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Pat Spillane: And my GAA Oscars for 2022 go to...

We are underachievers in sport compared to countries with similar populations such as Croatia and New Zealand.

10 July 2022; Kerry manager Jack O'Connor celebrates with David Clifford after their side's victory in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Pat SpillaneSunday World

I realise we are are at the start of a brand new year.

But permit me to have one last glance back at 2022, as I hand out my coveted Pat Spillane GAA Oscars.

Allow me to get my excuses in first: These awards are based solely on my opinions. So, by definition, they are subjective.

I have to confess that, because the 2022 county season ended so long ago, I had difficulty remembering everything that happened.

It scarcely matters whether you agree or disagree with my choices. It’s all about generating debates and discussions, which unlike award ceremonies on TV entertain and engage us.

Though I love the GAA, the All-Star Awards gig is sleep-inducing, and probably the most boring sports programme on the planet.

The RTÉ Sports Awards programme, which was screened just before Christmas, was only marginally better.

When the producers bigged up Ireland’s sporting achievements at the start of the programme, it was a red flag for me.

The ‘small Ireland, big achievement in sport’ theme doesn’t cut it with me, I’m afraid.

We are underachievers in sport compared to countries with similar populations such as Croatia and New Zealand.

And here are three other rants about the programme.

As far as I am concerned a two-man rowing crew does not constitute a team – and, as such, should not be eligible for a Team of the Year Award.

Winning a tournament might be enough to earn the coach the Manager of the Year award but qualifying for one most certainly does not.

I rate Katie Taylor as one of our greatest ever athletes.

But if there was a year that a Gaelic footballer should have won the award for the first time, it was 2022.

No player dominated his sport like David Clifford did. He is a superstar and this ought to have been recognised as such by RTÉ.

Anyway, back to the business of the column and the awards:

Footballers of the year

1 – David Clifford (Kerry)

No explanation required. Simply the most influential player in 2022.

2 – Shane Walsh (Galway)

A bit of a slow burner of a season until the All-Ireland final, but since then his performances have gone to another level.

3 – Paudie Clifford (Kerry)

A toss-up between Clifford and Galway’s Cillian McDaid. I opted for Clifford because – apart from consistently providing quality ball to his younger brother, he kicked big scores during periods when Kerry were struggling in the semi-final and final.

Goals of the year

1 – Cormac Costello (Dublin) v Kerry in All-Ireland semi-final

There were three defenders and goalkeeper Shane Ryan standing between him and the goal, leaving him with literally a foot of space to thread the ball through. He nailed it.

2 – David Clifford (Kerry) v Mayo in All-Ireland quarter-final

Clifford got the ball near the Cusack Stand sideline, played a one-two with Stephen O’Brien, before side-footing it to the net.

3 – Rory Grugan (Armagh) v Donegal in All-Ireland qualifiers.

After winning the throw-in Rian O’Neill was fouled; he drove the free into the edge of the square where it was fielded by Grugan, who turned and rifled it to the net.

Old-fashioned perhaps, but deadly effective.

Other goals I considered for inclusion were Shane Walsh’s side-step, dummy hop and right-footed shot to the Roscommon net in the Connacht final; Jordan Flynn’s lobbed goal for Mayo in the All-Ireland qualifiers (he meant it); and Kieran Martin’s solo effort for Westmeath, which turned the Tailteann Cup final.

Best points of the year from placed balls

1 – Sean O’Shea (Kerry) v Dublin in All-Ireland semi-final

One of the most important converted frees in the recent history of Kerry football.

2 – Rian O’Neill (Armagh) v Galway in All-Ireland quarter-final

Had he missed it, there would have been no extra time or shoot-out.

3 – David Clifford’s (Kerry) v Galway in the All-Ireland final

In the 67th minute Clifford nailed this clutch free from an acute angle on the 13m line, giving Kerry a lead they never relinquished.

Shane Walsh was magnificent for Galway all year. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Best points of the year from play

Joint 1st – Shane Walsh (Galway) v Kerry in All-Ireland final

His first-half effort, when he beat two men and kicked the ball with his right foot into the Hill 16 end

Joint 1st – David Clifford (Kerry) v Galway in All-Ireland final.

A right-footed effort from distance, which put Kerry 11-10 up in the 41st minute.

3 – Jamie Malone (Clare) v Roscommon in All-Ireland qualifier

A quality score – not just because it was the winning point to round off an unbelievable comeback – but also due to the work he had to do before getting off his shot.

Other points I considered included a long-range effort from Derry’s Shane McGuigan against Tyrone; Stephen Sherlock’s point for Cork against Kerry with the outside of his boot; another ‘outside of the boot’ effort – this time from beyond the 45m line – by Armagh goalkeeper Ethan Rafferty against Tyrone; and any of Cillian McDaid’s collection from extra time against Armagh or against Kerry in the final.

Games of the year

1 – Kerry v Dublin, All-Ireland semi-final

It had everything – including a nail-biting finish.

2 – Galway v Armagh, All-Ireland quarter-final

OK, the row grabbed the headlines but the match itself was full of drama at the end of normal time, throughout extra time and culminated in the penalty shoot-out.

3 – Kerry v Galway, All-Ireland final

Few anticipated it would be so close; it was one of the better finals in recent years.

Others worthy of mention include the Tailteann Cup tie between Sligo and Leitrim which produced another penalty-shoot out; the second-round qualifier between Clare v Roscommon; and the Connacht quarter-finals on foreign fields – between London and Leitrim, and Sligo and New York – deserve a nod as well.

Cormac Costello scored the goal of the year against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Best individual performances

Joint 1st – David Clifford and Shane Walsh in All-Ireland final

Simply couldn’t split them, given the quality of their respective performances in the All-Ireland final.

3 Cillian McDaid (Galway) v Armagh in All-Ireland quarter-final

His performance in extra time, particularly his 0-2 from play, essentially kept Galway in the game.

4 Damien Comer (Galway) v Derry in All-Ireland semi-final

His 2-2 from play finally broke Derry’s stubborn resistance.

The unsung heroes

1 – Stephen O’Brien (Kerry) v Galway in All-Ireland final

Executed two savage block-downs in the game.

2 – Liam Silke (Galway) v Kerry in All-Ireland final

Held Sean O’Shea scoreless from play in the final.

Joint 3rd – Keelan Sexton (Clare) v Roscommon in All-Ireland qualifiers

Scored an eye-catching 2-6 as Clare staged one of the comebacks of the year to knockout Roscommon. Joint 3rd – Cian Sheehan (Limerick) v Kerry Munster final

His team were outclassed but he scored 0-3 – and deservedly secured an All-Star nomination.

Managers of the year

1 – Jack O’Connor (Kerry)

A unanimous choice. For the third time in his career he won an All-Ireland in his first season in charge. But this time around it was a different, Jack who was directing the orchestra. No longer a one-man band – he surrounded himself with top-class coaches who delivered.

2 – Mickey Moran (Kilcoo)

Long regarded as a top-class coach, and one of the most astute managers in the game, he finally claimed a deserved All-Ireland by guiding Kilcoo to the Promised Land in the club championship.

3 – Padraic Joyce (Galway)

I laughed when he said after his appointment his ambition was to win an All-Ireland. Yet by the time Galway reached the All-Ireland final he had moulded them into an outfit capable of winning it.

Colm Collins (Clare) and Billy Lee (Limerick) deserve mention as well. The long-serving Collins guided Clare to a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final and they kept their place in Division 2, while Lee managed Limerick to promotion to Division 2 and a place in the Munster final.


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