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Ulstermen Donnelly and McManus pick up glittering prizes

By Declan Bogue

A rather astonishing nugget of trivia regarding the 2015 Football All-Stars, named last night at the annual awards ceremony in Dublin's Convention Centre, is that none of the players were on last year's team.

The four Kerry representatives all collected their first award.

Ulster can feel slightly aggrieved with their meagre return of two All-Stars, having provided no fewer than four of the last eight teams in the All-Ireland race.

Monaghan's Conor McManus picked up his second All-Star, while Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly was awarded his first. There was no room, however, for Fermanagh's Sean Quigley, who finished second in the scoring charts, or Donegal captain Michael Murphy, who was so impressive in the early months of the Championship.

1. Brendan Kealy (Kerry): The Kilcummin man picked up his first All-Star, with the clean sheets he kept in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kildare and in the final against Dublin top of his achievement list.

In the semi-final, his cover was breached with a penalty goal from Tyrone's Peter Harte, but he showed smart reflexes to get down low to bat away a shot from Mark Bradley when the Red Hands appeared to be getting on top.

2. Shane Enright (Kerry): Another first-timer, the Tarbert ace refined his tackling, having been looked at by a succession of Kerry managers and not fancied for his tendency to concede too many frees. The influence of Kerry trainer Cian O'Neill has been evident across his play this summer.

3. Rory O'Carroll (Dublin): Throughout the Leinster campaign, Dublin did not concede a single goal.

O'Carroll was a big reason for that, although he endured some uncomfortable moments against Fermanagh's Sean Quigley, who ended their tussle with 1-8 against his name, but that didn't stop the Kilmacud Crokes defender picking up a second All-Star .

4. Philly McMahon (Dublin): A strong contender for Footballer of the Year, McMahon mixed the good with the downright ugly to lift his first All-Star.

His close marking and willingness to get in the face of his opponents was the flipside of the player who scored 1-2 in the semi-final replay and kept Colm Cooper on the back foot on the biggest day of all.

5. Lee Keegan (Mayo): A typically energetic year from Westport's Keegan, who has racked up his third All-Star by the age of 26.

Benefiting from Mayo's decision to play him through the middle more often this season, Keegan's game is based on running through the lines and breaking into space.

6. Cian O'Sullivan (Dublin): A former midfielder and sometimes deep-lying half-forward, O'Sullivan is a naturally lean, athletic ball-player who can demonstrate his intelligence on the ball. It earned him a second All-Star.

7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin): He started the season like an absolute train, breaking through the Donegal defence in the second league game in Croke Park and planting the ball in the top corner.

From that moment on, he never took his foot off the gas and produced a season of almost total perfection to fully earn his first All-Star.

8. Brian Fenton (Dublin): Another first-timer, he managed to stave off Michael Darragh Macauley for a Dublin starting jersey when it came to the business end of the season.

Such was Fenton's confidence as the campaign wore on, he secured the man of the match award in the All-Ireland final.

9. Anthony Maher (Kerry): It's hard to believe that this is Maher's first All-Star.

He eclipsed his more vaunted midfield partner David Moran by some distance this year, displaying his array of catching. He made 30 plays in the All-Ireland final and was one of Kerry's more impressive performers on the day.

10. Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone): He has emerged, along with Peter Harte from the minor team of 2008, as the dominant leader of the Tyrone team and the natural replacement for Sean Cavanagh as captain.

Throughout a disappointing league campaign for the Red Hands, he was consistently good but during their run through the qualifiers he accepted a ton of responsibility. This is his first All-Star but surely not his last.

11. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin): Perhaps one of the most improved footballers in the country, he made an outright mockery of Jack O'Shea's assessment of him a couple of seasons ago as a player with bad junior football habits.

Contributed on the scoreboard in every game he played in but given the quality and the type of work he demands of himself, his scoring rate is almost an unexpected add-on to his talents.

12. Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry): His crowning display was the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, when he made 31 plays. Within that, there were 12 hand passes and nine kick passes, giving an illustration of how he links the defence with attack.

13: Conor McManus (Monaghan): An astonishing season, he showed reserves of courage, discipline and skill in the Ulster final that delighted Monaghan fans.

Donegal defender Neil McGee imposed himself physically on the much slighter McManus. However, he knuckled down to his task and simply outplayed the 2012 All-Star full-back.

14: Aidan O'Shea (Mayo): His three goals against Sligo in the Connacht final left many wondering how you could stop such a player with the physical gifts of O'Shea.

In the All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal, he only needed one chance and profited by latching onto a high ball above Neil McGee before fending off Mark McHugh with a silky finish past one of the best goalkeepers in the game.

15: Bernard Brogan (Dublin): A fourth All-Star for Brogan, and one that might have been harder earned this year.

With Dean Rock taking the free-kicks and Stephen Cluxton on those from range, Brogan didn't have the old reliable method of playing himself into games or taking advantage of the confidence tonic of a few handy frees.

Instead, anything he got was through play, finishing third-highest scorer without relying on the dead-ball.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jack McCaffrey (Dublin): A popular recipient. He plays the game fairly and with skill. At only 22, he is one of the youngest-ever winners of the award and could be in line for a few more in his career.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR Diarmuid O'Connor (Mayo,): Unlucky not to make the All-Star team, the younger brother of Cillian showed that he is as nerveless as his sibling, reserving his most impressive performances for Croke Park.

Jack McCaffrey Player of the Year


Philly McMahon


Brendan Kealy


Brian Fenton


Lee Keegan


Shane Enright


Anthony Maher


Cian O'Sullivan


Rory O'Carroll


Mattie Donnelly


Conor McManus


Aidan O'Shea


Bernard Brogan


Ciaran Kilkenny


Donnchadh Walsh


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