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Cavanagh is Ulster's main hope as Dublin and Mayo lead All Star race

 

By John Campbell

As expected, names from Dublin and Mayo dominate this year's list of All Star nominees, yet Ulster has still managed to provide one quarter of the overall candidates.

But when the actual All Star team itself is unveiled at the formal presentation, the northern province may well have to settle for perhaps just one player in the line-up.

The team is certain to be composed in the main of Dublin and Mayo players with only one player from their respective defensive formations - Mayo's Donal Vaughan - omitted from the nominees.

Five members of the Mayo attack - Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O'Shea, Jason Doherty, Andy Moran and Cillian O'Connor - are included, along with Dublin forward division quartet Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O'Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Dean Rock.

Tyrone offered the biggest challenge from an Ulster perspective by reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals in which they were well beaten by Dublin, but the fact that they have six nominees will provide some form of consolation for that major setback.

Goalkeeper Niall Morgan, defenders Padraig Hampsey and Tiernan McCann, midfield ace Colm Cavanagh and key forwards Peter Harte and Niall Sludden find themselves jostling for the coveted individual awards.

Of these, Cavanagh looks to have a viable chance of making the side given his majestic performances as he dovetailed between midfield and defence in Tyrone's successful defence of their Ulster title.

But while Harte, too, turned on the style in helping the Red Hands get to the last four in the All-Ireland series, the rich seam of talent contained in both the Mayo and Dublin half-forward lines could seriously restrict his chances of making the side.

Hampsey made a huge impact by winning the man of the match accolade when Tyrone beat Donegal in the Ulster Championship semi-final before repeating the feat in the provincial decider against Down.

And McCann's lung-bursting forays out of defence, relentless work-rate and clever use of possession helped to hoist him onto a fresh pedestal.

Down duo Caolan Mooney and Connaire Harrison, Armagh's Jamie Clarke, Monaghan defender Fintan Kelly and Donegal sharpshooter Patrick McBrearty complete the Ulster representation.

Harrison proved a revelation at full-forward for the Mournemen, particularly in their Ulster Championship semi-final win over Monaghan, while Mooney proved a driving force from wing-back.

Clarke was reinvigorated in the Orchard County attack, his selfless build-up play and game intelligence underpinning his team's vibrant march into the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland series.

And Monaghan pirated goals from an unlikely source. Right-full-back Kelly showed his forwards the way by hitting the net against Carlow, Wexford and Down in a dynamic scoring spree - a triple strike indeed that helped earn him his inclusion in the All Star nominees.

In a Championship season which Donegal will want to forget pretty quickly, McBrearty provided an element of comfort by landing an impressive 1-26 in five outings for his side, often proving his team's only threat up front.

All Star Nominees

Goalkeepers: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), David Clarke (Mayo), Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

Defenders: Jack McCaffrey, Cian O'Sullivan, Michael Fitzsimons, Philly McMahon, John Small, Johnny Cooper (all Dublin), Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Chris Barrett, Colm Boyle, Brendan Harrison (all Mayo), Tadgh Morley, Paul Murphy (both Kerry), Padraig Hampsey, Tiernan McCann (both Tyrone), Fintan Kelly (Monaghan), Caolan Mooney (Down), Conor Devanney (Roscommon)

Midfielders: Brian Fenton, James McCarthy (both Dublin); Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone), Tom Parsons (Mayo), Enda Smith (Roscommon), Kevin Feely (Kildare)

Forwards: Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O'Callaghan, Paul Mannion, Dean Rock (all Dublin); Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O'Shea, Jason Doherty, Andy Moran, Cillian O'Connor (all Mayo); Paul Geaney, Kieran Donaghy, James O'Donoghue (all Kerry); Peter Harte, Niall Sludden (both Tyrone); Connaire Harrison (Down), Jamie Clarke (Armagh), Daniel Flynn (Kildare), Patrick McBrearty (Donegal)

Player of the Year nominees: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), David Clarke (Mayo), Andy Moran (Mayo), Paul Mannion (Dublin)

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