Sunday’s showdown should be fun

I am really looking forward to Sunday’s county final, Castlebar and Ballintubber met in the group stages with the Mitchels winning by a single goal but it seems the tides have turned slightly after Ballintubber’s devastating display in the semi-final win over Knockmore. Castlebar seem to have the measure of Ballintubber as of late, but will certainly be fearful of going up against one of the most lethal club forward lines in the country. They will also be reminded that Ballintubber have beaten them in two finals in the last five years. Castlebar have a better defence than Ballintubber but Ballintubber have a better forward line than Castlebar so something has to give.

It is going to be a fascinating contest with plenty of county talent on show. Castlebar may have to play ugly if they are to stop the Ballintubber front unit because if you give them space they will tear you apart. The bookmakers cannot decide who they think will win and neither can I, that is what makes it so appealing. I love following the fortunes of Mayo clubs when they play outside the county, but I cannot be in two places at once as Ballyhaunis take on Naomh Padraig of Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon in the Connacht intermediate quarter final which is also on Sunday, I fully expect them to win comfortably, it is a shame it has to clash with the senior final.

My All Star selections

There is no doubt that every year the All-Star nominations are revealed someone gets upset, if I heard this once, I have heard it a thousand times “surely he deserved at least a nomination”. Some current players have gone on record displaying their dismay at some absentees from the 2014 list. Darren O’Sullivan cannot understand how his goal keeper Brian Kelly was omitted from the list. Bernard Brogan cannot understand how his brother Alan did not make the cut. From a Mayo point of view we can be reasonably happy with the six nominations. I feel this year the final 15 is going to be relatively straightforward, relatively.

You have to start at the front this year and work your way back. The decision to nominate Michael Murphy in the half forward line influences the rest of the team, but also means it is bad news for Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Murphy’s Donegal team mate Ryan McHugh, but good news for Mayo’s tormentor Kieran Donaghy and Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor. Who would be left out if James O’Donoghue, Michael Murphy, Cillian O’Connor, and Kieran Donaghy had to fill three places in the full forward line?

Ryan McHugh will have the fall back of winning the young player of the year which is a small consolation, but he got completely outplayed in the final by Paul Murphy which will ultimately cost him the big prize, I know someone not to far from here who had an All-Star in the bag going into a final, and carried the hopes of the county, but ultimately did not have a good final and it cost him his place on the All-Star team that year, I feel McHugh will suffer the same fate.

Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly are dead certs for the half-forward line and will now be joined by Michael Murphy. It is a bit obvious the judging panel want Murphy and Donaghy on the team. Cillian O’Connor and James O’Donoghue will join Donaghy in the full forward line. The midfield picks itself with Donegal’s Neil Gallagher and Kerry’s David Moran likely to fill the two berths. The final 15 is all about numbers, ie, Kerry as champions have to have the most on the team followed by Donegal, then both losing semi finalists will make up the rest. Gone are the days when the league champions got a player in, and yes I know Dublin won the league and will be represented but had Derry beaten them in the final nobody from the oak leaf would have been included, which is the reason I think the goalkeeper and backs will look something like this:

Paul Durcan will get the number one spot despite having an indifferent final, no other keeper has done enough to take the mantle off him. After Paul Murphy’s heroic final he will get in alongside Neil McGee and our own Keith Higgins (going to win his third gong in a row ). One position in the half back line is debatable so this is where I think the numbers game will come into play. Leaving the half back line out, so far we have four from Kerry, four from Donegal, two from Dublin, and two from Mayo. Peter Crowley will be at centre-half-back and Mayo’s Colm Boyle will grab one wing. The other position will be a toss up between Donegal’s Frank McGlynn and Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony. I think O’Mahony will win his place on the team because Kerry as champions have to have the lion’s share of the team, and if McGlynn got it Kerry and Donegal would have five awards each. I hope Colm Boyle is not the scapegoat in all of this and left out, and for the record O’Mahony would be very deserving of a place on the team; he was very good against Mayo and Donegal in the final.

So after all that, my All Star team is Paul Durcan; Paul Murphy, Neil McGee, Keith Higgins; Aidan O’Mahony, Peter Crowley, Colm Boyle; David Moran, Neil Gallagher; Paul Flynn, Michael Murphy, Diarmuid Connolly; Cillian O’Connor, Kieran Donaghy, James O’Donoghue.

O’Donoghue is more than likely to win the player of the year award but if I were picking it, no question it would be Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly, for club and county, he had an unbelievable season and was Castlebar’s chief tormentor in this year’s club final.

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