparities that exist.

Where does responsibility for why women’s sport is being hit harder lie? The questions are endless, and difficult to answer, but worth thinking about.

Is it that governments are not doing enough to make sure that they could continue? Is it the sports’ governing bodies and national organisations were not being properly organised and prepared? Or that TV and sponsors are not valuing the sport and product properly and not putting enough pressure on for it to continue — would they let the Olympics be postponed again without a fight?

What about the legacy of years and years of inequity, and the impact that’s had on women’s sport?

It appears to be a mixture of everything, the last point particularly evident through that disparity in ‘elite’ teams across men’s and women’s football in England, and the challenges the Six Nations faced due to the part-time status of women’s teams as professional men’s sides bubbled and the competition commenced as normal.

“We say it so much, money needs to go into women’s sport for it to be better and for it to become the elite level that I think most people who watch it and play in it know that it can be,” McNamee continues.

“When you see something like the FA postponing the FA Cup because the teams that are competing at the moment are non-elite, and then you see that there’s all these men’s teams classified as elite, and not even a fifth of them in the women’s game are, it doesn’t really make any sense.

“If you’re thinking we’re coming so far in equality, it doesn’t make sense that those very structural things still exist. That’s not going to change this year — if anything, it’s more concerning because so many federations and sports organisations are losing a lot of money.

“Are there going to be the resources later down the line to put into these sports to make sure if, God forbid, something like this ever does happen again, women’s sport is actually in a better place to deal with this?”

While the Premier League resumed last year, the remainder of the 2019/20 WSL was cancelled and Chelsea were crowned champions on a points-per-game basis. The WSL is considered a professional league and the 2020/21 season has thankfully gone ahead, but look at the Frauen-Bundesliga in Germany. It’s not fully professional, but it was the only women’s league in Europe to restart during the first wave after receiving financial aid from the German Football League (DFL) to allow the necessary testing to take place.

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That commitment needs to be seen elsewhere.

“There are options,” McNamee nods, pointing to that solidarity package.

“But it just requires a level of knowledge and finance that I don’t know entirely exists across the board in women’s sport just yet. And then in the places where it should exist, we’re just not seeing the fruits of it, which is disappointing.”

“We are doing a lot better than we used to be,” she stresses, “and so much of what is wrong comes down to the you know who is running it, what organisation is ploughing money into it.

“There’s such a massive argument about whether these things should be separate to men’s teams or organisations, or whether they should be run alongside them. In some ways, I think it’s almost a moot point. It’s so dependent on who is on the other side.”

City – with Ireland’s Megan Campbell on the far right – lifting the FA Cup in 2017.

Source: EMPICS Sport

Look at the incredible structures in place at Manchester City Women, for example, and the powerhouse they have become —  McNamee sees that closely through her work with ESPN — while Liverpool’s equivalent struggle.

In a more general point, she and this writer agree that if you support a club, you should support every team involved from the underage sides to the women. Take, for example, City, Liverpool or Manchester United in both the Premier League and WSL.

It’s completely fair that most people prefer men’s sport, but we must be aware of the unconscious bias, which is hopefully shifting with the help of the media, the 20×20 campaign and much more.

After all, sport is sport, and women’s sport — again, to differentiate — must be appreciated on its own merits. It must, at least, be given a chance.

“Sportspeople love sport, they love to win, and they love their side winning. I don’t think it’s as hard to get people on board as some people seem to think it is. Obviously you have the, ‘I don’t care’ brigade, but you’re probably never gonna change their minds anyway.”

The more support behind the cause and voices that are heard, the better. And the big question — why is women’s sport being hit so much harder by the Covid-19 pandemic? — needs to be asked more and more over the coming weeks and months. A lot of it comes back to money and revenue streams, and if men’s tournaments are going ahead, a way must be found for women’s ones.

“This is their job, a lot of people.” McNamee notes. “Even if they’re semi-pro, they’re still getting money for going out and playing and training and going to tournaments. For other people, they are fully professional and this is the only thing they do.

“If you’re a tennis player or a golf player and you depend on a circuit going ahead for your sponsorship deal, for whatever agreements you have with certain companies, this is a massive financial hit for you as well. We talk a lot about the finances that have to go into making these events happen, but also forget that what people get out of them.”

“There is a market out there for women’s sport, and I think brands are discovering it more and more,” she concludes.

