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Donegal’s star turn a perfect ending to stunning season

By John Campbell

All-Ireland football champions Donegal have claimed eight GAA-GPA Allstar awards to climax what has proven a spectacular year for Jim McGuinness’s side.

It was after retaining their Ulster crown that Donegal went on to win the Sam Maguire Cup for only the second time in their history and now the team provides the bulk of the Allstars, thus offering further testimony of their overall dominance of the gaelic football landscape this year.

Four players from the north west side are included in the Allstars’ defence with Paul Durcan claiming the goalkeeping berth, Neil McGee the choice at full-back and Karl Lacey and Frank McGlynn included in the half-back line.

Veteran Neil Gallagher wins one of the two midfield berths on the back of some outstanding displays in the closing stages of the All-Ireland series, while Mark McHugh, who played as a sweeper for Donegal this year, gets the vote at left-half-forward with skipper Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden winning berths in the full-forward line.

While it has now become something of a tradition for the All-Ireland winners to collect the lion’s share of Allstar awards, Donegal’s quota of honours is particularly high and reflects the team’s stunning consistency since the start of the championship season.

Mayo, the team they beat in the All-Ireland decider, earned four Allstars, while Cork claimed two and Dublin had to be content with just one.

Donegal’s haul sees them beat their previous best of seven back in 1992 when the father and uncle of Mark McHugh, Martin and James, were both selected.

Donegal manager McGuinness, currently preparing for his team’s clash with Ulster in the ‘Match for Michaela’ on Saturday week, will undoubtedly derive considerable satisfaction from such a rich harvest of Allstars.

And Donegal could yet claim two more significant honours. Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn and Colm McFadden are in the running for Player of the Year, while Patrick McBrearty is a strong candidate for Young Player of the Year.

The winners of these awards will be chosen by the inter-county playing body and announced tonight.

Seldom in the recent past has a team displayed such dominance of the individual honours list and already manager McGuinness has made it clear that a hat-trick of Ulster titles and back-to-back All-Ireland crowns is his twin target for next year.

As always, a couple of selections will cause raised eyebrows. Cork’s Aidan Walsh is perhaps fortunate to have squeezed in at midfield in preference to Mayo’s Barry Moran, while his county colleague Colm O’Neill, while undoubtedly a gifted forward, showed only spasmodic glimpses of his best form.

Some players, including Neil McGee and Alan Dillon, have been chosen in positions other than those they filled for their teams on a regular basis this year although no one will quibble in the least with their inclusion in the side.

Dillon was far and away one of the outstanding players in the All-Ireland series, his prodigious work-rate underpinning Mayo’s surge into the final.

GAA president Liam O’Neill said he hoped the Allstars awards would encourage the players “to become better players as individuals and in a team context.”

“I know these Allstars are coveted and rightly so as they provide an extra incentive for players to give of their very best,” O’Neill added.

The GAA-GPA Opel Allstars hurling team, which is expected to contain a proliferation of Kilkenny names, will be formally unveiled at tonight’s banquet.

THE 2012 GAA-GPA Allstars football team is:

Paul Durcan (Donegal)

Neil McGee (Donegal)

Ger Cafferkey (Mayo)

Keith Higgins (Mayo)

Lee Keegan (Mayo)

Karl Lacey (Donegal)

Frank McGlynn (Donegal)

Neil Gallagher (Donegal)

Aidan Walsh (Cork)

Paul Flynn (Dublin)

Alan Dillon (Mayo)

Mark McHugh (Donegal)

Colm O’Neill (Cork)

Michael Murphy (Donegal) Colm McFadden (Donegal)

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