By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — The GAA All Stars and the All-Ireland championships tend to go hand in hand, and this season the story was no different as players from Offaly and Galway took the lion’s share of the hurling and football awards.
Both counties had seven representatives on each team, while three of the four Clare hurlers who won awards, Ollie Baker, Seanie McMahon and Jamesie O’Connor, all come from the St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield club. If that accolade wasn’t enough for St. Joseph’s, they went out last Sunday and won the Munster title for good measure.
For Joe Dooley, a first award finally materialized after 14 years in the Offaly colors. Having missed out in previous years, Dooley earned overdue recognition after a highly impressive season and his masterly display in the second All-Ireland semifinal replay against Clare was hurling at its very best.
Meanwhile, Waterford’s Tony Browne, who was also voted Hurler of the Year by his fellow players, and Baker were uncontested as a midfield pairing, and if there was some controversy over Brian Whelahan’s inclusion at full forward instead of defense, there was no doubt that Whelahan fully deserved his award.
As Leinster champions and All-Ireland runners-up, Kilkenny might have been disappointed with their two awards, which went to Willie O’Connor and Charlie Carter. However, no other Kilkenny players made a lasting impression on the season.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Martin Storey was Wexford’s lone representative at center-forward, while Offaly’s Stephen Byrne and Michael Duignan joined Dooley as All Star first-timers.
Not surprisingly, Galway dominated the football selection with their magnificent seven, but on this occasion, Kildare weren’t too far behind with five. The Connacht and All-Ireland champions had at least one player in every area of the pitch.
From Martin McNamara in goal to Padraig Joyce at full-forward, it was due recognition for a magnificent summer and Jarlath Fallon capped Galway’s historic season by scooping the Footballer of the Year award.
Kildare earned their share of the honors as Brian Lacey, John Finn, Glen Ryan, Dermot Earley and Karl O’Dwyer all won awards and it was a special occasion for Earley, whose father Dermot had also tasted All Star success in the past with Roscommon.
There was also a bit of history for corner forward Declan Browne, who became Tipperary’s first-ever football All Star. Browne amassed a spectacular 2-29 in just four championship games. In a season when Tipp’s hurlers failed to make the selection, he struck a telling blow for football in the county.
Stephen Byrne (Offaly); Willie O’Connor (Kilkenny), Kevin Kinahan (Offaly), Martin Hanamy (Offaly); Anthony Daly (Clare), Seanie McMahon (Clare), Kevin Martin (Offaly); Tony Browne (Waterford), Ollie Baker (Clare); Michael Duignan (Offaly), Martin Storey (Wexford), Jamesie O’Connor (Clare); Joe Dooley (Offaly), Brian Whelahan (Offaly), Charlie Carter (Kilkenny).
Martin McNamara (Galway); Brian Lacey (Kildare), Sean Martin Lockhart (Derry), Tomas Mannion (Galway); John Finn (Kildare), Glen Ryan (Kildare), Sean Og de Paor (Galway); Kevin Walsh (Galway), John McDermott (Meath); Michael Donnellan (Galway), Jarlath Fallon (Galway), Dermot Earley (Kildare); Karl O’Dwyer (Kildare), Padraig Joyce (Galway), Declan Browne (Tipperary).