Friday 8th September 2017
3 Down players make the 2017 Irish News Ulster GAA All Stars team
1 Niall Morgan (Tyrone)
IT might not have been the busiest summer in terms of shot-stopping but for the Edendork man, Tyrone’s apparent change in kickout policy, and his work with new goalkeeping coach John Devine, has shone a bright new light on his ability.
It was brightest in the Ulster semi-final win over Donegal, where his ability to go very, very long outfoxed the Tír Chonaill press and created a new attacking platform for the Red Hands. Also made two great saves against Dublin.
2 Ronan McNamee (Tyrone)
McNAMEE’S performances through the Ulster block of fixtures were such that any caveats that might be thrown – such as Colm Cavanagh’s covering position – are ever so easily batted away.
Contained the threats of Danny Tallon, Connaire Harrison and Stefan Campbell and did enough to curtail Paddy McBrearty as well.
That he showed a willingness to support the attack sums up Tyrone’s attitude.
3 James Morgan (Armagh)
ONE of the few Armagh players to emerge with credit from the defeat against Down, having brilliantly manned the house despite acres of space in front of him during a testing second half.
The Orchard recovered and after he did likewise from an injury that ruled him out of the win over Fermanagh, after which the Crossmaglen man’s performance in the thrilling win over Tipperary was the most notable.
4 Darren O’Hagan (Down)
THE Mourne skipper embraced his role with a series of robust displays that was one of the key reasons behind their summer resurgence.
Would have taken great confidence from the manner in which he dealt with the trickiness of Jamie Clarke and the Clonduff man was one of the driving forces in a staunch defensive effort to overcome Monaghan in that unforgettable semi-final.
Handled Darren Freeman very well in the Croke Park encounter between the two, capping a fine season.
5 Tiernan McCann (Tyrone)
PERHAPS the improvement in his finishing best underlines how Tiernan McCann manages to find new ways to improve with every passing year.
Always a merchant of the lung-bursting run since he came on the scene, his conversion rate from chances has increased dramatically over the past 18 months, making him one of the country’s most feared wing-backs. Bagged the crucial goal against Donegal to kill the game and has enjoyed the freedom of Croke Park since.
6 Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone)
THE find of the Championship, without question. Had to serve his apprenticeship on the bench last year but forced his way into Mickey Harte’s starting line-up against Derry and has already become one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Not only curtailed Michael Murphy but pushed forward relentlessly. Gathered up 0-5 from play across that game and the win over Down, a mark of the Coalisland man’s hard work at his shooting as well. A key component in the defensive system.
7 Darragh O’Hanlon (Down)
EPITOMISED everything that was good about Down this summer.
O’Hanlon brought a huge amount of quality to the half-back division, particularly in terms of his delivery to the forwards.
Had the kind of raw aggression and no-holds-barred attitude that inspired those around him, yet displayed a cool head to nonchalantly nudge a crucial penalty down the middle of Rory Beggan’s goal in Armagh.
Heavily involved in so much of what Down did well.
8 Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)
THE glue that binds the Red Hands together but has really put himself in the running for a national Allstar because of the change in his role.
Has been pushed out more often as a natural midfielder on Tyrone’s kickouts and has lorded it at times, not least in the Donegal game, where he was exceptional in the air.
He was once more at his imperious best against Armagh in the quarter-final and was by far their outstanding player on an otherwise disappointing day against the Dubs.
9 Kieran Hughes (Monaghan)
IF the Down game in Armagh had ended after 15 minutes, Kieran Hughes would have been handed the Allstar there and then.
Plucked ball from the sky like a minor at an under-14 game.
Had a fine game against Cavan and was one of the stars on their Qualifier run, catching the eye with a series of long-range points with that trademark slice off the outside of the left boot.
The Scotstown man’s industry and endeavour can never be questioned.
10 Peter Harte (Tyrone)
HAS hit 1-8 of his own but his worth to Tyrone runs so, so much deeper than that.
The Errigal Ciaran man has developed into one of the best playmakers of this generation, good enough to almost label him a new-age Brian McGuigan.
Strong on the ball, both his pace and his strength are deceptive, as many an opposition defence has found out. Was particularly brilliant in the win over Armagh.
He’s even added a right foot. Even managed flashes in the Dublin game despite some very close attention.
11 Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
TO try and define Donnelly’s role is a fool’s errand, for he seems to pop up on a million different blades of grass every time he takes the field.
Produced a fine display of his kick-passing skills in the Ulster semi-final, feeding Mark Bradley so often, and was dominant in the provincial final where he kicked three points off perfectly timed runs from deep.
Had hit six points prior to the All-Ireland semi-final.
12 Niall Sludden (Tyrone)
HAVING only made his championship debut last year, Niall Sludden has moved very quickly into a leading position for Tyrone and has been one of the key components of their counter-attacking play.
Has mastered the art of arriving at the exact second he’s required to take the ball at pace and matches that with a serious finishing ability off his right side.
Provided the wonderball for David Mulgrew’s first goal against Armagh and hit four points from play against Donegal.
13 Jamie Clarke (Armagh)
PROVIDED one of the most memorable attacking moments of the summer when he coolly rounded the goalkeeper and poked home on his right foot to secure Armagh’s gripping victory over Tipperary in Thurles. Had his moments in the opener against Down and went on to spearhead the Orchard run to the quarter-final with some moments of individual class.
His display against Kildare was sublime.
14 Mark Bradley (Tyrone)
GAVE Tyrone another dimension in attack with his incredible movement. Watching him would be a great lesson for any forward.
The Killyclogher man covered the width of the pitch in every game, constantly running and pulling at times three defenders with him.
The majority of his work was absolutely selfless but when he was given a chance to shine, he showed he could match the best for finishing ability.
15 Connaire Harrison (Down)
WAS there a more memorable pair of performances across the whole GAA summer than Connaire Harrison’s two displays against Monaghan?
Both were highlighted by almost identical scores from right out by the corner, having first shrugged off one of the game’s most highly-rated full-backs.
Harrison was also Down’s best forward in the first half of their win over Armagh and offered a throwback to the days of a big, powerful full-forward.