OpinionPat Spillane

Pat Spillane hands out his annual GAA Oscars Part II

Pat SpillaneBy Pat Spillane
Dublin's John Small gets the nod for Most Improved Player
Dublin's John Small gets the nod for Most Improved Player

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...

CHECK OUT PART I OF PAT'S AWARDS HERE

BLUNDER OF THE YEAR

1. Stephen Rochford (Mayo)

His decision to drop All Star goalkeeper David Clarke for the All-Ireland final replay. It may have cost Mayo the game.

2. Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell (Roscommon)

For pressing the panic button after their defeat by Kerry in the league semi-final. They abandoned their attacking philosophy and tried to implement a defensive system which the players never brought into.

3. Laois sideline team 

For failing to count the number of substitutes they introduced against Armagh, which resulted in them having to replay the match. At least they won the rematch!

WORST GAME OF THE YEAR

1. Galway v Roscommon, Drawn Connacht final

Okay, the conditions were atrocious, but it set an unwanted record with more than 400 hand passes.

2. Tyrone v Donegal, Ulster final 

Devoid of atmosphere as both teams set up negatively. There was more football played in injury-time than in the preceding 70 minutes.

3. Laois v Armagh, All-Ireland qualifiers   

Just as well a replay was ordered because this contest was a turkey! There were a total of 21 wides, only 21 of the 57 chances created were scored and the first Laois forward didn’t score from play until the start of the final quarter.

BEST DISPLAY OF THE YEAR

1. Paddy McBrearty (Donegal) v Cork in All-Ireland quarter-final

McBrearty’s performance in the All-Ireland quarter-final was brilliant – he kicked 11 points, seven from play.

2. Lee Keegan (Mayo) v Tyrone in All-Ireland quarter-final

The Mayoman’s shackling of Sean Cavanagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final was a masterclass in defensive play.

3. Gary Brennan (Clare) v Roscommon in All-Ireland qualifier

The Clareman’s performance in the qualifiers was top quality.

BIGGEST FLOPS OF THE YEAR

1. Roscommon

Kevin McStay’s men flattered to deceive after their early exploits in the league.

2. Cork

The Rebels’ annus horribilis: relegated to Division 2, lost to Tipperary in the Munster championship, before bowing out tamely to Donegal in the All-Ireland series.

3. The Ulster c’ship

Not in terms of competition, but in terms of entertainment. There’s precious little of it about.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

1 John Small (Dublin) 

The Dublin defender filled in brilliantly for Jack McCaffrey in the No.7 shirt and was unlucky not to secure an All Star.

2 Brendan Harrison (Mayo) 

Had a brilliant season, highlighted by his two excellent performances in the All-Ireland finals and he deservingly won an All Star. 

3 Mark Griffin (Kerry) 

Nailed down the No.3 shirt, which had the added bonus of resolving a problem position for the Kingdom.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1 Diarmuid O’Connor (Mayo)

He was immense in the U-21 championship. Unfortunately for Mayo, O’Connor was unable to maintain that form at senior level later in the summer. 

2 Brian Begley (Kerry)

Hopefully he will be allowed off the leash in the New Year and get an opportunity to display his electrifying speed.

3 David Clifford (Kerry)

The classiest forward to appear on the minor scene for many years. The Fossa man is still U-18 for 2017.

AND NOW FOR THE ALTERNATIVE AWARDS...

GAA TV Pundit of the Year

Of course there can only be one winner – Joe Brolly. We already knew about his penchant for premeditated personal attacks and his constant desire to always be the centre of attention, but last year we discovered he has a sensitive side as well.

The Jerry Maguire ‘Show me the Money’ Award

The GPA get this ‘honour’ for managing to shake down both the government and the GAA for more than €14m during the next three  years. 

The GAA’s ‘A La Carte’ award

Inter-county football referees for their inconsistent application of the black card.

The Kofi Annan Award for World Peace

Former Mayo bosses Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly for their explosive interview which revealed their side of what happening during the coup against them.