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Race for All-Star glory is hotting up

By Declan Bogue

Now that the All-Ireland football series will be confined to Croke Park for the rest of the Championship, the various claims for All-Stars come into sharp focus.

With three Ulster counties still in contention for Sam, and with a minimum of one from the Armagh v Donegal clash guaranteed a slot in the All-Ireland semi-final, it remains to be seen whether Ulster will go some way to matching last year's tally of three All-Stars.

In winning their Ulster title last year, Monaghan were rewarded with the selection of Colin Walshe and Conor McManus.

Tyrone made it as far as the All-Ireland semi-final, with almost their entire run of games through the backdoor televised. As a result, the brilliance of Sean Cavanagh's performances earned him his fifth award.

However, above anything else, what goes down in late August and September seals the fate of possible All-Stars. Last seasons' All-Ireland champions Dublin had six representatives. Losing finalists for the second consecutive year, Mayo had four. In playing their part in a modern classic of an All-Ireland semi-final, Kerry earned two.

A breakthrough provincial title will always be rewarded with one, and Monaghan would have been delighted with securing two spots on the team.

This year, two Ulster goalkeepers are in with a realistic chance of inclusion. Donegal's Paul Durcan has been sensational with his restarts throughout the Ulster Championship.

Rory Beggan has drawn admiring glances, even though his dead-ball shooting for scores have dried up. However, he will be up against the man in pole position for that slot this weekend, in Dublin's Stephen Cluxton. Vinny Corey is another Monaghan player worth consideration.

Odhran MacNiallais is probably worth an inclusion right now, as is Ryan McHugh. But as we say, a lot depends on what happens over the next seven weeks.

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