SportsNewsIRELAND Gaelic Football team of the year 2012.
RTE’s Sunday Game named their team of the year following the All-Ireland final and the broadcaster’s team featured no less than nine Donegal players.
Whilst that may seem generous, there is no doubting that Donegal have been the story of the 2012 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and the players deserve the praise.
Beating Kildare, Tyrone, Kerry, Cork and eventually Mayo in the final left little doubt that the Ulstermen deserved their second Sam Maguire cup.
There can be very few changes made to the impressive Team of the Year that RTE produced but we gave it a go below ourselves.
Our SportsNewsIreland Team of the Year also features a few wildcards and perhaps one or two out of position, decisions sure to cause a stir amongst the public.
However these players were as instrumental to their county as any of the 30-odd men who graced Croke Park at the weekend and so their place is deserved.
GOALKEEPER: Paul Durcan (Donegal) – Durcan hadn’t a lot to do this season playing behind one of the staunchest defences in Ireland, but when called upon he produced confidence-instilling saves and catches. Donegal’s impressive ball retention owed a lot to his precise kick-outs in the later rounds of The Championship.
RIGHT CORNER-BACK: Keith Higgins (Mayo) – The Ballyhaunis man was part of a shrewd Mayo back-line this season and his reading of the game was excellent as Mayo made it to the All-Ireland final. Unfortunately the dual star could not contribute to a final victory for the Connacht men but he has been a shining light in Mayo’s defence in 2012.
FULL BACK: Ger Cafferkey (Mayo) – Cafferkey has had a terrific season at full back and his efforts in the final has secured his place in this team. Despite those efforts being in vain, Cafferkey repelled as many Donegal high attacks as he could and had the men around him perhaps contributed a little more he could have been on the winning side.
LEFT CORNER-BACK: Neil McGee (Donegal) – The robust full-back has been instrumental in Donegal’s defence this year and McGuinness knows a player such as McGee can carry out his defensive vision on the pitch. The Gweedore man had a very strong season especially in the later moments of The Championship and his strength in defence sees him in the team.
RIGHT HALF-BACK: Frank McGlynn (Donegal) – The Glenfin half-back displayed all his best characteristics wearing the green and gold of Donegal this year as he won his first All-Ireland medal. One of the most committed players in the GAA, watching him play a refreshing catch-and-pass high-octane style of football has been a joy this season.
CENTRE BACK: Karl Lacey (Donegal)– Donegal’s Lacey is a strong contender for player of the year, having already secured RTE’s version. The centre-back is a real menace in this Donegal team and his ability to turn defence into attack makes him one of the most dangerous footballers in Ireland. His speed of thought and deceptively hulking frame has helped Donegal become decisively lethal when surging forward.
LEFT HALF-BACK: Mark McHugh (Donegal) – Following the final McHugh might forever be remembered for an emotional embrace with father Martin on the pitch but the Kilcar man offered a lot more than a postcard opportunity for Donegal this year. McHugh has buzzed from the beginning of the Ulster Championship right up to the All-Ireland final and his energetic style has left a trail of teams in Donegal’s wake.
MIDFIELD: Neil Gallagher (Donegal) – Midfielder Gallagher came back for Donegal just at the right time following an injury hit mid-season. When fit, there were few better at fielding a ball than the Glenswilly man this season. He produced a sweeping point in the final. A point, which came at a time when Mayo were taking the pressure to Donegal and such efforts see him secure his team of the year award.
MIDFIELD: Rory Kavanagh (Donegal) – This team of the year is beginning to look very similar to the All-Ireland champions but Rory Kavanagh gets his place for more than just good pattern. Kavanagh has had to prove a relief in midfield this season, particularly when Gallagher has been injured and the 30-year old has driven through some of the best defences in the country this season to provide Donegal with their first All-Ireland title since 1992.
RIGHT HALF-FORWARD: Bernard Brogan (Dublin)–Whilst Bernard Brogan had to endure Dublin’s disappointing season he did show sparks of what the former Footballer of the Year is capable of and he still recorded an impressive 3-23(15f) in this year’s Championship; A lethal frontman who was let down by a team on which the tag of ‘champions’ weighed heavy this season.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) – O’Connor cut a cool and collected figure for Mayo this year but he was unable to guide them to an All-Ireland victory. The Ballintubber forward has been an iceman under pressure from frees this year and he performed valiantly in the final defeat, scoring five frees to add to the 14 points (9f) he accumulated in the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland Championship.
LEFT HALF-FORWARD: Ross Munnelly (Laois) – Munnelly is the wildcard of this SportsNewsIreland Team of the Year but his achievements merit recognition and he performed well in a Laois team that came agonisingly close to reaching the semi-finals. The fact they came so close was down to Munnelly’s precision from frees, and his drive in that quarter-final had Dublin in real trouble before Pat Gilroy’s men recouped and saw off the Laois challenge. Munnelly was top scorer in three of Laois’ five knockout games and his value in a unfashionable Laois team cannot be understated.
LEFT CORNER-FORWARD: Colm McFadden (Donegal) – Following last year’s paltry semi-final scoring Donegal were never going to win an All-Ireland by out-defending teams. This year McFadden has stepped up to the plate with his sure-fire shooting from difficult positions which allowed Donegal to defend strong leads, and not the single figure scorelines of last year’s semi-final which they lost. The Championship’s top scorer has been a revelation for Donegal this season and winning Sam Maguire has been in big part down to McFadden prolificacy.
FULL FORWARD: Michael Murphy (Donegal)– Michael Murphy has been arguably Donegal’s star man this season, and in a team full of stars that says an awful lot. Had Murphy’s goal in the final been a soccer goal we would still be watching re-runs on Sky Sports News. Murphy is a sign that the new Donegal can rule for years, as the 23-year old has coupled his youthful exuberance with a cool head normally reserved for the mature players of a team. Murphy is within touching distance of winning Player of the Year and who could argue?
RIGHT CORNER-FORWARD: Colm O’Neill (Cork)– Cork forward O’Neill concludes the Team of the Year and his inclusion is down to nothing more than good old fashioned forward play. O’Neill has also brought a movement dimension that many found difficult to engage with this season but he and his team-mates were caught against Donegal, although even then O’Neill rendered a goal and three points from play. A dynamic and tough-to-mark forward, O’Neill is worth his weight in gold and he takes his place in the team as Cork’s sole representative.