AS THE CURTAINS fall down on the 2019 inter-county campaign, the only issues left to be resolved are the end-of-season awards that will be handed out in November.
Five-in-a-row champions Dublin are expected to dominate the All-Star team and they’ve plenty of contenders to be crowned Footballer of the Year too.
Five Dublin players have won the top prize this decade – Bernard Brogan, Alan Brogan, Michael Darragh Macauley, Jack McCaffrey and Brian Fenton – and they’re likely to add another this winter.
Let’s have a look at the frontrunners for the award.
1. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)
O’Callaghan was selected as the Sunday Game panel’s top footballer of 2019, confirming his status as the frontrunner for the crown. One of three former Young Footballers of the Year on this list, O’Callaghan reached new heights this summer.
He became Dublin’s primary score getter and finished as their top scorer from play with 4-14 in eight games. He bulked up during the off-season and proved a nightmare for defenders all summer. The 23-year-old shone with a four-point haul on Saturday night. The Cuala star will only get better in the coming years, given he’s just completed his third season as a starter.
2. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
At 37, Cluxton would be the oldest player in history to land the honour. Offaly legend Martin Furlong was 36 when he was named Footballer of the Year in 1982 after his side prevented Kerry from doing the five-in-a-row.
The Parnells stopper’ is the most influential player of the modern game. After saving a penalty in the drawn game, he gave another big display on the replay as Dublin lost just two of his kick-outs and he made an important stop on Stephen O’Brien.
Billy Morgan (in 1971) was the only other goalkeeper to win the top prize, could Cluxton become the third?
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3. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
A previous winner in 2015, McCaffrey was also shortlisted for the award last year. He’s been one of Dublin’s most consistent players during their current unbeaten run.
McCaffrey’s performance and his tally of 1-3 in the first game will go down as one of the great All-Ireland final displays. He stood up on an afternoon where a number of Dublin’s key men endured quiet games.
A hamstring injury which prevented him from sprinting saw Dublin remove the Clontarf flyer at the interval, but he enjoyed another stellar season.
4. David Clifford (Kerry)
Clifford is the only non-Dublin player to make our shortlist. Given the competition for places in the full-forward line he’s not a guaranteed All-Star but remains the most likely candidate from a county outside the champions to win the top prize.
It’s hard to believe he only made his debut last year, such is the influence Clifford already has on his team. He managed to kick 0-5 in the replay, four from play, despite being tightly marked by Mick Fitzsimons and with Jonny Cooper sweeping in front.
He posted 0-24 this summer in seven games and created a whole lot more.
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5. Paul Mannion (Dublin)
Mannion is in enjoying the best spell in his football career. He’ll win his third All-Star in-a-row this winter and 2019 will go down as his strongest season in the Dublin jersey.
Mannion helped Kilmacud Crokes lift the Dublin SFC title 12 months ago and continued his excellent form right through 2019. He clipped over 0-5 in a semi-final masterclass against Mayo and chipped in with six points over the two finals.
6. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
Kilkenny’s brilliant replay showing gives him an outside chance of winning the top award. He was unfortunate to lose out to Fenton a year ago when the Raheny man was crowned Footballer of the Year.
Kilkenny kicked four points in Saturday’s final from centre-forward and dictated the Dublin attack. He was quiet in the drawn game but delivered in a big way on his second outing.
Honourable mentions: Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Sean O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien, David Moran, Paul Geaney.
Who do you think deserves to be named 2019 Footballer of the Year? Let us know in the comments section below.
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