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2017... the alternative GAA review

By Declan Bogue

This has been one of those years when the fun never stopped. To mark our farewell to 2017, here are our annual alternative GAA awards for the fantastic, fantastical and downright comedic...

SCORE OF THE YEAR

Austin Gleeson. Picking a loose sliotar up around the middle in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, the Waterford man dummied and shimmied his way through a thicket of Corkonians before reaching the danger zone. Up against Anthony Nash, he elected to drop it and scoop a shot with the flat of his hurley to the net.

This was Maradona-type dribbling, rarely seen in hurling.

Notable mentions: Diarmuid Connolly's point in the All-Ireland final against Mayo. The very living embodiment of being 'strong through the hips'.

STORY OF THE YEAR

Has to be Slaughtneil.

It began in March, with the camogie team winning their first All-Ireland title when they beat Sarsfields of Galway, Mary Kelly plundering the goal that made the difference.

The men then were out on St Patrick's Day for their All-Ireland club final. It would have been easy to slink away and have an easy year of it after, but back came the camogs, beating Loughgiel in the Ulster final. The hurlers beat Dunloy and Ballygalget so convincingly that the notion they picked up a fluky Four Seasons Cup was put to bed emphatically.

And then the footballers had a dog of a road back to the final, having to beat Kilcoo in their own backyard, a highly-skilled Omagh team and a gifted Kilcar side before steamrolling Cavan Gaels in the final.

The 'Double-Treble' - an 'impossible' task, but achieved all the same.

Notable mentions: The re-emergence of Owen 'Mugsy' Mulligan in an inter-county setting again for London.

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

In a good old-fashioned 'hammer the hammer' performance, Chrissy McKaigue not only marked Diarmuid Connolly out of the All-Ireland club semi-final game, but ventured upfield from his centre-back berth and kicked four points from play.

It was a sensational performance and inspired all those around him.

Notable mentions: Jamie Barron in practically every game.

LETDOWN OF THE YEAR

Tyrone v Dublin. Without question and, from an Ulster point of view, sadly the winner here.

The alarming thing was that Tyrone had proved how far ahead they were of every other Ulster team by destroying the opposition all the way to the semi-final, including an 18-point hammering of Armagh in the quarter-final.

But from the early goal by Con O'Callaghan, the frightening aspect of the performance was how every Tyrone player, bar Colm Cavanagh, went into their shell and just wanted off the pitch as soon as possible.

Notable mentions: How the Club Players Association were lambasted in some quarters, including by some full-time paid officials of the GAA, at Congress. Tasteless and senseless.

SUSPENSION OF THE YEAR

Oh, a real toughie this.

Could it be Kieran McGeeney's 12 weeks for an altercation with linesman Joe McQuillan during their fraught league game with Antrim?

Davy Fitzgerald is a hardy competitor and would make his case heard for the moment he ran onto the field when his Wexford side were playing Tipperary and thought he might as well get involved in a bit of handbags against Jason Forde (left), for the sheer craic like, and ended up with an eight-week ban.

But it can only be one man really. And that is Dublin folk hero Diarmuid Connolly, who copped a 12-week ban after laying a hand on Down linesman Ciaran Branagan while disputing a lineball against Carlow when the Dubs were coasting.

Notable mentions: Antrim's Matt Fitzpatrick, who escaped a suspension on a technicality.

GESTURE OF THE YEAR

There is only one true contender for this, and that is the effort made by the people behind, and participants of, Gaelic Voices For Change, who staged sleepouts in 14 different locations in an effort to raise awareness of the homeless crisis across Ireland.

At the last count, they also raised something in excess of €200,000, although that wasn't even the primary motive.

Notable mentions: The way in which the Galway hurling team, and in particular Joe Canning, made the family of Tony Keady part of their celebrations when they won the Liam MacCarthy was one part heart-rending, one part heart-warming. Not to mention Canning himself going to Aleppo after the season ended as a Unicef Ireland goodwill ambassador and spending his time helping Syrian children.

TOP POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

2017 got off to a blistering start, and journalists were jolted out of the comfort blanket of winter talk when they were summoned to the clubrooms of Ballyboden St Enda's for the official launch of the Club Players Association.

They went on to haunt the GAA Congress like Banquo's Ghost, their absence through lack of speaking privileges a source of serious controversy.

Notable mention: In the last weeks of December, the job of the next GAA Director-General was advertised. The appointment is catnip to GAA political junkies.

COMEDY MOMENT OF THE YEAR

As the Dublin semi-final win over Tyrone was drawing to a long, yawning finish, Hill 16 rose in unison to welcome onto the pitch - their pitch, don't you mind - a long-lost son.

Yes, Diarmuid Connolly was back. Poor, wronged Diarmuid was back.

And then they copped on it was actually Eric Lowndes. And the noise stopped.

Notable mentions: For Wexford's Hurling Championship victory over Kilkenny, manager Davy Fitzgerald was put in a 'secret' box with a one-way window. The glass shaking at the final whistle was the clue that gave away who was inside!

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