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comment How GAA's All-Star judging down through the years has been 'brilliant and bonkers!'

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2 November 2018; Michael Lyster, left, Joanne Cantwell and Marty Morrissey during the PwC All Stars 2018 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

2 November 2018; Michael Lyster, left, Joanne Cantwell and Marty Morrissey during the PwC All Stars 2018 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

2 November 2018; Michael Lyster, left, Joanne Cantwell and Marty Morrissey during the PwC All Stars 2018 at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

LAST night in Croke Park former Sunday Games presenter Michael Lyster launched a new book called All-Star Gazing. The publication marks the golden jubilee of the GAA All-Star awards scheme which was launched in 1971.

Appropriately the book was written by Eileen and Moira Dunne, daughters of the late Mick Dunne, one of the scheme’s founders and the driving force behind it for three decades. The other journalists involved in the launch of the scheme were Paddy Downey, John D Hickey and Pádraig Puirséal

As well as featuring contributions from over 100 All-Star hurlers and footballers, the new book contains a full listing of every All-Star team since 1971 and for the first time ever a record of every player nominated.

Mick Dunne kept meticulous records, and this was the starting point for the authors. They met over 100 All-Stars and other stakeholders, who shared their memories of All-Star banquets and All-Star trips as well as their reflections on what winning the award meant to their families and clubs.

Just two counties - Longford and Carlow - have never had a player honoured in either football or hurling.

One wonders though will the ‘unofficial’ history of the scheme ever get written? The laws of libel might stop it being published.

Having been involved on and off as a selector since the late 1980s, I’ve had a ringside seat for more years than I care to remember at selection meetings.

When I joined the committee, the meetings were marathon affairs held in the then Burlington Hotel. Proceedings sometimes dragged on past midnight.

There were more than 20 selectors around the table in 1994 when we managed to leave Hurler of the Year Brian Whelahan out of the team.

Meetings were often fraught – not helped by the fact that the sponsors laid on a free bar.

The premature leaking of the team drove the GAA hierarchy and the sponsors round the bend.

So, before the start of every meeting we would be lectured about the need for confidentiality. Short of asking us to a pledge in our own blood to keep out mouths shut, there wasn’t much else could be done.

Needless to say, the pleas fell on deaf ears. On one occasion I overheard one selector phoning the county secretary of his native county. He was unavailable but the selector left a message: ‘We only got three’ and named the players.

As a result of numerous leaks, the team to be named live on television was picked by secret ballot.

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It was a recipe for an accident and unfortunately Brian Whelahan was the unwitting victim. Thankfully the secret ballot was subsequently scrapped.

The year after the Whelahan fiasco, inter-county players picked the team. However, they didn’t make a great fist of it either, leaving out Jason Sherlock, so the task was given back to the journalists.

But it wasn’t always GAA issues which caused the biggest rumpus.

On another occasion an almighty row erupted late at night when one selector proposed that in future smoking should be banned at meetings. One pipe-smoking member of the committee took particular umbrage to the suggestion.

The chairman wisely brought proceedings to a rapid close.

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