“More and more, big brands are seeing the benefit in this, and I think the curve of the sport has only been going up for the last while.

“For me it is only going in one direction. This might plateau it for a while but I can’t see it lasting forever, because there’s too many people who do see it now as a financial benefit.”

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Mullen nominated as new Kilkenny senior hurling captain for 2021 season

ADRIAN MULLEN HAS been officially nominated as the new Kilkenny senior hurling captain for the 2021 season.

His club Ballyhale Shamrocks confirmed the decision this afternoon with Richie Reid their choice to be vice-captain.

Kilkenny still operate under the system whereby club champions nominate the captain for the following season.

We are delighted to nominate Adrian Mullen as @KilkennyCLG Captain for 2021 and Richie Reid as Vice Captain for 2021 season.

— Shamrocks (@BallyhaleGAA) February 20, 2021

The Shamrocks completed three-in-a-row in Kilkenny last September and achieved that without the attacking talents of Mullen who missed the 2020 campaign after tearing his cruciate in action for Kilkenny in a league game against Clare last February.

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Adrian Mullen is stretchered off against Clare in February 2019.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The 21-year-old has starred at club level over the past two seasons in their All-Ireland senior wins, firing 0-5 against St Thomas in the 2019 final and grabbing 0-2 against Borris-Ileigh in the 2020 decider. He continued that good form with Brian Cody’s senior side in his breakthrough championship in 2019 when he won the Young Hurler of the Year award.

Adrian Mullen (left) celebrates Ballyhale’s All-Ireland club victory in 2020.

Source: Tom O’Hanlon/INPHO

Mullen will become the 13th player from his club to captain the Kilkenny senior hurlers while there have been six since 2007 alone in Henry Shefflin, James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, Michael Fennelly, TJ Reid, Joey Holden and Colin Fennelly.

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9 awards for Limerick as 2020 All-Star hurling team is named

CHAMPIONS LIMERICK HAVE bagged nine winners in the 2020 PwC GAA-GPA All-Star hurling team.

Burke, Barron, Morrissey, Reid and Kelly amongst the winners.

John Kiely’s team were crowned league, Munster and All-Ireland winners last year, a level of dominance reflected in this selection that was announced tonight.

There is a third award for defender Seán Finn while Dan Morrissey, Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane are the Limerick players honoured for the second time. There are first All-Stars for Limerick hurlers Nickie Quaid, Diarmaid Byrnes, Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Beaten finalists Waterford have three winners in defender Tadhg de Búrca, midfielder Jamie Barron and attacker Stephen Bennett, the latter the only other first-time player honoured this year.

Galway defender Daithi Burke and Kilkenny attacker TJ Reid are both included for the fifth time in the All-Stars while Clare’s marquee figure Tony Kelly wins his second accolade.

From the five counties honoured, there are only three players from the previous 2019 team that make the cut here in Finn, Reid and Gillane.

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2020 Hurling All-Star Team

Goalkeeper

1. Nickie Quaid (Limerick – Effin)

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Defenders

2. Seán Finn (Limerick – Bruff) – Previous winner in 2018 and ‘19.
3. Dan Morrissey (Limerick – Ahane) – Previous winner in 2018.
4. Daithí Burke (Galway – Turloughmore) – Previous winner in 2015, ‘16, ‘17 and ‘18.

5. Diarmaid Byrnes (Limerick – Patrickswell)
6. Tadhg de Búrca (Waterford – Clashmore Kinsalebeg) – Previous winner in 2015.
7. Kyle Hayes (Limerick – Kildimo Pallaskenry)

Midfielders

8. Jamie Barron (Waterford – Fourmilewater) – Previous winner in 2016 and ‘17.
9. Tony Kelly (Clare – Ballyea) – Previous winner in 2013.

Forwards

10. Gearóid Hegarty (Limerick – St Patrick’s)
11. Cian Lynch (Limerick – Patrickswell) – Previous winner in 2018.
12. Tom Morrissey (Limerick – Ahane)

13. Aaron Gillane (Limerick – Patrickswell) – Previous winner in 2019.
14. TJ Reid (Kilkenny – Ballyhale Shamrocks) – Previous winner in 2012, ‘14, ‘15 and ‘19.
15. Stephen Bennett (Waterford – Ballysaggart)

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Dublin’s Fenton and Limerick’s Hegarty are crowned 2020 GAA Player of the Year winners

DUBLIN’S BRIAN FENTON and Limerick’s Gearoid Hegarty have been announced as the PwC GAA-GPA Player of the Year award winners for 2020.

