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The Football Team Of The Year Outside Of The Finalists

The Football Team Of The Year Outside Of The Finalists
By Gavin Cooney Updated

The Sunday Game Team of the Year was dominated by Dublin and Mayo: Paul Geaney the only man not to compete in the All-Ireland final to get the nod by RTE's ensemble of football brains.

To shake it up, we are continuing our tradition of naming the best XV of players outside of the finalist from the Championship that was. We did the hurling team a fortnight ago, which you can catch up with here.

Goalkeeper

Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

The Tyrone 'stopper had another solid year: conceding a single goal before being faced with the Blue Wave at Croke Park in the semi-final. He did pepper the Ulster final with a couple of unseemly sledging incidents, but was the outstanding 'keeper of the year. In the course of research for this piece, we found a very curious line in his Wikipedia bio: "He became known for taking good frees in the League and poor frees in the Championship in 2013". Now known as one of the best goalkeepers around.

Full-back line

David Murray (Roscommon)

While Roscommon's championship ultimately went up in hideous fashion, there were some glorious moments to pluck from the wreckage. The Connacht final victory over Galway was utterly comprehensive - the nine-point margin flattered Galway - and corner-back Murray embodied Roscommon's outlandish energy levels in Salthill, and was still bombing forward late in the game.

Ronan McNamee (Tyrone) 

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Like Roscommon, Tyrone's championship was blemished by a dreadful end, but there was much to be proud of too: they conceded just 1-46 in four Championship games prior to The Incident With The Dubs, with fullback McNamee to the fore in a mean defence.

Cathal McCarron (Tyrone)

McCarron recently dispelled rumours he may do a Seanie Johnston with the Kildare footballers, now that he is taking up club football in the county. He would be a huge asset to the Lilywhites, as he had another impressive year with Tyrone. An All-Star nominee in the past, don't bet against him repeating the trick in 2017.

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Half-back line

Paul Murphy (Kerry) 

Murphy can hold his head high when reflecting on Kerry's championship. He breezed through Munster with the rest of his teammates, and was one of the few to perform in Croke Park. Man of the match against Galway in the quarter-final, he helped to shackle Lee Keegan in the drawn semi-final, in which he scored a critical point. Got lost amid the addled gameplan for the replay.

Colm Cavanagh (Tyrone)

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His brother took his leave of inter-county football to rightful acclaim, but Colm is an underrated but integral member of the Tyrone defensive system: few sweep as effectively in today's game, so we'll include him at centre-back here. Down's Kevin McKernan can consider himself unlucky to miss out, mind.

Peter Harte (Tyrone) 

No dramatic Ulster-final winning heroics by Harte this year (they weren't necessary) but is one of very few half-backs in the country that would walk into either the Mayo or Dublin team.

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Midfield

Sean Murphy (Carlow)

Carlow's year was of historic proportions, and Murphy's name will forever be associated with it. Man of the Match against the Dubs, Murphy was said to be too dejected to grant an interview. He later earned more fame: he sheared 50 sheep the morning of the Monaghan game. An outstanding year.

Kevin Feely (Kildare) 

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Among Kildare's no-longer-lost generation is midfielder Kevin Feely, who has returned from a spell playing soccer across the channel to dominate the skies at Kildare matches. He was a lynchpin for Kildare across the rest of the championship and at just 25, there are bigger things to come.

 

Half-forward line

Jamie Clarke (Armagh)

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Okay, we've had to do a little bit of shifting about in the forward line to accommodate everyone. But Clarke had the Championship he has threatened for years. While Armagh perished beneath a loury Dublin sky against Tyrone, Clarke's exploits in the qualifiers lit up Armagh's championship on his return from New York. Particularly that goal against Tipperary. 

Ciaran Murtagh (Roscommon)

Murtagh is Roscommon captain at just 25, and with good reason: he is a true leader in the forward line. His work rate in the Connacht final was simply astonishing, eventually carted off the field utterly exhausted. He also scored the second goal against Mayo to allow Roscommon dream..before gravity caught up with them. A fine 2017.

Enda Smith (Roscommon)

There is no greater compliment in the modern game than being marked by Lee Keegan. Smith was majestic in the Connacht final, ruling the skies against larger and more experienced Galway opponents, meaning he was targeted by Keegan, Rochford and Mayo in the quarter-final. Keegan naturally kept him quiet, but Smith had an outstanding year that portends more success for Roscommon over the next few years.

Full-forward line 

Daniel Flynn (Kildare)

Okay, Flynn's a full-forward, but we had to include him in this team. Man of the Match against Meath, Flynn went on to score one of the points of the season against the Dubs in the Leinster final. 

Kieran Donaghy (Kerry)

The ageless Donaghy essentially beat Galway single-handedly before sending Mayo into convulsions, leading to Aidan O'Shea learning on the job as a full-back. The year ended with a red and a few mutterings of 'what a way to go for Donaghy..'. We shouldn't believe them.

Paul Geaney (Kerry) 

Amid the disaster of the Mayo replay, Geaney bravely battled the dying of Kerry's light in a largely solo mission. Geaney terrorised every defence he faced this year, and his 1-30 was bettered only by Conor McManus and Cillian O'Connor this year.

Honourable mentions: Conor McManus, Padraig Hampsey, Paddy McBrearty, Niall Grimley, Donnacha O'Connor, Paul Broderick, Connaire Harrison, Kevin McKernan, Paddy Brophy, Diarmuid Murtagh, Tiernan McCann, David Moran.

See Also: 8 Of The Strangest Moments From This Year's Football Championship

 

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