Burning Issue: Are this year’s All-Star nominations fair?
Are the All-Star nominations a fair reflection of the year in Gaelic football? Two JOE scribes argue it out.
Sean Nolan says… the release of the 45 names nominated for the All-Stars each year is a feeding frenzy for fans with a grudge i.e. all of us. The first thing I do when I get the list is scan though it for my own county, and then, after being pleasantly surprised this year to see Adrian Flynn make the cut, I scan through it looking for those who have been left out.
I believe most of us do that, knowing that whoever was in the All-Ireland final will have the bulk of the players, so we fly down the long list trying to spot the obvious omissions. But even with the beadiest of eyes on this year’s list, it is hard to have too many gripes.
Bryan Sheehan’s absence is a bit harsh but aside from that, the 45 players chosen are very, very close to the best 45 in the country in 2012.
The other reason most often cited by those who think the All-Stars are unfair is the aforesaid domination of the All-Ireland finalists. Almost half the list, 22 out of 45 to be exact, is split between Donegal and Mayo and that that sort of ratio occurs every year seems to anger many a GAA fan.
But they were clearly the two best teams in the country and, because of the structure of the Championship, teams that play four or five or more games are going to get more spotlight and get more votes from the shadowy All-Star selection committee. The argument against ‘too much focus on the All-Ireland teams’ is knocked out of the sky by the fact that they are almost always the two best teams that year.
But even those hardliners who bemoan the September bias can’t really be too upset as the majority of nominees this year didn’t play in the decider. In fact, this year there are 12 counties represented in the 45 players selected and nobody could begrudge the likes of Michael Quinn, Emmet Bolton, Jamie Clarke and Wexford’s Flynn getting a small acknowledgement for their performances this year.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t expect any of them to pick up an actual gong on the night but the small matter of being nominated is a very welcome bonus after a long year of training for players who ended the year without a title.
There are some who would like to see the process thrown open to the public, allowing them to choose the All-Stars online. But as we have seen from Ronnie O’Brien being voted Time Man of the Year to the recent Mountain Dew new flavour poll that saw hackers get ‘Hitler did nothing wrong’ to the top of the list, these are far from foolproof either.
The mystery men (or women) behind this year’s list had a very difficult job to do and performed it almost perfectly. You can have one or two quibbles – there would be something drastically wrong with you if you didn’t – but overall the final 45 is equitable, even-handed and well-balanced. Or, to put it succinctly, fair.
Conor Heneghan says… Before I start into a rant on why their selections were wrong, I should say that those on the All-Star committee had an incredibly hard job on their hands and I can relate in some tiny way to their predicament.
As of this year on JOE, we started a Power Rankings feature whereby we ranked the top 20 Gaelic Footballers and hurlers according to their influence on both sports, a list that was reviewed on a monthly basis throughout the season.
It was a list that was not meant to be entirely judged on recent form, but as the season went on, form became a factor that was increasingly hard to ignore.
As a result, the final list of footballers was a mix of those who have consistently impressed and did so again this year (Karl Lacey, Paul Flynn), those who made a particularly big impact this year (Mark McHugh and Kevin McLoughlin, for example) and those who didn’t enjoy their best season but will undoubtedly make an impact again in the future (Bernard Brogan and Colm Cooper).
The reaction to the list was caustic to say the least so we can understand that whatever selection the committee would came out with there would have been an outcry, even if 100 players had been included. Incidentally, you’ll be glad to know that our hurling Power Rankings is due tomorrow, which should ensure even more fun.
The committee’s difficulties acknowledged, I still have a few bones to pick with this year’s selection. Anyone that follows Newstalk analyst and former Laois footballer Colm Parkinson on Twitter – if you don’t, you should – will have noticed that he had some interesting viewpoints of his own and while I don’t necessarily share his opinion that the team could feasibly be made up entirely of Donegal and Mayo players, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything else.
Take the full-forward line, for example, where the selections of Bernard Brogan, Andy Moran and Jamie Clarke would appear to be on reputation alone. Analysed forensically, Brogan had one of his worst seasons in years. I expect him to come back with a bang next year, but this year he looked devoid of confidence, was taken off against Wexford and Laois and was kept scoreless from play in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Through no fault of his own, Andy Moran probably shouldn’t be there either. The luckless full-forward played well in all the games he did play this year, but two of them were practically walkovers (against Leitrim and Down) and the Connacht Final was no classic. Mayo can’t really squabble with the amount of nominations but Michael Conroy – who excelled in all three of Mayo’s games in Croke Park – probably merited an inclusion more than his captain in this case.
Clarke is an exceptional forward, but should two good games against Tyrone and Roscommon merit an All-Star nomination? If we’re talking about forwards who made an impact in the early stages, what about Sean McCormack, who kicked 0-33 in five games for Longford but hasn’t been included?
Parkinson also raised questions about Ciaran Sheehan, who was one of Cork’s few shining lights against Donegal but had been taken off against Kildare in the quarter-final. Sheehan was also man of the match against Clare in the Munster Final and had figured prominently against Kerry before that so it is harder to argue against his inclusion as opposed to some of the others.
Some would argue, however, that if any Sheehan deserved a mention it is Kerry’s Bryan, without whom the Kingdom suffered against Cork and in the second half against Donegal and who has become arguably their most important player in recent seasons.
There will always be debates about the rights and wrongs of the All-Star selection, it goes with the territory, but some of this year’s selections, where reputation seemed to assume more importance than form, appear to be less judicious than in years gone by.