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It marks the second time Fenton has won the award after being previously honoured in 2018 while Hegarty lands the hurling equivalent for the first time.

Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny and Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor were the other nominees for the football award while Clare’s Tony Kelly and Waterford’s Stephen Bennett were on the hurling shortlist.

Fenton becomes the first player other than Meath’s Trevor Giles (’96 and ’99) to win the Footballer of the Year award twice. It’s the seventh time Dublin have provided the best footballer from the season.

Hegarty is Limerick’s second winner of this accolade after Cian Lynch’s success in 2018.

More to follow…

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Mayo’s Mullin and Kilkenny’s Cody scoop Young Player of the Year awards

MAYO’S OISIN Mullin and Kilkenny’s Eoin Cody have collected the PwC Young Player of the Awards for their displays in the 2020 GAA championships.

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The pair were announced as the victors for these individual awards on the ceremeny televised tonight on RTÉ.

Congratulations to Oisin Mullin Kilmaine Gaa on being named PWC GAA/GPA All Stars Young Player of the Year 2020 ⭐👏
#gaelicplayersassocation #PwCAllStars #GAABelong #GAA pic.twitter.com/AFZwosSR2O

— Mayo GAA (@MayoGAA) February 20, 2021

Well done to Eoin Cody on winning the @PwC Young Hurler of the Year for 2020. https://t.co/qfYNQpwZRQ

— Kilkenny GAA (@KilkennyCLG) February 20, 2021

It is the sixth time a Mayo player has won the young footballer award after Keith Higgins (2006), Cillian O’Connor (2011 and 2012), and Diarmuid O’Connor (2015 and 2016) were previous recipients.

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Mullin, who also won an All-Star football award this week, saw off Mayo team-mates Tommy Conroy and Eoghan McLaughlin for this honour. The Kilmaine youngster was in terrific form as Mayo lifted the Connacht title and reached the All-Ireland decider.

Cody emerged as a bright prospect on the Kilkenny team triumphed in the Leinster final and then contested the All-Ireland semi-final. He had progressed from helping his club Ballyhale Shamrocks lift All-Ireland titles before seeing off the claims of Waterford’s Iarlaith Daly and Tipperary’s Jake Morris, who were also on the shortlist.

He is the third Kilkenny player to secure this accolade after James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick in 2006 and his club-mate Adrian Mullen in 2019.

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The latest reminder of Limerick’s dominance as hurling Allstars round off 2020 campaign

THE LAST TIME nine All-Star awards were being handed out to one county in the wake of a hurling season was 2008.

That was the year that Kilkenny’s golden generation turned in their most complete display, blowing away Waterford with an awesome showing on the biggest day in the hurling calendar.

It replicated the feat achieved by Kilkenny teams twice previously in 1983 and 2000. No other county has supplied that total of players to an All-Star selection until last night when Limerick matched that figure.

In a subjective awards scheme, it stands as a benchmark of excellence. In reaching it with nine winners, Limerick provide further evidence of the brilliance they served up in the 2020 campaign. It was a turbulent and fractured hurling year yet John Kiely’s team coped best of all to take all the major hurling prizes on offer as a collective before they landed these honours as individuals.

The 2020 All-Star XV is a Limerick-controlled unit and that feels fitting. They went three better than the 2018 edition, although last year was played out under different terms and conditions, less games meant less scope for debate in examining the claims of various players.

Five first-timers were rewarded from the Limerick ranks. If Gearoid Hegarty was the star turn in the country, then Nickie Quaid, Diarmaid Byrnes, Kyle Hayes and Tom Morrissey put in the type of seasons that captured their growing influences. There is a feel-good factor to Quaid’s recognition, a player who toiled during some murky times for Limerick hurling and also maintains a fantastic family sequence of All-Star number ones after his father Tommy and cousin Joe before him.

There were second awards for Dan Morrissey, a player who stepped up when entrusted with the firefighting mission after Limerick’s full-back issue emerged, along with Cian Lynch and Aaron Gillane, who completed a brilliant personal night for the Patrickswell club.

