The football season has come to its conclusion with Kerry lifting Sam Maguire very much against the odds. The team honours have been handed out and now attention turns to individual honours. Here is the Pundit Arena all-star selection for 2014.
1. Paul Durcan (Donegal)
The Donegal stopper may be remembered for his mistake in the All-Ireland final when his misplaced short kick-out gifted Kieran Donaghy a goal but over the course of the season Durcan has been the most consistent goalkeeper. Other than his howler in the final, the majority of his kick-outs were very good and were an important part of Donegal’s game.
He also made a number of important saves particularly against Dublin. Despite a high profile error, he was still the best goalkeeper in Ireland this year.
2. Marc Ó Sé (Kerry)
He may have endured a tough game in the semi-final with Mayo that saw him subsequently dropped for the replay, but over the course of the season Marc Ó Sé was a stalwart in the Kerry defence and performed efficiently in the All-Ireland final.
This could potentially be his last year in a Kerry jersey and it was fitting for Ó’Sé to finish the year with an All-Ireland medal and an individual honour.
3. Neil McGee (Donegal)
The Donegal man had another very good year. He was also dealt with the job of marshaling James O’Donoghue in the All-Ireland final and the Football of the Year in waiting was held scoreless.
He was the main man in the Donegal defence, a defence that was the foundation of Donegal’s run to the All-Ireland final. He was ably assisted by others at the back but he was the one stand-out performer.
4. Keith Higgins (Mayo)
The Mayo man showed again this year that he is one of the best footballers in Ireland. He was one of Mayo’s standout performers this season and if it was not for his performances against Kerry, there may not have been a replay or Kerry would have won far more comfortably.
Even though James O’Donoghue scored off Higgins, everyone was able to recognise that Higgins did a very good job and had a very good year.
5. Paul Murphy (Kerry)
The Kerry newcomer capped off a very good year with an excellent performance in the All-Ireland final which should secure his all-star award. Not many people outside of the Kingdom would have heard of Murphy before the summer of this year but everyone knows who he is now.
He had the biggest boots of all to fill with the retirement of Tomás Ó’Sé but made a huge mark on the championship. He looks to have a very big future.
6. Peter Crowley (Kerry)
Crowley was another Kerry player who saved his best performances until the business end of the season. He was not a starting player for much of the season but he tightened up what looked like a wide open defence in the quarter-final against Galway.
His performances at centre-back were a big plus in tightening up the Kerry defence which looked vulnerable at times this season.
7. Colm Boyle (Mayo)
The Mayo man was another player who had a very good year. He was particularly inspirational in the second-half against Kerry when Mayo were down to fourteen men and he led their revival when they almost qualified for another All-Ireland final.
He found a very good balance between attack and defence and his passionate style of play really caught the eye. It will probably be back-to-back awards for the Mayo wing-back.
8. Anthony Maher (Kerry)
The Kerry midfielder is often underrated and goes about his business very efficiently. He had a solid and effective season, forming a very good partnership with David Moran.
He works hard all over the field and is good at winning primary possession and breaks. He really saved his best performances for the biggest games of the year and was an important and possibly underestimated member of the Kerry side.
9. David Moran (Kerry)
The injury plagued Moran finally got a consistent string of games under his belt this season and showed that he has what it takes to be one of Ireland’s finest footballers. He is more spectacular than his midfield partner and grabbed more attention during the year. His long range point scoring in the drawn game with Mayo stood out and his overall performance in the replay was possibly the best individual performance of the season.
His challenge now is to remain injury free.
10. Michael Murphy (Donegal)
Michael Murphy was the key man for Donegal. His leadership and quality were both essential to the Donegal side. He wore number fourteen in every game but the number on his back was irrelevant. He popped up everywhere in games at midfield, full-forward and half-forward.
He kicked some incredible scores and showed how he is one of the best players in the country.
11. Johnny Buckley (Kerry)
Buckley was similar to Maher in that he was not the most spectacular of performers but went about his job very well. His biggest asset was his ball winning. He also forced a lot of turnovers in games and tackled very well.
He was excellent at reading the breaking ball and was very composed in possession. He chipped in with a good deal of scores and played an important role in Kerry’s winning season.
12. Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)
For many periods of the season it looked as if Dublin were going to walk their way to the All-Ireland title but they came up short in the semi-final. This was by no means the fault of Diarmuid Connolly who had an outstanding season for both club and county. He gave a master-class in the All-Ireland club final and carried this form into the championship.
This wing-forward position is between Connolly and Paul Flynn and Connolly gets the nod.
13. Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)
Cillian O’Connor showed an improvement this year and deserves his first all-star award. He was lucky enough to be named Young Footballer of the Year for consecutive seasons but his two performances against Kerry this year showed that he may be the real deal.
His finishing and free taking was never in question but his ability to take on games and terrorise defences was. He improved his scoring rate from play and proved some critics wrong.
14. Kieran Donaghy (Kerry)
Like many of the Kerry side, he saved his best performances for the business end of the season, but his value and contribution to Kerry’s eventual hoist of Sam Maguire cannot be questioned. His fetch that led to James O’Donoghue’s goal against Mayo was indispensable in getting Kerry a draw.
He caused huge trouble in the replay and then contributed 1-2 in the All-Ireland final. In the end, he was one of the main reasons that Kerry won the All-Ireland.
15. James O’Donoghue (Kerry)
O’Donoghue had a poor final in certain ways, but one has to imagine that there was a tactic on Eamon Fitzmaurice’s part to isolate Paul Geaney and Kieran Donaghy and this subsequently almost sacrificed O’Donoghue.
He was still the best footballer in Ireland this year. His performances were top class. The way in which he scored 1-3 and 2-6 in both semi-finals despite being well marshalled by Keith Higgins is the best example of how good and effective he was this year. He was outstanding.
Footballer of the Year: James O’Donoghue (Kerry)
There is no question that James O’Donoghue was the best footballer in Ireland this year. Michael Murphy and Diarmuid Connolly were probably his closest rivals but nobody was better than O’Donoghue. Kerry needed something special this year in the absence of Colm Cooper and it was O’Donoghue who delivered better than anyone else.
He was the go-to man in attack and delivered handsomely for the Kingdom. The team role he then played in the final showed the lack of selfishness and he should unquestionably be honoured as the best footballer in Ireland for 2014.
Young Footballer of the Year: Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
The Donegal man was unlucky to miss out on all-star selection but compensates by picking up the Young Player of the Year award. He had a very good year for Doengal and was one of the main reason for his side appearing in an All-Ireland final. He pretty much replaced his brother, Mark, in the side and showed his qualities with two vital goals in their All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin.
He deserves individual honours for his performances this season.
So there it is, the Pundit Arena Football All-Star team for 2014. Feel free to comment below if you feel we have included or left out anyone. Don’t hold back for fear of hurting our feels!
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.
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