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Pundit Arena’s 2020 Gaelic Football All Stars and Footballer of the Year

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Our team is made of up of eight players from Dublin, four from Mayo, two Cavan and one Tipperary inclusion.

The football All Star nominations have been announced, with the 45-strong shortlist made up of players from 10 different counties.

Perhaps the most controversial nomination of the 45 was Kerry’s David Clifford who only played one championship game in 2020, an extra-time defeat by rivals Cork in the Munster semi-final.

However, this writer defended the nomination based on Clifford’s performances throughout the year, which you can see here.

Anyway, enough about David Clifford already, here are Pundit Arena’s 2020 All Stars and Footballer of the Year awards.

stephen cluxton

Pundit Arena’s All Stars 2020

1. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)

A tough opening pick as Raymond Galligan had a stellar year for Cavan. However, Cluxton showed his ability to, not only put a poor All-Ireland final first-half behind him, but excel with some crucial second-half kick-outs to Brian Fenton.

His role in slowing the game down in the first ten minutes after half-time can also not be overstated.

2. Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin)

Unbelievably, a player who is constantly improving. While still the same ferocious marker as he was back in 2011 when he won his first All-Ireland, he has now added to his game with his ball skills.

This was proven with his role in Dublin’s goal against Cavan as you can see below. Another deserved All Star.

3. Padraig Faulkner (Cavan)

The best full-back in the country this year was Padraig Faulkner. Even against eventual champions Dublin, Faulkner looked solid in front of his goal as Dublin only managed to breakthrough for a goal late on, despite their dominance of the game.

Famously said he knew Cavan would beat Donegal after listening to Tipperary win the Munster final on the radio beforehand. Sometimes it’s just written in the stars.

4. Oisín Mullin (Mayo)

Young Footballer of the Year elect, Mullin’s performances this year were sensational as he burst onto the inter-county team. Won a couple of high balls against Con O’Callaghan in the All-Ireland final, which is no mean feat.

The 20-year-old was Mayo’s best player in the final and no doubt he will have an even bigger role to play this year with all of Mayo’s recent retirements. Exciting times ahead.

5. Patrick Durcan (Mayo)

If you look up the definition of a modern wing-back, you would probably find a picture of Paddy Durcan right beside it. The 26-year-old started the 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland finals and was once again playing a big final against Dublin before injury meant he had to be subbed off at half-time.

No coincidence that Mayo couldn’t kick on without him.

6. John Small (Dublin)

Diarmuid Connolly made the point in an interview last week that John Small is actually still unbeaten in championship games for Dublin along with Brian Fenton.

A statistic like that points to Small’s presence in the centre of Dublin’s defence and shades our centre-back award ahead of Tipperary’s Kevin Fahey.

7. Eoghan McLaughlin (Mayo)

Another close-call but Eoghan McLaughlin’s performances at wing-back for Mayo, along with Durcan, was a big part in James Horan’s early success this year.

A former top junior cyclist, there seems no ceiling to how far the 21-year-old can go in Gaelic football.

football all stars

8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)

One of the three Footballer of the Year nominees, as well as a winner of that award in 2018, Brian Fenton was scintillating throughout 2020. His performance against Meath, in particular, stands out.

While below-par in the first-half against Mayo, he won a few crucial kick-outs in the second as Dublin cruised to a sixth All-Ireland in succession. Has never lost a Championship game for Dublin.

9. James McCarthy (Dublin)

Another member of the eight All-Irelands club, James McCarthy has been one of Dublin’s most reliable performers over the last ten years.

He has excelled at midfield this year and despite some great performances from other midfielders in the country, you simply cannot leave out McCarthy as Fenton’s partner this year.

all stars

10. Niall Scully (Dublin)

This writer’s man of the match in the All Ireland final. A player who had to do it the hard way throughout his Dublin career, starting in the O’Byrne Cup, before he broke into Jim Gavin’s starting XV.

Under Dessie Farrell, he was one of the first names on the team-sheet and his ability to link defence and attack is a big reason for Dublin’s dominance this year. Still underrated.

11. Thomas Galligan (Cavan)

What more can you say about Thomas Galligan? A consistent performer for Cavan around the middle of the field, he was well able to chip in with a score as the below clip shows.

Nominated as a forward suggests he’s been moved to make way for the Dublin midfield but a fully deserved first All Star award beckons.

12. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

A player almost reborn out the field this year, despite undoubtedly being one of the greatest players in the country already. Has spoken about his new role under Dessie Farrell, which allows him to become more involved in the play.

Seems a no-brainer from Dublin’s perspective and at 25 years of age, O’Callaghan already has five All-Ireland titles. And that’s not to mention his achievements at club level.

13. Conor Sweeney (Tipperary)

Our only Tipperary All Star which maybe seems a tad harsh. Nevertheless, Sweeney is fully deserving of one after his stellar showings during the year.

Contributed 1-9 in the semi-final versus Mayo as the Tipperary forwards did their bit against the Connacht champions.

all stars

14. Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin)

Con O’Callaghan’s move to out the field allowed Ciarán Kilkenny the chance to spend more time at 14, despite predominantly wearing the number 11.

Kicked some crucial scores in the All-Ireland final, particularly in the second half, as Dublin clinched yet another title. His ability to stand up when required no longer comes as a great surprise to anyone. A genuine FOTY contender.

15. Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)

Does not get the credit he deserves, despite being the championship’s highest ever scorer. Contributed 4-9 against Tipperary in the semi-final with an astonishing 4-3 coming from play.

Has consistently turned up against Dublin, even though he has ultimately been on the wrong side of the scoreline each time. Wouldn’t be a travesty if the Dublin vote was split and he did in fact win the Footballer of the Year award.

Pundit Arena’s Footballer of the Year

Brian Fenton and Cillian O’Connor were fully deserving of their FOTY nomination but our award has to go to Ciarán Kilkenny.

Whenever Dublin needed him to step up this year, he duly obliged, kicking score after score. Seems to have found a new lease of life at the edge of the square and is our 2020 Footballer of the Year.

Pundit Arena’s Young Footballer of the Year

Not much debate here as Oisín Mullin is our Young Footballer of the Year. While Tommy Conroy and Eoghan McLaughlin had outstanding breakthrough years, Mullin was a level above and really stood up against Dublin.

Exciting to see how far he can go.

Your All Star team

Who do you think was unlucky to miss out?

Let us know your thoughts.

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