If you click into the ‘Categories’ tab, head for GAA and go through my Football Team of the Year (posted December 26th) there’s not a whole pile of differences between what appeared here and the ‘official’ lineup announced on Friday.
But differences there were. In the old world, where we had at least some control over their own lives, bar stool debates would’ve raged from the time Dublin and Limerick collected the loot as to what the make up of the teams of the year will be. Said debates being part of the attraction.
The All Stars aren’t perfect. Very often individual players or a county can justifiably feel short changed. Though there are the good news stories too. Where players from counties you mightn’t often see in the limelight get the recognition they thoroughly deserve. Think of the likes of Clare’s Seamus Clancy, Seamus Quinn from Leitrim, former Westmeath star Dessie Dolan and the great Declan Browne (Tipperary).
Comparatively, it was more unusual to see players from less feted units get the nod. Though Ger Loughnane and Pat Critchley (Laois) and Olcan McFetridge from Antrim bucked the trend. Something they don’t have to do now with hurling properly structured. Thus each of the competitions have their own selections at the end of each season. Will the Brains Trust wake up and amend football before it’s too late?
Would the likes of the four great footballers named above get a look in nowadays? They would in my backside. Consider that Kerry won Div. 1 of the National League and didn’t even get one representative. Compare that to 1995, Meath did nothing in the League and were obliterated by Dublin in the Leinster Final, yet Tommy Dowd’s individual brilliance that season was rightly recognised.
In 1991, there was much conjecture – and rightly so – about the fact that Meath, who lost in the All Ireland Final to Down ended with more players selected than the men who brought Sam Maguire up the Mourne Mountains. Even allowing for the fact that the vanquished had been on an epic odyssey that term – including the four games with Dublin – it still wasn’t right.
Mayo have every right to feel justifiably aggrieved this time around. Except even more so. In no way is this meant as a dig at Cavan – in fact yours truly has a bit of a soft spot for footballers from the Breffni County, Dermot McCabe being an especial favourite, but, it hardly seems fair that a team who toppled at the penultimate hurdle would receive more accreditation than those who succumbed to the marauding blue monster.
Cillian O’Connor was rightly lauded for not only delivering one of the best individual performances ever seen in Croke Park against Tipperary, but also for being the principal reason his county have visited Drumcondra so many times in recent years.
However, any team is only as good as the sum of their parts collectively. In other words, the Ballintubber sharpshooter is only able to do what he does because of the efforts and support of those around him. Casting a cold eye upon the life and death of Mayo in the Championship of 2020, Paddy Durcan, Matthew Ruane and O’Connor’s brother, Diarmuid, can count themselves unlucky not to have made the cut.
Lest one be accused of hypocrisy, I only had my own selection up on St Stephen’s Day when it was discovered that Cavan’s Thomas Galligan had been erroneously omitted. Consideration was given to re-jigging the line up to include the midfielder via full forward, but, ironically, that would have meant leaving out one of the Mayo lads who’d already been included.
In that little snapshot lies the illustration of the tricks and traps of putting together such selections. You could put teams like that together the seven days of the week and not settle on the same line up twice. The only hope now is that there will be reason to put together such amalgams again this time next year.