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Tyrone leading Ulster's All Stars charge

By Declan Bogue

Provincial champions Tyrone head up Ulster's representation in the 2016 GAA/GPA All Star nominations list, with six players named among the 45 overall candidates for the final team.

Cathal McCarron gains his second consecutive nomination in the defensive ranks, while the Red Hands' midfield pairing of Matthew Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh make the cut. Attackers Peter Harte, Sean Cavanagh and Niall Sludden will also come in for further consideration.

Not for the first time, the Cavanagh brothers have the special honour of being nominated together.

Elsewhere, Ulster final opponents Donegal have three men in the running. Paddy McGrath was recognised for his excellent defensive displays throughout the season - capped by his expert handling of Monaghan captain Conor McManus in that unforgettable two-game epic in the Ulster Championship.

Ryan McHugh has another chance at an All Star after being overlooked in 2014, while Paddy McBrearty, who hit an astonishing 11 points in the round four win over Cork, could add to his 2012 Young Player of the Year individual award.

It might be a surprise to some that All-Ireland champions Dublin and defeated finalists Mayo have the same number of nominees with 11 each.

An interesting point to note about Mayo's contingent is that they boast six players who are aiming for defensive positions. Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Patrick Durcan are joined by Kevin McLoughlin.

Although the Knockmore man wears No.10 on his back and has made his name as a ball-carrying forward, he played a very defined role as sweeper and as such, takes his place among the defence.

This also comes into sharp focus when you consider the roles of Donegal's McHugh and Tyrone's Harte. While McHugh lined up for the throw-up in the Ulster final at wing-forward directly marking Harte, and scored three points from play in the first half from an advanced position, he has been named in the defensive ranks here.

Harte has been classified as a forward, possibly influenced by his goal against Derry and his ability to get on the end of Red Hand attacks, as well as that incredible late point in the Ulster final against Donegal. Overall, he was the fifth-highest scorer from play in the Championship series with 3-8 to his name.

This is an issue that has troubled the selectors of the All Star scheme for a while now. In 2012, Donegal's Mark McHugh was the specialist sweeper for Jim McGuinness' All-Ireland winning side. He was selected on that team as a wing-forward, even though his role that year was remarkably similar to McLoughlin's this season.

Another inclusion for Mayo is David Clarke. He won back his place on Stephen Rochford's team after their defeat in the Connacht Championship and performed well in the drawn All-Ireland final, saving two point-blank Dublin goal opportunities. However, that did not prevent him being dropped in the replay for Rob Hennelly, who himself was sent off after a black card and replaced by Clarke.

Tipperary's remarkable progress under Liam Kearns - from finishing just above the relegation zone in National League Division Three to ending the season by almost causing an upset against Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final - was reflected in their healthy representation of goalkeeper Evan Comerford, defender Robbie Kiely, midfielder Peter Acheson and forwards Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney.

Gary Brennan of Clare becomes the Banner county's first nomination since 1997, when Frankie Griffin and Martin Daly were considered.

An interesting observation holds that the entire list comes from teams that featured in the quarter-finals onwards. In the distant past, a number of strong league performances might have been enough to flag a potential nominee from some of the more obscure counties, but given the way the National League has bedded in since the restructure of 2008, Tipperary are the only county outside of the top two Divisions to have players come in for consideration.

The Player of the Year will come down to a vote by the membership of the Gaelic Player's Association. Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton make the shortlist along with Mayo's Keegan.

The Young Player of the Year, taken from players who played in this season's Under-21 Championship, will be picked from Mayo's Diarmuid O'Connor and Tipperary's Jimmy Feehan and Josh Keane.

All players will be invited to the All Stars banquet on November 4 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. The footballers are the touring party this year and will travel to Abu Dhabi and Dubai later that month.

Goalkeepers: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), David Clarke (Mayo), Evan Comerford (Tipperary)

Defenders: Johnny Cooper (Dublin, Cian O'Sullivan (Dublin), Philly McMahon (Dublin), John Small (Dublin), James McCarthy (Dublin), Brendan Harrison (Mayo), Keith Higgins (Mayo), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Colm Boyle (Mayo), Patrick Durcan (Mayo), Kevin McLoughlin (Mayo), Cathal McCarron (Tyrone), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Paddy McGrath (Donegal), Robbie Kiely (Tipperary), Killian Young (Kerry), Shane Enright (Kerry), Declan Kyne (Galway)

Midfielders: Brian Fenton (Dublin), Peter Acheson (Tipperary), Matthew Donnelly (Tyrone), Gary Brennan (Clare), Paul Conroy (Galway), Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)

Forwards: Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin), Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin), Dean Rock (Dublin), Kevin McManamon (Dublin), Andy Moran (Mayo), Aidan O'Shea (Mayo), Cillian O'Connor (Mayo), Diarmuid O'Connor (Mayo), Peter Harte (Tyrone), Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone), Niall Sludden (Tyrone), Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary), Conor Sweeney (Tipperary), Damien Comer (Galway), Danny Cummins (Galway), Paul Geaney (Kerry), Paul Murphy (Kerry).

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