The standard-bearer for Limerick is their number two Sean Finn, consolidating a spot he has held since 2018. His third successive award places him in the exalted company of Pat Hartigan, Joe McKenna and Gary Kirby, the only other Limerick hurlers to achieve that three-in-a-row, and is representative of his outstanding defensive play.

With one county providing two-thirds of the selection, there was not a huge amount left for the remaining to scrap over. Waterford suffered most on final days against Limerick in 2020 but stll got a trio of awards. Tadhg De Búrca’s year was rounded off a desperate note in tearing his cruciate ligament for the second time but his form was terrific prior to that in propelling Waterford deep into the championship. It was a breakout year for Stephen Bennett with his attacking performances, exemplified by the good stuff that enabled Waterford’s stirring second-half comeback against Kilkenny.

A third win for Jamie Barron afer his all-action midfield shows nudges him up amongst the county’s great in this particular pecking order. Brick Walsh on four and John Mullane on five are the only Deise performers ahead of him on this list.

For Galway’s Daithi Burke and Kilkenny’s TJ Reid, their fifth awards arrived as a signal of enduring hurling class. Burke’s winning run was interrupted in 2019 after four on the spin but he came back to collect this latest All-Star. It bumps him up to five, the same tally as Galway’s leaders Joe Canning, Joe Cooney and Pete Finnerty.

Reid’s maiden accolade arrived in 2012, his stature rose significantly with his blistering ’14-’15 form while as the elder statesman of the Kilkenny forward line, he has now spearheaded their fortunes in style as noted by being lauded in this fashion in ’19-’20.

And then rounding off the selection is Tony Kelly, a solo act who lit up Clare’s outings with dazzling score-taking against the likes of Limerick and Wexford. It would have appeared outlandish after his 2013 heroics to suggest he would be waiting seven seasons for his second honour but he was a lock after this year’s form.

Much like the football equivalent, there are less hard-luck stories this year than usual.

Will O’Donoghue is the primary one though after a year fuelling the engine room for Limerick. He may have received cameos in 2018, coming on in the 67th minute of the final, but his role has spiked in prominence since then for his team and he has rewarded that faith by management with the level of his performances.

Captain Declan Hannon must have been another strong Limerick challenger while Austin Gleeson had some excellent moments, doing plenty to channel Waterford in the right direction. At opposite ends of the pitch, Kilkenny’s Conor Delaney and Galway’s Brian Concannon played in a bright and impressive fashion.

But the overriding sense is of a team packed with Limerick leaders.

And that’s a theme in keeping with the hurling year.

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Here’s what’s coming up this week for members of The42

ANOTHER WEEK OF Level 5 lockdown ahead, but at least it’s another one packed with quality content for members of The42.

Thankfully, sport is keeping us occupied through these difficult times and there’s plenty more where that came from here.

Over the past few months, members have had access to host of exclusive podcasts, newsletters, prizes and insights, while also supporting our otherwise free and independent sports journalism.

So for those in the club — and for those considering signing up — here’s a flavour of what’s coming up for The42 members this week.

(If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up for a €5 a month – or a discounted €42 a year – at members.the42.ie.)

On Monday’s Rugby Weekly Extra, regular analyst Eoin Toolan joins Murray Kinsella to look ahead to Round Three of the Six Nations, and discuss what Ireland need to get back on track against Italy.

There’ll be no shortage of Ireland-Italy preview and review content.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The focus switches to sportswriting on Tuesday as Gavin Cooney welcomes our latest guest to Behind The Lines. This week we’re delighted to welcome Tim Wigmore, sports journalist with the Daily Telegraph and author of The Best: How Elite Athletes Are Made.

Previous guests on the series include Gary Lineker, Wright Thompson, Anna Kessel, Malachy Clerkin, Caitlin Thompson, Dion Fanning and last week’s contributor, John Leonard, with all episodes available to members of The42.

Coaching takes centre-stage on Wednesday as Shane Keegan‘s popular podcast, How To Win At Dominoes, continues. Neil Manchip, Shane Lowry’s coach and high performance director of Golf Ireland, is in the hot seat for what should be another great chat.

Others fascinating thinkers to feature across the two seasons are Paul Kinnerk, Dr Ed Coughlan, Cliodhna O’Connor, Padraig Harrington, Gary Keegan, Pat Lam and Cheddar Plunkett.

Lowry and Manchip back in 2010.

