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Why an overhaul of the GAA All-Star awards is long overdue

David Clifford© SPORTSFILE

By Sean McGoldrickSunday World

THE process of selecting this year’s All-Star football and hurling teams will begin shortly.

I have to confess I have a big interest here as I am a football selector.

Having spent 11-and-a-half months of the year telling the GAA, team managers and players how they could do their jobs better, this is the time of the year when we have to sit back and take our punishment.

Slain American President Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have once said: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time”.

Try being an All-Star selector where it is impossible to please anybody anytime.

Every GAA fan fancies themselves as an All-Star selector, though only a few are brave enough to post their preferred team in advance.

Instead they wait until the official selection is announced and then unleash a torrent of criticism, which generally revolves around how Player X, Y or Z could have been omitted.

I have absolutely no problem with anybody criticising the team.

But I do take issue with the critics who, having made a case for their chosen one, fail to say who should have been omitted to make way for that player.

Unfortunately, there are only 15 slots available.

Of course, there have been some unforgiveable selection mistakes made in the history of the scheme which was launched in 1971.

But it has stood the test of time and it remains the most prestigious individual award in Gaelic Games.

But an overhaul is long overdue.

The biggest issue is the rigidity of the team formation – essentially the selectors must choose one goalkeeper, six defenders, two midfielders and six forwards.

There is precious little room to deviate, even though the traditional positions such as right-corner back or left corner-forward no longer pertain in Gaelic football at the highest level.

I’m not suggesting we pick two goalkeepers. But how many teams now deploy three players in what used to be the traditional full forward line.

So, the selectors ought to have the option, for example, of picking seven defenders and five forwards and setting out the team in a non-traditional way.

In modern-day Gaelic football, there were specialist man-markers, transition players, sweepers and nominated shooters. None of these ‘new’ positions are specifically catered for because of the dated format of the All-Star team.

There is a classic dilemma facing the football selectors this year. There are two extremely credible candidates for the number six shirt: Kerry’s Tadgh Morley and Galway’s John Daly.

The latter could be loosely described as a traditional centre-back with a penchant for providing key assists to his forwards, whereas Morley is the Kerry sweeper who protected the team’s full-back line and marshalled the defence instead of marking a specific player.

Arguably, both are deserving of a place – but one looks certain to lose out because the team has to laid out in the traditional manner which leaves no room for both a centre-back and a sweeper.

Theoretically either could be picked in a different defensive position but this will result in howls of protest about picking players ‘out of position’.

Like county teams, the All-Star team should be flexible in terms of positioning. The traditional 1,3,3,2,3,3 formation is redundant.

Other than a break in tradition there is no good reason, for example, why the team could not be set out in a 1 (goalkeeper), 2 (2 specialist man-markers), 1 (sweeper), 3 (two transition players and a marking centre-back), 3 (2 midfielders plus a forward who mostly operates in the middle third, 3 (three half forwards who also operate in defence) and 2 (specialist shooters).

Using this format the 2022 team would be along the following lines:

Shane Ryan (Kerry)

Chrissy McKaigue (Derry) Liam Silke (Galway)

(Tadgh Morley (Kerry)

Lee Keegan (Mayo) John Daly (Galway) Gavin White (Kerry)

Cillian McDaid (Galway) Conor Glass (Derry) Rian O’Neill (Armagh)

Paudie Clifford (Kerry) Sean O’Shea (Kerry) Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)

David Clifford (Kerry) Shane Walsh (Galway)

Rest assured the official selection will be different due to the constricts of the system.

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