The only previous winners are all found in attack, where there’s a fourth All-Star for Footballer of the Year front-runner David Clifford, a second award for Clifford’s older brother Paudie and Kerry team-mate Seán O’Shea, while Dublin’s Ciarán Kilkenny claims his sixth gong.
Predictably Kerry lead the honours list with seven All-Stars but, in a reprise of last July’s All-Ireland decider, they are pushed all the way by Galway who take home five.
The team is completed by a brace of Derrymen and a solitary Dub – a further sign that the capital’s dominion, not just over Sam Maguire but the end-of-year awards season, has been broken over the past two seasons.
In 2021, after Dublin’s six-in-a-row era came to a full stop, Kilkenny was their sole player honoured. Now history has repeated itself; and with that comes another piece of history as Kilkenny moves alongside Stephen Cluxton, another six-time winner, as the most decorated Sky Blue since the scheme was inaugurated in 1971.
Kilkenny has made the final cut three years running and, given his consistency and still aged only 29, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could reel in football’s all-time record winner, Pat Spillane on nine.
In the meantime this year’s team – selected by a panel of GAA journalists – is very much a reflection of football’s changing guard. All-Star teams for much of the last decade were dominated by Dublin and their perennial rivals, Mayo; but for only the second time since 2011 there is no Mayo player included.
The vacuum is filled by a queue of rookie All-Stars, with last year’s haul of nine rising to 11.
There are four first-time winners from Kerry (goalkeeper Shane Ryan and defensive trio Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley and Gavin White); five from Galway (Liam Silke and John Daly in defence, midfielder Cillian McDaid, plus Damien Comer and Shane Walsh in the full-forward line); and two from Derry in the guise of adhesive man-marker Chrissy McKaigue and midfielder Conor Glass.
This is Kerry’s largest representation since 2009, when they also filled seven positions on the team, and Galway’s biggest haul since winning six All-Stars in 2001, their last All-Ireland year. Centre-back John Daly has now joined his father Val, a two-time winner, in the All-Stars pantheon.
After slaying a trio of top-flight teams to reach the Ulster summit, Derry are celebrating their first All-Stars since 2007 – and yet some neutrals and not merely Derry diehards will argue that they deserved more than two, with corner-back Conor McCluskey and Brendan Rogers (either in defence or midfield) among their strongest nominees.
Curiously, both McKaigue and Glass have returned from stints in the AFL – as have Galway’s McDaid and Dublin’s Kilkenny (albeit briefly). At 33, McKaigue qualifies as one of the oldest ever first-time All-Stars.
With this year’s return of the qualifiers, a notable feature is the absence of ‘back door’ bolters – on that score, Armagh are likely most disappointed by the exclusion of wandering ’keeper Ethan Rafferty and Rian O’Neill.
All 15 football winners will receive their awards at a televised banquet tomorrow evening, when this year’s hurling team will be unveiled.
The Player of the Year awards, voted on by their peers, will also be announced. Galway duo McDaid and Walsh are vying with David Clifford for football’s top award, with the hurling shortlist comprising Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes and Barry Nash plus Kilkenny’s TJ Reid.