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Picking elite team is always a tough task for panels

By Declan Bogue

Published 03/11/2016

Swept up: Debate raged over Mark McHugh’s position in 2012
Swept up: Debate raged over Mark McHugh’s position in 2012

Any summer that GAA journalists conduct interviews with players, the message is the same. They couldn't care less about All-Star awards, as long as the team they play on tastes success.

And you believe it, as much as they believe it, when they are saying it at the time.

The nature of sport, though, means there can only be one winner. It's usually Dublin or Kerry, or occasionally another side emerges before slinking back into the long grass.

For many counties and almost every player, an All-Star is the highest accolade they can attain in Gaelic games and, as such, they are prized assets.

Since the beginning of the scheme in 1971, the aim has always been to reward the best performing players across the league and Championship.

That may have been reflected in the selection that year coming from nine different counties.

All-Ireland champions Offaly gained only three All-Stars. Antrim's Andy McCallin became his county's one and only All-Star, while veteran Sean O'Neill of Down was included, and he repeated the trick the next season.

Nowadays, technology has made the selection of the All-Stars a more scientific process.

For the first time ever, a television camera was present during the debate, and with the official GAA sending out Snapchats of the process, it led to some interesting comments.

One county board official asked in a text what the panel were doing with laptops in front of them. Many are the anecdotes that hold that previous debates were aided by a bottle of hard stuff located somewhere in headquarters.

There are new challenges to picking an All-Star team, but few have caused the anguish that arises over where an attacking half-back or a defensive wing-forward should go.

In 2012, Mark McHugh was unofficially recognised as the first 'sweeper' in the All-Stars, selected at right-half forward which was the position he might have lined out at for the start of a game, before taking up a permanent position just in front of his full-back line.

This team will have detractors with people pointing out who should be in it.

The follow-up question in that circumstance is always the same - who would you leave out?

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