The great Drew Wylie retired from intercounty football this week alongside fellow Monaghan stalwart Colin Walshe.
Wylie was one of the best defenders of his generation. His brilliance was patently obvious to anyone who watched him play, and he had a folk hero quality amongst the Farney Army. Wylie lifted the Anglo-Celt trophy twice, but his intercounty career deserved more silverware at a national level, or at least an All-Star.
However, Wylie was unlucky to hit his peak as a player in an age of Dublin domination.
His club Ballybay Pearses posted a stirring tribute to the defender last night. It's a wonderful summation of Wylie's greatness as a footballer, but the author also fired a dart at the GAA media, who in their wisdom never deemed Wylie worthy of an All-Star.
Here's the line in question:
A 3 time All Star nominee who would have surely won at least one award if his fellow players were voting instead of the genteel cabal of journalists, who play checks and balances instead of picking the best player in each position.
'Genteel cabal' is a wonderful dig, but is it fair?
The dig is not too subtle criticism of the 2018 All-Star selection. The 2018 All-Star team still is a sore point amongst some GAA supporters. Monaghan were tremendous that summer, and with a bit more ruthlessness, could have defeated Tyrone in the All-Ireland semifinal. Drew Wylie was the outstanding fullback of the 2018 Championship; few would debate that.
However, when the All-Star team was selected, Colm Cavanagh was chosen at fullback, a position he did not actually play that season. Cavanagh was totemic for Tyrone in 2018, but he was playing the 'Colm Cavanagh' sweeper role. He was fully deserving of an All-Star, but given the slippery definition of the sweeper's position, the voting panel decided to place him at #3 at Wylie's expense.
Cavanagh won an All-Star in the midfield in 2017, further confusing matters.
In fairness to the selection panel, the sport of gaelic football had evolved beyond players holding rigid positions, making All Star team selection complicated.
The 2018 team spawned loads of debate as Stephen Cluxton did not receive an All-Star at goalkeeper (Wylie's teammate Rory Beggan took the gong) despite his tremendous season.
All-Stars or no All-Stars, Wylie's excellence is not up for debate. Here's the Ballybay statement in full.
Almost 13 years to the day since he made his debut for Monaghan in the Mckenna Cup v UUJ, Drew Wylie has announced his retirement from inter county football.
Drew will go down as one of the greatest Monaghan footballers of all time.
A 3 time All Star nominee who would have surely won at least one award if his fellow players were voting instead of the genteel cabal of journalists, who play checks and balances instead of picking
the best player in each position.
But Drew didn't need official recognition. He is without doubt of the most beloved footballers in Monaghan's history. A man who let his ability do the talking got everything he could out of his career.
An example of this is when the County Board got the players to ring older fans during Covid, Drew was the most requested player, by a mile.
The bigger the stage, the better he performed. He made his Championship debut in 2012 and was fixture for the next number of years. It is no coincidence that Monaghan had their most successful modern era when Drew became a regular.
He was outstanding in the 2013 and 2015 Ulster Finals and was probably Monaghan's best player in the 2018 semi final v Tyrone, his point from a tight angle in the dying minutes almost gave Monaghan a draw.
He was an absolute colossus for Monaghan and often put the team on his back to get them over the line. Drew Wylie is an example for any young footballer to follow. He was tough and hard but never dirty but most of all, he could play. His point off his left foot v Kildare in the 2014 was a sight to behold.
His last start for Monaghan was v Dublin in the epic NFL game last March and Drew performed brilliantly in shutting down Dean Rock to help Monaghan stay in Division One for another year. So Drew left at the top, where he spent most of his career.
In future, whenever there is a discussion on the greatest Monaghan 15 of all time, Drew will not be in the conversation, he will be on the team. Congratulations Drew, a gentleman, a warrior and a credit to his family and his club.