The All-Ireland final will largely dictate where the All Stars go this year.
2017 Football All-Stars so far
BY SHANE STAPLETON
The All-Ireland final will largely dictate where the All Stars go this year. As we wait for another huge Mayo v Dublin clash on September 17, it’s worth looking at who has shone so far this summer.
A lot of quality footballers are likely to miss out on individual accolades, as they do here, but here is our team as things stand. Please let us know on social media who you would like in your XV, and why.
1. STEPHEN CLUXTON (Dublin)
The late penalty save against Peter Harte during injury time of the All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone punctuated another consistent season for the Parnells man. Hasn’t been tested too often but has conceded just one championship goal in 2017, against Kildare. Also made a key stop from Daniel Flynn that to keep the Lilies at bay at a key time in the Leinster final.
Special mention must go to David Clarke of Mayo though. After a wobbly first half in the drawn game with Kerry, his kickouts were a huge source of comfort for the second half and throughout the replay. Made a couple of really smart saves too. The best shot stopper in the game, he would be in the box seat here most other seasons.
2. PHILLY McMAHON (Dublin)
The firefighter of the Dublin back line, always there no matter what challenge is posed by the opposition. Versatility shown in how he often operated as a central playmaker in the handy win over Tyrone.
3. CIAN O’SULLIVAN (Dublin)
Whether he plays at three or at six, the composure and athleticism of the Kilmacud Crokes man makes it seem always as though he has oodles of times. O’Sullivan can play anywhere in defence, and indeed has under Pat Gilroy and Jim Gavin.
4. KEITH HIGGINS (Mayo)
It seems a long time ago now that Higgins was dismissed against Galway in the Connacht championship. The Ballyhaunis man improved his form through the qualifiers before exploding into life as a goal-scoring attacker-from-deep in the quarter-final replay win over Roscommon. Kept Mayo alive with a late block on Paul Geaney when a point down in the drawn game, and starred as a sweeper in the replay win.
5. TIERNAN McCANN (Tyrone)
Tyrone had a systems failure in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin but still McCann continued to carry the game to the All-Ireland champions. It was typical of his performances all season, during which he again exhibited his skill-set on the ball and when driving forward. Really strong throughout Ulster, scoring 1-1 against Donegal.
6. COLM BOYLE (Mayo)
The lionheart of Mayo. Boyle’s toughest opponent this season has been the GPA tracker which we all assume is why he doesn’t finish out games. Beautiful double-dummy to goal in the drawn Kerry clash, and then lasted almost the full 70 in the replay win in what was a tremendous display.
7. JACK McCAFFREY (Dublin)
The bullet from the Dublin gun. To see the speed at which the Clontarf man burst out of the backline against Tyrone was a joy to watch. Simply to watch him run at full speed, for that to be a spectacle, it says it all. Third favourite for Footballer of the Year.
8. COLM CAVANAGH (Tyrone)
Colm Cavanagh may not be the most graceful player in the world but he has truly stepped out of his brother’s shadow to become a star in his own right. Scored 0-2 in the humbling defeat by Dublin, and won a penalty late on. Put a padlock on the Tyrone 'D' all year before Sunday's blue wave as they retained the Ulster title.
9. JAMES McCARTHY (Dublin)
Yet another Dubliner who you could see excel in a variety of positions, such is his athleticism. Always looking to prod holes in opposition defences with his pace and power, and consistently knitting moves together.
10. AIDAN O’SHEA (Mayo)
A groin injury meant that O’Shea had a slow start to the season but he’s really found his stride now. Yes, Kieran Donaghy won their first battle hands down but, summed up by Star’s hand going up to earn a red card in the replay, no doubt the Breaffy man can claim the war. Few players would be trusted to play in so many positions, and there was a slight temptation to troll readers by naming his at number three here — but realistically he has done his best work in the half-forward line. Dublin will look to stop him winning both throw-ins in the final, and generally limit his powerful running.
11. CON O’CALLAGHAN (Dublin)
Few players have achieved this much in their career at the age of 21. He is good enough to become a household name in either code but football is number one and he is heading to some day become just that in the game. Led the line in the Leinster final win over Kildare and smashed a beautiful goal past Niall Morgan to rattle Tyrone.
12. PAUL MANNION (Dublin)
Dublin battered Westmeath in the Leinster semi-final and, though Mannion was not the first man ever to score eight points in a championship game, he did do it with a 100% return on his shooting. That was highly impressive, and he has now scored 14 points this summer. But it is his workrate, patience on the ball, and driving runs that set him apart — has matured into a wonderful player.
13. PAUL GEANEY (Kerry)
You’d wonder how Kerry would’ve done at all in 2017 were it not for the Dingle man. Notched 1-29 in the championship, including 16 of the Kingdom’s 31 points across their only two competitive games of the year: the clashes with Mayo. Hit Cork for 1-5 in the Munster final.
14. ANDY MORAN (Mayo)
Finished? Most certainly not. Going into the All-Ireland final, the 33-year-old is favourite for Footballer of the Year and with good reason. Smashed Kerry for 2-6 across the semi-final clashes and has necklaced together 3-21 over the summer. The focal point of the Mayo attack.
15. JAMIE CLARKE (Armagh)
A glorious player to watch in full flight, which was what we saw in 2017. Clarke’s performances in Thurles against Tipperary and, perhaps more importantly, in the thrilling win over Kildare at Croke Park highlighted his class.