BBC BLOGS - Austin O'Callaghan

Archives for September 2010

My All Stars choice for 2010

Austin O'Callaghan | 09:11 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

The first thing to say is I'm not on the All Stars committee so I do not have a vote. This is my own selection based on the nominations released last week.

It may end up bearing little relation to the 15 who receive the gongs on 15 October. In every selection there are gaping omissions. Cork's Daniel Goulding and Donncha O'Connor are arguably two of the headline names missing from my list. Each man had a big All-Ireland final. But have a look at my full forward line below and tell me who you would leave out to make room for them.

If I could buy a football team based on the 2010 league and championship, here are the 15 I would plump for.

Down's Brendan McVeigh blocks a shot from Colm O'Neill of Cork during the All-Ireland final

Goalkeeper: Brendan McVeigh (Down)
Made the crucial saves when it mattered against Kerry and Cork. Preventing goals is, still, a keeper's primary job.

Right corner-back: Charlie Harrison (Sligo)
I'm leaving myself open to obvious accusations of Sligo bias here. But Harrison has developed the defending AND attacking attributes that the position requires. See the Galway and Mayo games. His leadership skills also capped a fine year. However, the hammering Sligo took at Breffni Park may ultimately cost against him.

Full-back: Michael Shields (Cork)
Watch the tape of the All-Ireland final again. His year wasn't a perfect one. But the display against Down and the marking job he did on Benny Coulter was close to it.

Left corner-back: Peter Kelly (Kildare)
A newcomer, but it took just one season to show us he is a class act. One of the reasons perhaps why Kieran McGeeney is digging in for three more years. Kildare fans should stay excited for 2011.

Right half-back: Joe McMahon (Tyrone)
This may look like the 'token' All-star for the Ulster champions but it's not. Mickey Harte's last instructions before the throw-in of every championship match this summer seemed to be to this man. He was Mr 'go to' when a gap needed plugging.

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Where has this Down team come from?

Austin O'Callaghan | 09:16 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

"Nothing ever comes from nowhere. Somewhere there's a plant that is slowly flowering."


Could it pass for Seamus Heaney? It could certainly pass for a description of Down gaelic football - according to Pete McGrath.

I phoned him last week as part of an attempt to trace the origins of this current collection of Down footballers which has revitalised the football championship in 2010 (with a little help from Kildare and Dublin).

There seems to be an impression out there that this team has suddenly come from nowhere. But from talking to Down folk in the build-up to the final, I have reached the firm conclusion that such an impression is a completely false one.

Down's Jason Brown, Kevin McKernan, Declan Rooney and Peter Fitzpatrick celebrate after their semi-final win over Kildare

Down's Jason Brown, Kevin McKernan, Declan Rooney and Peter Fitzpatrick celebrate after their semi-final win over Kildare

Trace the county's main football achievements over the last decade or so. The clues start to appear soon enough.

1999

A group of teenagers does a lap of honour at Croke Park after beating Mayo by a goal to win the All-Ireland Minor football title. In the middle of the celebrations, a scrawny 16-year-old named Benny Coulter. The Ronans (Sexton and Murtagh), John Clarke and Mark Doran are there too.


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