Source: Cathal Noonan

On Saturday, members can avail of a bonus post-match episode of Rugby Weekly Extra, with immediate reaction to what unfolds in Rome for Andy Farrell’s men.

In more good news, Feburary’s Bylines Essay will also be available to digest. It’s with IFTA-winning director Dave Tynan, director of Dublin Oldschool and Heartbreak.

And as always, we’ll have our weekly Insiders newsletters for GAA, Soccer and Rugby fans spread out through the week.

Plenty there, and much more to come in the coming weeks and months.

So, if you fancy treating yourself to more top-class sports coverage while supporting our independent journalism, why not join us at members.the42.ie?

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‘He was an incredible man’ – Hegarty dedicates Hurler of the Year award to late Limerick physio

THE DAY BEFORE he was named Hurler of the Year, Gearoid Hegarty and his Limerick team-mates formed a guard of honour for their late physio Mark van Drumpt, who died after a long battle with cancer.

“I got much more emotional than I thought I would,” admits Hegarty. “It just shows you how much he touched us all.”

During RTÉ’s All-Stars broadcast on Saturday night, the Limerick half-forward dedicated his award to van Drumpt.

Speaking now, Hegarty recalls how the physio helped him during his own U21 days.

“He was an incredible man. He was battling cancer. Mark has been physio for 13 years with Limerick. He spent five years with the footballers, and then eight years with us. He was involved with us in the U21s and that’s where I got to know him.

“I got a real bad injury in the Munster final in U21. We were playing Clare in Ennis and they were going for four-in-a-row and I got a real bad injury in my ankle.

“The specialist that I went to see in Santry was mad for me to get surgery in the few days after the game. There was three weeks between every game at U21, I always remember. It was a couple of days after the Munster final. We beat Clare and the specialist was mad for me [to have an operation. It was, ‘surgery, surgery, surgery.’

“Mark van Drumpt couldn’t enforce it more that he didn’t believe that I needed surgery. He was going against the specialist opinion that I didn’t need surgery.

“He said, “If you need surgery by the end of the year by all means you can go for surgery but I don’t think you should go for surgery now. Try rehab it as best you can and see what happens over the next couple of days and weeks.’

“We were playing Galway in the All-Ireland semi final and he did an unbelievable job to get me back for that game. He looked after me so well and it’s always something that I remembered.

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“And that was probably my best game in the U21 that year. He was proven correct in his opinion. He went over and above what he needed to do for me in that moment and he always did that from then on. 

“He’s been fighting a savage battle with loads of ups and downs. He was told eight years ago that he had max two years to live. He was such a battler, an incredible person and full of craic.

“Always someone you could go have a bit of craic with before training – getting strapped or rubbed or whatever. He’s with lads dealing with injuries at their worst times and he was always such a great guy do be dealing with. Unfortunately he took a bad turn in the last six months or so.

“Even the lead up to the All-Ireland final he was with us on the Friday night. He was with us at every training session. As somebody said other people with his sickness wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed and he was still coming to training with us.

“It was sad to see the deterioration. Sadly cancer took over in the last couple of months and it was quite sad. Obviously it was extremely sad that he passed, but it was nice to go to his funeral in difficult circumstances and give him a great send off yesterday.

“A young man leaving a young family behind – life is cruel but what can you do?”

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“Leonie [his wife] told me he was quite sick in 2018 as well and she asked him what was the one thing he wanted to see before he died. Because they always expected that it was coming.

“As I said he was told eight years that he had not long to live. He always said he just wanted to see Limerick win an All-Ireland.

“He got to see two really. It’s never a nice time to go but I suppose he did go just after we won a second one for him.”

Gearoid Hegarty and Will O’Donoghue celebrate as the final whistle sounded in the All-Ireland final.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Hegarty admitted that “people telling you that you weren’t good enough” was a massive motivator for him during his career. The night the hurling All-Stars were announced, his sister’s boyfriend showed him a message from a Limerick GAA internet forum in 2016 that read:

‘There’s no way Gearoid Hegarty should be on the panel. He’s too slow. His hurling isn’t good enough.’

After also picking up an All-Star, Hegarty said 2020 was even more special because of his own individual performance in the final. The St Patrick’s man was unhappy with his display in the 2018 win over Galway.

