As Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton lifted the Delaney Cup for a record-breaking seventh consecutive time on Sunday afternoon it officially brought an end to a truly exciting year for the provincial football championships.
Just twelve teams now remain in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup, and, as expected, Kerry and Dublin have advanced to their respective quarter-finals with relative ease.
Tyrone have impressed in Ulster and have emerged as outsiders for this year’s All-Ireland SFC crown, while Roscommon were the surprise package in Connacht, however after an outstanding provincial final triumph over Galway, they will very much be one of the teams to watch in the All-Ireland series.
We have witnessed some sublime individual performances thus far in 2017, and with a whole host of matches still to be played it goes without saying that there are an array of players that are in the running for the GPA Footballer of the Year award.
According to Oddschecker, Kerry’s James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney, along with Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny are the frontrunners. The trio are priced between 8/1 or 11/1.
However, here are five outside bets that could have you in the money come November.
5. Niall Sludden (Tyrone): 25/1
Niall Sludden may not always be in the spotlight, but he is undeniably one of the most talented footballers in the country.
Sludden is a versatile player who tends to play in either the half-back or half-forward line – a player who is almost tailor made for Mickey Harte’s set-up.
He’s an extremely hard-working player who has popped up with scores against both Donegal and Down. If Tyrone can make it to an All-Ireland final, then Sludden may well be in the running for Gaelic football’s most prestigious individual award.
4. Paul Mannion (Dublin): 33/1
Paul Mannion has been a recognised member of the Dublin senior squad since 2013, but this year he is really establishing himself as a near indispensable member of the Dublin forward line.
Despite Jim Gavin’s men being without the suspended Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin’s attack appears to be as frightening as ever and Mannion has so far excelled in 2017.
He scored a remarkable eight points from play against Westmeath, and with his pace and accuracy, Mannion is a constant goal threat. If the UCD student produces another Man of the Match performance on route to the All-Ireland final – assuming Dublin get there, he’s worth a punt at this current price.
3. David Moran (Kerry): 22/1
Eamonn Fitzmaurice has experimented with his midfield partnership more so than any other senior inter-county manager over the last two seasons, with the likes of Kieran Donaghy, Brian Sheehan, Anthony Maher and the young Jack Barry all being included at some point, however, David Moran – when fit – is one of the first names on the team sheet.
He has had an excellent year to date, after claiming both the Munster Senior Football Championship and the National Football League – where Moran scored three points in the final and was named Man of the Match.
The Footballer of the Year award generally tends to be picked from the two counties in the final, and with the form Kerry and Moran are in, it may well be the midfield maestro who collects the prize at this year’s All Star awards ceremony.
2. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin): 16/1
Who knows what the price for Con O’Callaghan might have been before his unprecedented twelve points in a first Leinster Senior Football final.
The Cuala dual star appears to be claiming every accolade available – last Sunday’s win was his second Leinster win of the year, after claiming the Under-21 crown earlier this year and won both an All-Ireland Senior Club Championship title and an All-Ireland Under-21 Championship title either side of it.
At 16/1, it might be a dubious statement to call it an ‘outside bet’ at this stage of the championship, however, if the 21-year-old can continue his rich vein of scoring into the latter stages of the year, then this is as decent a price you will get the youngster at.
1. Tiernan McCann (Tyrone): 25/1
Tyrone’s Tiernan McCann was making headlines in 2015 following his appalling dive – Darren Hughes was sent off after McCann dropped to the floor when the midfielder flicked his hair – against Monaghan in the quarter-final stage two years ago, but that incident is well and truly in the past now.
McCann a wonderful footballer and a crucial asset to Mickey Harte’s chargers, and like Sludden, he can operate in the majority of areas on the pitch.
He is fit, fast and is an ever present runner when Tyrone counter attack. He has impressed once again this year and if the Red Hand County are still knocking around come September, McCann could be in the running for 2017 Footballer of the Year.
William Dunne, Pundit Arena
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