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All Ireland Football Championship: A seven-star consolation for Down in All Star nominations

By John Campbell

Seven Down players who helped to take their team into last Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Cork have been included in the list of nominees for the Vodafone Allstars football team which will be formally confirmed next month.

Goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh, full-back Dan Gordon and centre-half-back Kevin McKernan have been named among the defenders while Kalum King is included in the six players from which the midfield partnership will be selected.

Not surprisingly Martin Clarke, Daniel Hughes and Benny Coulter are nominated for slots in attack.

While Down claim the lion’s share of Ulster nominees, Tyrone’s surge into the All-Ireland quarter-finals is recognised by the fact that four of their players, all defenders, are in the mix — goalkeeper Pascal McConnell, full-back Justin McMahon and wing-backs Philip Jordan and Joe McMahon.

No other Ulster county is represented among the nominees and as expected, newly-crowned All-Ireland champions Cork, who also won the National League title earlier in the year, claimed the lion’s share of nominations with eleven players making the cut.

Only ten of the 45 players nominated are previous Allstars, with Kerry duo Colm Cooper and Tomas O Se the most decorated members of this select band with five awards each.

Just three of last year’s Allstar side — Cork pair Michael Shields and Graham Canty along with O’Se — are among this year’s nominees, a reflection of the shift in power that has taken place in some of the provinces.

While it remains to be seen if any of the Down and Tyrone players make the actual team, there will be keen disappointment felt in Ulster if any less than four players are included.

Indeed, Martin Clarke, Down’s talisman, is a strong candidate for the Footballer of the Year award although he will face tough competition from the likes of Bernard Brogan (Dublin) and John Doyle (Tipperary).

Down chairman Seamus Walsh has hailed the inclusion of seven players from his county and is now hopeful that the majority of them will make the side.

“I think it would be no more than they deserve. All the players have given everything for Down this year — to have players included in the Allstars side would be further testimony to the progress we have made under James McCartan,” said Walsh.

The Allstars football team is expected to be announced in advance of the annual banquet which will be held in Dublin on October 15 but the Allstars hurling team will not be unveiled until the night of the function.

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