As we enter the business end of the G.A.A season, talks of end of season honours will commence.
Both collective and individual honours will be handed out to many players in both hurling and football and while I looked at the hurling awards earlier in the week, I would now like to look at football. This weekend sees the beginning of the All-Ireland semi-finals and these are the players who I think are in the running for Footballer of the Year for 2013.
1. Aidan O’Shea – Mayo
He is the current favourite to win the award but there is still an awful lot of football to be played before the season is over. O’Shea was awesome against Donegal but for a supposed very confident player, he was quite reserved in his post-match interview which may be a reflection of the mind-set of this current group. If he can dominate against Tyrone this weekend, his price will shorten but I think a lot will depend on which teams actually lifts Sam Maguire.
2. Jack McCaffrey – Dublin
People are suggesting that McCaffrey is already a certainty for the Young Player of the Year award but if Dublin are to win the title, I think he could be in with a great chance of winning the main award. It could even prove to be a double for McCaffrey and I don’t think many could question the selection committee if it was to happen. He has been outstanding so far this season and if he can manage two more performances of the same standard it will be hard to look past him.
3. Sean Cavanagh – Tyrone
While he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, he has still performed very well in the championship so far. The criticism that was inflicted on Cavanagh has been a bit overboard and it shouldn’t deter from his role in the Tyrone side. Tyrone are in the last four of the championship, and while they have struggled at times, they have won games with Cavanagh to the fore. While they are outsiders, they are still contenders and therefore Cavanagh must be mentioned as a possible Player of the Year.
4. Colm Copper – Kerry
Kerry haven’t set the world alight so far this season but they still remain serious and dangerous All-Ireland contenders. They are coming into the business end of the season with very little hype surrounding them and as we all know, Kerry can never be written off. Cooper has been effective in his new position at centre-forward. He is at the centre of most of their attacking play and is working well as a playmaker and a finisher. If Kerry are to win, I think the Gooch will have a huge influence.
5. Cillian O’Connor – Mayo
It isn’t impossible for O’Connor to be crowned Young Player of the Year for the third season in a row, although it is unlikely. I do think he is a serious contender for Footballer of the Year should Mayo win the All-Ireland. He has added an awful lot to his game this year. I was one of many who felt he was little more than a free-taker at the end of 2012 but 2013 has seen a different player. He has matured a lot and he has showed great ability in terms of creativity and finishing. Mayo need him to maintain his current scoring form.
6. Paul Flynn – Dublin
He is really becoming a strong leader in this Dublin side and he continues to improve every time I see him play. He has won back-to-back all-stars in the last two seasons, and he is the template for the modern day wing-forward. He has great work rate, great ball-winning ability and one thing that has improved a lot are is skill levels. He now regularly gets on the score sheet and is also a goal scoring threat. He is the best wing-forward in the game at this present time.
7. Michael Daragh MacAuley – Dublin
It has taken me a long time but I now really see the value of MacAuley to this Dublin team. I always felt he was a fine athlete and used his attributes well, but I was never convinced by him as a player. I still question his skill levels, but there is no doubt that MacAuley is a very effective player in the modern game. Dublin play a system that doesn’t require aerial dominance but MacAuley is still highly prominent in games. His best assets are his fitness and his pace. He covers a lot of ground and his pace is a huge threat in attack. He still would be the last player I would want a goal scoring chance to fall to, but he has the ability to give the ball to players in better positions to score. He is very important to Dublin.
8. Donal Vaughan – Mayo
He is another Mayo player who is having an excellent season. He is leading the defence from centre-back and he is also providing a huge scoring threat. The timing of his attacks are very good. He doesn’t seem to attack for the sake of it anymore; he attacks with a lot more purpose and seems to be involved in a score on the majority of times that he goes forward. He will have a big role to play if Mayo are to finally end their famine.
9. Marc Ó’Sé
Ó’Sé is still one of the best defenders in the game despite the fact that he isn’t getting any younger. If Kerry are to be successful he will have two huge man-marking tasks ahead of him and if he comes out in top in these and Kerry can defy the odds, I think he will be in with a very strong chance of being honoured.
10. Stephen Cluxton – Dublin
His value to Dublin becomes more and more evident with every game. His long-range free-taking is invaluable. His kick-out strategy is vital to Dublin’s fortunes. They do not have aerial prowess in this midfield. They have one attack minded and one defensive minded midfielder and Cluxton’s kick-out strategy allows them to deploy this tactic effectively. He is now the captain of the side, and should he lift the cup having kicked a significant number of frees, he will definitely be in with a shout.