“I woke up the next morning with mixed emotions, in all honesty,” he said. “I was incredibly delighted [that we’d won]. The team is the most important thing 100 times over

“I was extremely proud that we had finally won the All-Ireland but I was disappointed with my own performance. I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, and I was taken off.

“This year, it was brilliant to be on the field when we won the All-Ireland. I know that sounds stupid but I wasn’t on the field in 2018. It was really nice to be on the field in 2020.

“In 2018, that’s probably a mistake I made leading into the All-Ireland final. I was after having a really top class quarter-final and semi-final, and I suppose I was going into the final with all guns blazing.

“There was probably a bit of attention on me going into that game. I probably read a bit too much into it. It’s pretty much impossible nowadays not to see it, unless you go into a dark room and don’t go on social media. 

“The thing I did this year was just processed it a bit more, just talked about it. I used Caroline a lot more in 2020 than I would have before. I sat down with her, gave her a phone call before the games, and just talked about what’s important.”

‘I was sort of in shock’ – Brian Fenton on congratulatory text from Jack O’Shea

AMID THE FLURRY of WhatsApp and Twitter messages Brian Fenton received on Saturday night, one stood out from the rest.

It arrived from Kerry legend Jack O’Shea, whose astonishing list of achievements in the game are being hunted down by the 27-year-old Dublin star.

O’Shea won Texaco Footballer of the Year four times, six All-Stars and seven All-Irelands. Fenton now has two GAA/GPA player of the year gongs, five All-Stars and six All-Irelands in his collection.

O’Shea has long been regarded as the greatest midfielder to ever play the game, though Fenton is already firmly in that discussion. 

“He got my number off someone I knew,” explains the Raheny man. “I came across his and that was a lovely moment and I text him back.

“I was sort of in shock,” he adds.

“I obviously never saw him play but he’s always regarded as the gold standard, and something that you’re always trying to achieve. So that was a lovely, lovely moment last night.”

Fenton’s father, also called Brian, hails from Spa in Kerry and always held O’Shea in high esteem.

“I just showed him and he was amazed. He was trying to get the connection. I sent him a screenshot of it so we both have it.

“I remember I was at a Kerry game when I was 12 or 13 and we were sitting a couple of rows back in the Hogan Stand. Jacko, I didn’t know him I was a child, and he was walking up the sideline to do some punditry.

“There was a bit of cheering from the crowd and my dad stood up and roared, ‘Go on Jacko.’ He wouldn’t [usually] be massively cheering or anything like that but with that reaction I was like, ‘Jesus, this fella must have been good.’ So it obviously meant a lot to the family.

“For people like that to reach out to you it’s very kind. I said to my sister sitting beside me, remind me to do that in 30 or 40 years’ time to text that player. It’s a lovely touch, a really nice touch.”

Brian Fenton of Dublin with his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2020.

Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Fenton says he understands the decisions of Jack McCaffrey and, more recently, Paul Mannion to step away from Dublin duty given the commitment levels involved. 

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“It consumes your life,” he admits. “Paul Mannion has achieved everything and has just said, ‘Look I want to go and pursue other things in my life’ and that’s important.

“Jack obviously has his career and stuff and similarly with Paul but hopefully he’ll be rejoining us.

“From my perspective, I think there is loads of time after when I’m 32 or 33 or 39, whatever Cluxo [Stephen Cluxton] is, to do other things in my life. I just love playing Gaelic football and that’s where I get my kicks.”

All indications are that Cluxton will be returning to the Dublin fold in 2021. Fenton remarked that his failure to win an All-Star last season wouldn’t matter much to the Parnells goalkeeper.

“Every year you’d be in the dressing room after an All Ireland final and we’d all start chanting ‘One more year, Cluxo, one more year!’ He’s a freak, he’s in the best shape. He’d be sending me 10 minute YouTube videos of abs sessions he’s doing and I’d be thinking ‘How are you doing this?’ He’s a freak, in the best possible way.

“He doesn’t care too much for All-Stars I’d say. Everyone knows Stephen Cluxton is the greatest and it doesn’t take an All-Star in 2020 to remind us of that, he will always go down as the best ever.

“I’m just so lucky to know him personally. Just as I look over my laptop screen here, I see a picture from Philly McMahon’s wedding and it’s me and Stephen Cluxton in one of those photo booths.

“I have pictures of Stephen Cluxton all around my house, it’s a bit weird! He’s just a legend.”

– First published 12.46, 22 Feb

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