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Reflecting on an eventful 2015 for football and hurling

It's time to look back at the year of Gaelic football and hurling in Ulster and recall the key points that happened in 2015, with our GAA correspondent Declan Bogue, Slaughtneil and Derry's dual-code star Chris McKaigue, Antrim hurler Neil McManus and former Down All-Ireland Football winner and top pundit, Conor Deegan.

Declan Bogue

The High: Crossmaglen against Scotstown. For long periods during the year, we thought we had reached footballing stagnation. This game surpassed where football is heading.

The Low: The lack of accountability, from Tyrone's reaction to the 'Rufflegate' affair to the overflow of legalese that justified Diarmuid Connolly's clearance to play in the All-Ireland semi-final replay.

Player of the Year: Jack McCaffrey. Excellent from the first day to the last.

Team of the Year: Tyrone Under-21s. A triumph that came at just the right time for the county.

Best Score: Joe Canning's goal against Kilkenny in the Leinster final. He is a human highlights reel.

Best Match: Cross v Scotstown, naturally. Slim pickings for this category, though.

Best Pundit: Peter Canavan. Predicted a Monaghan win over Donegal in the Ulster final and a Tyrone victory over Monaghan the next day. His in-game scrutiny is unmatched.

Best Management Job: Derek McGrath re-imagined Waterford hurling and withstood the criticism to become competitive again.

Biggest Gripe: Whoever took Sean Quigley's 'goal' against Dublin away from him, thereby granting Cillian O'Connor the leading scorer honour.

New Year's Wish: That 'Saffron Vision' can engage with the locals to push the Casement Park project a little further down the line.

Neil McManus

The High: Ulster Club final. The best game of club hurling I've ever been involved in.

The Low: Kerry being sent into the Leinster Round Robin after their Christy Ring success. Surely they have earned their place in the Munster Championship!

Player of the Year: Seamus Callanan - reliability personified. I bet on him for first goal scorer in all Tipp matches and was rarely disappointed!

Team of the Year: Cushendall. Behind at half-time of every Championship game and won the most exciting Antrim Championship in memory.

Score of the Year: Jason Flynn's All-Ireland final point.

Match of the Year: Tipperary v Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Best Pundit: Anthony Daly - the best craic in the west.

Best Management Job: Derek McGrath - the year he has had with Waterford surprised everyone bar his players, who believe in him 100 per cent.

Biggest Gripe: Ulster Hurling in general.

New Year's Wish: An All-Ireland win on St Patrick's Day.

Chris McKaigue

The High: Winning back-to-back Derry championships with my club Slaughtneil in football. It was bittersweet to see the veterans on our panel get their third Derry medal but fall short in Ulster.

The Low: Defeated by a point after extra-time in the Ulster hurling final by Cushendall. The wait goes on for a Derry club to win the Ulster hurling club championship.

Player of the Year: Darren Hughes was superb all year for Monaghan and inspirational for Scotstown also. Willing to do the hard yards for his team when it mattered.

Team of the Year: Crossmaglen. They just keep coming back. Their record in finals is incredible but it's their mindset that is even more special.

Score of the Year: Joe Canning's goal against Kilkenny, no explanation required.

Match of the Year: The Ulster club final this year. Football played with skill, courage and pace. Both sets of players are a credit to their clubs.

Best Pundit: Peter Canavan. Respectful, knowledgeable and also analytical in his views. He just understands the game the so well and it comes across when he talks.

Best Management Job: Jim Gavin. People might think he's only winning because of the talent at his disposal but his record of winning at all competitions is second to none. He seems to be very shrewd and I think he's integral to Dublin's success.

Biggest Gripe: The performance of some referees. Everyone knows it's not an easy job but Croke Park rewarding poorer refereeing performances with the next big game available was so, so wrong.

New Year's Wish: That GAA fixtures can be more user-friendly for the clubs and that the county season can be shortened.

Conor Deegan

The High: Ballyboden winning Leinster. As a former manager, I know what kind of club they are and it was a fantastic achievement.

The Low: The legalese in the game has become a serious issue, and the tendency in Down to wash dirty linen in public.

Player of the Year: It's a pity all the nonsense that followed Philly McMahon around, because he was the stand-out.

Team of the Year: For me, any team that wins the All-Ireland. Cross were fantastic, but Dublin are the best side.

Best Score: Michael Quinlivan's last-second goal for Clonmel Commercials against Nemo Rangers in the Munster club final. Coolness, technique. Superb.

Best Match: Ballyboden v Portlaoise, Cross v Scotstown and the Dublin v Mayo replay. A genuine honesty to all the games. Everyone going for it.

Best Pundit: I enjoy Joe Brolly. I enjoy how antagonistic he gets. I think he's just a real character.

Best Management Job: What Pete McGrath did with Fermanagh was pretty spectacular. I have to give it to my old manager and he did it with a bit of class.

Biggest Gripe: First one is the poor referees. The GAA have made it very difficult for them and they have too much on their plate. The other major gripe is the way the clubs are being shafted and it is time we started accepting that we are not looking after 99 per cent of the players.

New Year's Wish: That the club scene is sorted out. I think the Antrim overhaul is fantastic and look forward to seeing what can be achieved.

Belfast Telegraph


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