Now that the GAA’s inter-county season is over, it’s time to focus on picking our Pundit Arena Football Team of the Year.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of naming the team, a few points must be made:
- It’s easy to give all the spots to the All-Ireland finalists, however we tried to spread the awards around and acknowledge players who were played well all season, not just in September.
- We didn’t hold being dropped for the replay against David Clarke as it was a ludicrous decision.
- A place in the football Team of the Year for both a Clare man and a Tipp man – who’d have thought that in May?
- Despite only winning by a point (in a replay, no less), Dublin have double the amount of players that Mayo have, but them’s the breaks.
After much deliberation, here is Pundit Arena’s Team of the Year:
1. David Clarke (Mayo)
Despite being dropped for the All-Ireland final replay, Clarke still gets the nod for the best goalkeeper this year.
The decision to replace him yesterday will go down as one of the all-time coaching blunders in an All-Ireland final.
2. Brendan Harrison (Mayo)
A good year too for Brendan Harrison. One of Mayo’s best defenders.
3. Philly McMahon (Dublin)
No forward in the country wants to mark McMahon. One of the standout players in a phenomenal Dublin team.
4. Shane Enright (Kerry)
Enright makes it a diverse full-back line with three counties represented. An excellent defender who is only getting better.
Not the only Kerryman to make the team!
5. Peter Harte (Tyrone)
Despite a feeble defeat to Mayo, we must not forget Tyrone were one of the top teams in the country for a lot of the year. Harte epitomised this as he stormed forward at every opportunity.
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin)
What a player O’Sullivan is for the Dubs. A good defender and strong in possession, Cian has to be in our Team of the Year.
7. Lee Keegan (Mayo)
Keegan has proved to be one of Mayo’s key players. Despite the black card yesterday, Keegan has to keep his All-Star.
8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
One national bookmaker has Fenton at 1/100 to win an All-Star award, so who am I to leave him out? RTÉ’s Player of the Year may get the official award also.
9. Gary Brennen (Clare)
It feels like a long time ago that the fairytale was ended for the Clare footballers. Brilliant in the early rounds – particularly against Limerick in Munster – Brennen wasn’t out of place playing Kerry in Croke Park.
That said, Mattie Donnelly is wickedly unlucky not to be here.
10. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
The hurlers loss is the footballers gain for the Dubs. While the importance of his possession stats are over-blown, he is a key player for the men from the capital. He should shoot more, though.
11. Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)
If the Sunday Game panel can play him centre forward then so can we. Lee Keegan is many people’s vote for Player of the Year and Connolly gave him plenty of it over two exciting games.
12. Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
It’s difficult to recall the last football match that didn’t involve Dublin or Mayo! The best player for the north-west side this year, McHugh once again proved he is one of the top talents in the country.
13. Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary)
With all the players missing from Tipp this year, they still managed to turn what could have been a lost season into one of their best years in recent memory.
Quinlivan was one of the main men in this run.
14. Paul Geaney (Kerry)
It’s easy to think of this year as bad year for the Kingdom. It shows the quality they have that the last four is considered failure.
With Geaney in form, Kerry can beat anyone.
15. Dean Rock (Dublin)
Another solid year for Rock, who is top of the left in our Team of the Year. Rock’s a key forward for a team that usually puts up big scores.
Clare, Tipperary, Donegal, Tyrone: one each
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena