Pat Spillane hands out his annual GAA Oscars Part 1
It’s time to hand out my annual GAA Oscars – as well as naming a few alternative award winners.
Picking award winners is a subjective exercise, so I don’t expect everybody to agree with my selections.
The 2016 Player of the Year award in Gaelic football generated a degree of controversy, for example.
The pro-Dublin media were insistent that Brian Fenton should get the prestigious gong, while those who chose Mayo’s Lee Keegan were labelled as anti-Dublin!
On the night of the All-Ireland final replay I opted for Fenton on the Sunday Game. Having reflected on the issue, though, I changed my mind. I think Keegan was the most consistent footballer over the whole championship.
So, for better or worse, that’s where I stand on that particular controversy.
Here is my list of winners, runners-up and also-rans for 2016...
TEAM OF THE YEAR
No prizes for guessing the recipients: Dublin win the award by a country mile. Most definitely the best Dublin team of all time and if they win the three-in-a-row next September the sky is the limit.
Even though they were without 12 of their 2015 panel, they still reached the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 1935, playing wonderful attacking football under the guidance of Liam Kearns.
3 The Mayo U-21s
Get the bronze medal – not just for winning the All-Ireland title, but for playing class football as well.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Jim Gavin (Dublin)
The winner by a country mile, as his Dublin team went through the year unbeaten in league and championship.
2. Liam Kearns (Tipperary)
Inspired a depleted Tipp to a place in the last four.
3. Colm Collins (Clare)
Even though football is the poor relation in the county, he managed them to a place in the last eight for the first time.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Lee Keegan (Mayo)
He was the most consistent performer over the summer. Specifically, he negated the influence of Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone), Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary) and Dublin’s
Diarmuid Connolly in the two All-Ireland finals – until he was black carded.
Better still, he got forward to kick vital scores, with his goal in the All-Ireland final replay being the highlight. He maintained his excellent form deep into the winter, inspiring his club Westport to win a first ever Connacht intermediate title.
2. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
It was another outstanding season for Fenton, who has all the attributes required for modern-day midfield play. He is athletic, pacy and is 6ft4in tall.
Since making his full debut against Monaghan in April 2015 he has featured in 24 games for Dublin – he won 22 and never played on a losing side as the other two ended level!
3. Paul Geaney (Kerry)
A distant third behind the two front-runners! Still, Geaney was the most consistent forward in the 2016 championship and the highest scorer from play, hitting 3-13. Kerry fans are still wondering why he was substituted in the latter stages of the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin after scoring 1-4.
GAME OF THE YEAR
1. Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland semi-final
This game had everything and it reinforced my long-held view that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Gaelic football – once the game is played in the right spirit and teams adopt a positive attitude.
2. Dublin v Mayo Drawn All-Ireland final
It was a very different contest from the semi-final between Dublin and Kerry in terms of quality, but for physicality, tension and a dramatic finish it had everything.
3. Dublin v Mayo Replayed All-Ireland final
No shortage of talking points, controversy, twists, turns and another thrilling finish.
GOAL OF THE YEAR
1. David Clifford (Kerry) v Galway in All-Ireland Minor Final
It was a vintage year for goals, with no shortage of top-quality efforts to choose from. I have picked Clifford’s solo goal in the minor decider as my number one. He soloed the ball from beyond the halfway line using his left foot, before booting the ball to the roof of the net with his right peg.
2. Lee Keegan (Mayo) v Dublin in All-Ireland final replay
A superb finish from Keegan, who galloped unchallenged through the centre after combination play from the O’Shea brothers had created the chance.
3. Paul Geaney (Kerry) v Tipperary in Munster final
Geaney had a lot of work to do when he got the ball, but he still managed to find the net.
Other notable efforts include Paul Mannion’s goal for Dublin against Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final; Tom Flynn’s effort for Galway against Mayo and his team-mate Danny Cummins’ goal against Roscommon in the Connacht final replay.
POINT OF THE YEAR
1. Peter Harte (Tyrone) v Donegal in Ulster final
Again, like the goals, it was a vintage year with some superb long-range efforts. Top of the list is Harte’s magnificent effort from distance, which won the Ulster title for Tyrone against Donegal.
2. Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone) v Donegal in Ulster final.
A brilliant individual effort – again at the death in the Ulster final. Cavanagh was under intense pressure when he took the kick from the 45m line, but it sailed between the posts to tie up the game.
3. Tomas Corrigan (Fermanagh) v Antrim in Ulster Championship
His two converted sidelines against Antrim were worth the admission price alone.
An honourable mention for Diarmuid Connolly for his sublime effort to put Dublin two points up at the death against Kerry in the semi-final.
SHOCKS OF THE YEAR
1. Tipperary beating Cork
The Premier County’s Munster semi-final victory was their first championship win over the Rebels since 1944.
2.Mayo's loss to Galway
Mayo got caught on the hop by a far more focussed Galway side, who came with a winning game plan to stun them in Castlebar.
3. Tipp beating Galway
Tipperary demolished the Tribesmen in the All-Ireland quarter final.
SAVE OF THE YEAR
1. David Clarke (Mayo) v Kildare
Clarke underlined why he is the best shot-stopper in the game by halting an effort from Emmet Bolton just before half-time in this All-Ireland qualifier
2. David Clarke (Mayo) v Tyrone
Clarke again came to his side’s rescue with a brilliant stop from Conor McAliskey after he got in behind the defence
3. Brian Kelly (Kerry) v Tipperary
Kerry were on the road to victory regardless, but Kelly proved his credentials with this excellent stop from Michael Quinlivan.
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR MORE PART II, INCLUDING MOST IMPROVED PLAYER AND BIGGEST FLOPS OF THE YEAR