We can now announce the nominees for the title of Balls.ie Man of the Year 2014.
Our esteemed panel have adjudicated on the longlist of names and have whittled it down to a shortlist of six. It is up to you now. Who will follow in the footsteps of past winners Eamon Keegan and Shane Curran...
You can read about the mission and ethos of the Balls Man of the Year awards here.
The tenner that Kerry keep happening upon in the arse pocket of their jeans (Malachy Clerkin, 20 Sept. 2014) was dropped into action with only moments remaining in the All-Ireland semi-final. He played about two minutes of championship football in 2013 and had only featured against Clare in 2014. Sure enough his prodigious fielding ability was pivotal as Kerry rustled up a goal that rescued their season.
He was at his snarling, influential best as Kerry won a famous victory in Limerick the following week. Too snarly for some Mayo fans, for whom he briefly became a figure of hate on twitter - tensions ran high.
And then the final. The goal, the performance, winning back Sam - all just the prequel to his post match interview with Joanne Cantwell. He may have kicked off a slightly annoying trend - but it wasn't annoying when he did it. Don't blame the shepherd.
In one hundred years time, when people tell the story of Mick Barrett, as they surely will, we suspect the number of stewards required to drag him off the pitch will likely have increased tenfold.
'There were 27 of the bastards who tried to get him out of there...'
Of such incidents are legends made. We also suspect that in Mayo, where the story will be most often told, the performance of Cormac Reilly will have gotten worse with each re-telling.
Mary Robinson, David Norris, Colm O'Gorman... liberal Ireland has many icons. To that galaxy of heroic progressives we can add the name of Ger Brennan.
In the past 25 years, we've had the introduction of divorce, contraception, the de-criminalisation of homosexuality. But we had to wait until 17 March 2014 for a victorious GAA captain to thank players' boyfriends from the steps of the Hogan Stand.
This is Eamon Dunphy's first nomination for Balls Man of the Year. Had the awards existed before 2012, he would surely have been nominated before now.
Approximately 0.0001% of people were offended by Eamon's 'inexactitude' but he showing surprising levels of tact, he apologised. He's a scruffy rebel no more.
But he wasn't done surprising us. There followed the truly remarkable Cadbury's ad with his blood brother Gilesy. Eamon was unsurprisingly the less stitled off the two when it came to moving. It was end of the world stuff.
2014 was the year of the British twitter reaction. We are aware that many consider this to be a dubious honour to bestow on any year. You see, we bear some responsibility for this phenomenon. We published the first ever British twitter reaction back on June 7th, following the extremely one-sided Kilkenny and Offaly Leinster championship match. It was a post idea that we thought might interest people. This proved to be correct.
The traffic on the post was simply extraordinary. It remains the most popular post in the history of the site. By some distance. Every other online publication quickly followed suit in an effort to capitalise on the Irish public's insatiable desire for finding out what British folk thought of hurling.
Quite what this says about the Irish people and their desire for external validation (particularly from English people), we'll leave up to others to decide.
The inevitable and very understandable backlash to this phenomenon kicked in shortly afterwards. Many publications, including this one, took flak for continually compiling BTR's in the wake of GAA matches that were broadcast on Sky. A sizeable proportion of the population grew to hate the BTR's and were not shy about saying so. However, the haters, no matter how numerous, did not seem to put much of a dent in the traffic on these posts. Clearly, the Irish public did not hate the British Twitter reaction so much that it discouraged them from clicking into it.
The star of the initial twitter reaction was one Mike Kay, who expressed a mixture of incredulity and admiration for those hardy souls who form the last line of defence at hurling matches. Mike himself was stunned by the reaction to his 'throwaway comment' and received phone calls from other Irish media organisations, asking him to elaborate on his early impressions of this strange sport. While the Balls Man of the Year award is normally restricted to Irish people, Mike, like Jack Charlton, could be considered an honorary Irishman at this stage. We await the ceremony confirming this.
Just watched 5 mins of Hurling, WTF is going on there's a GK but they keep smashing it over the bar how the fuck does he save that
— Mike Kay (@micky220406) June 7, 2014
Fergus McFadden has undoubtedly emerged as the Irish rugby player most likely to say something witty in a factfile questionnaire. Late on in the year, he described Joe Schmidt's perfectionism - saying that if you won the Euromillions, he'd be at you about not getting 'the plus numbers as well'. However, his greatest moment occurred when he reflected upon astonishing ovation that accompanied him coming off the bench for Brian O'Driscoll against Italy in the Six Nations.