Now that the dust has settled on the inter-county season, and Dublin have completed the five-in-a-row, it’s time to select who we felt were the top 15 players of 2019.
Such was the quality of this year’s championship, it has become nigh on impossible to whittle the selection down. So, some of our readers are sure to be incensed by what they see before them.
One thing is for sure, we do not envy the committee tasked with picking this season’s actual All-Star winners.
Anyway, here goes…
1. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
By far the top goalkeeper on show this season. His distribution, as always, was top class but the level of shot-stopping on display from Cluxton propelled him to new heights. He conceded just three goals throughout the championship and is a shoo-in for a sixth All-Star.
The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be. Simple as that. If he doesn’t get one this year, there’ll be war in Dublin.
2. Mick Fitzsimons (Dublin)
The 30-year-old Cuala man is one of the stickiest man-markers in the game and was back to his best for the sky blues this summer.
He put the breaks on David Clifford following Jonny Cooper’s dismissal in the drawn All-Ireland final. In the replay, Fitzsimons was a standout player and in the reckoning for Man of the Match.
He should pick up his second All-Star later this year.
3. Ronan McNamee (Tyrone)
The best out and out full-back on display in 2019. Brian Hurley, Dara McVeety, Conor Cox were three of the standout forwards of the Championship this summer. All three were kept scoreless from play by McNamee, who was a consistent performer for Tyrone.
4. Tom O’Sullivan (Kerry)
Until Con O’Callaghan broke away and kicked a point in the drawn All-Ireland final, O’Sullivan had conceded 0-0 from play up to that point in the Championship.
The Dingle man was also a huge threat going forward for Kerry hitting 1-3 throughout the campaign. A natural wing-back who is equally adept in the forward division, O’Sullivan has transformed into one of the country’s top corner-backs.
5. Donal Keogan (Meath)
The only selection who didn’t play in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Meath had their best season this decade gaining promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz League while also qualifying for the Leinster Final.
Keogan was the Royals standout performer throughout their seven Championship outings. Strong in the tackle, tonnes of ability going forward and rock-solid at the back. Keogan may miss out when the 2019 All-Stars are named. But, if he does get picked, it will come as no surprise.
6. Patrick Durcan (Mayo)
Ryan McHugh, Shane Walsh and Jack McCaffrey were all snuffed out by Durcan in this year’s championship. The Castlebar Mitchels man also sauntered up-field to kicked 0-8 of his own.
Mayo’s vice-captain was the county’s star performer yet again this year. Utterly dominant in the first half of the All-Ireland semi-final, there was nothing Durcan could have done to stop the second-half onslaught.
Surprisingly, he has never won an All-Star. 2019 could be his first.
7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
McCaffrey was in devastating form all season for Dublin.
He did have a quiet semi-final against Mayo. However, he answered the critics with one of the greatest All-Ireland final performances of the modern era when his 1-3 from play helped Dublin salvage a draw and keep the ‘drive-for-five’ dream alive.
One of Dublin’s most important players. More often than not McCaffrey foregoes his defensive duties as shown in the All-Ireland replay when he failed to pick up anyone for the throw-in before immediately bombing forward.
Not the most traditional of wing-backs but providing opposition teams with food for thought, so far none have found an answer.
8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
He very nearly missed the cut for our selection given his relatively quiet performances in the All-Ireland final, but how could you leave out Brian Fenton?
Five seasons, five Celtic Crosses and zero losses. Quickly becoming the best midfielder of all time.
9. David Moran (Kerry)
Cleaned out Fenton and co. in the drawn All-Ireland final. Cleaned out the entirety of Mayo in Killarney. David Moran cleaned out the whole country at midfield for the majority of 2019.
Back to his best, the Kerins O’Rahilly’s man is the best fielder in the game as well as one of the best kick passers.
Another shoo-in for an All-Star in 2019.
10. Stephen O’Brien (Kerry)
Kerry’s star performer throughout 2019. O’Brien caused continual headaches for opposition teams in the championship and turned the screw when Kerry needed him in the final 15 minutes against Tyrone. Kerry looked like they were heading for the exit until O’Brien’s goal flipped the script.
Touch and go as to whether he will receive an All-Star, such is the competition in the forward line. If he doesn’t though, it will be a grave injustice.
11. Seán O’Shea (Kerry)
More than likely set to walk away with the Young Footballer of the Year award after a stellar season in green and gold.
Kicked 0-10 in the drawn All-Ireland on a day when Dublin just couldn’t contain him. He should get an All-Star for his efforts this year but again, might prove unlucky come November time.
12. Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin)
Kilkenny kicked 0-4 from play and picked up the Man of the Match award as Dublin claimed a fifth successive All-Ireland title.
The Castleknock man is probably Dublin’s most important player given the vast number of possessions he has each game. He does a mountain of dirty work that, more often than not, goes unnoticed.
During Dublin’s 12-minute route of Mayo in the semi-final, Kilkenny touched the ball more than anyone which sums up just how valuable and effective he is.
13. Paul Mannion (Dublin)
Kicked 0-29 from play throughout Dublin’s run to the five-in-a-row and was virtually unmarkable in Leinster and the Super 8s. Mannion also recorded some beautiful scores from both sides of the field under pressure and well-deserving of a third All-Star award in 2019.
14. Cathal McShane (Tyrone)
Scored 3-48 in nine games for Tyrone this summer, finishing as the Championship’s top scorer. McShane was in imperious form for Mickey Harte’s side and was unplayable for most of the year. He should collect a first award later this year.
15. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)
Struck fear into the opposition every time he took to the field in 2019. O’Callaghan’s switch to full-forward worked a treat for Dublin this season as he finished up with 4-14 and is now many people’s favourite for Footballer of the Year.
No Clifford, Howard, Murphy, Morley or McCarthy. We hope you can appreciate how difficult a selection this was!