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Has Stephen Cluxton Become A Victim Of His And Dublin's Success?

Has Stephen Cluxton Become A Victim Of His And Dublin's Success?

The PwC Football All-Stars were named this morning, with Dublin unsurprisingly dominating the XV. They had nine players included in the side, a number that has only been matched in two previous years.

Of course, we shouldn't be surprised by the amount of Dubs that have won All-Stars this year. They claimed a record sixth consecutive Sam Maguire, doing so with an average winning margin of 14.8 points. That is the highest margin of any of their previous All-Ireland successes.

The other six places on the team went to the players from the other provincial winners, with Cavan earning three, Mayo winning two, and a Tipperary man taking the final spot.

While Dublin certainly cannot complain with the amount of players they have in the side, there is one notable absentee.

Stephen Cluxton was not selected at goalkeeper, with Cavan's Raymond Galligan taking that spot instead. Galligan was certainly a worthy winner and this is not to say otherwise. We're not even necessarily arguing that Cluxton deserved the award in this specific year.

However, this means that the Dublin captain has won one All-Star in the last seven years. He has 'only' been named in the team six times overall.

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That is definitely no small number and one any inter-county player should be proud of, but it doesn't quite match the impact Cluxton has had on the sport over the last two decades.

Since making his championship debut in 2001, the Parnells man has revolutionised the goalkeeping position in Gaelic football. So much more is now expected of those who take the number one jersey and that is almost entirely down to his exploits with Dublin.

Once regarded merely as the necessary restarting of the game after a dead ball, kick-outs are now perhaps the most important aspect of the sport. The way Cluxton and Dublin managed those situations to retain possession gave a template for success in the modern game, one that has been replicated at all levels throughout the country.

It is certainly no exaggeration to say that the 39-year old has had a bigger impact on the sport than anybody in the modern era. That is what makes his haul of All-Stars seem relatively paltry.

Of course, there are a number of mitigating factors to consider here. The first one is his position.

Unlike any other spot on the field, there is only one goalkeeper selected each year. There is no way that Cluxton or another goalkeeper could be thrown in at wing forward in order to earn a gong, something that we regularly see with outfield players being selected out of position.

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There are no shortage of quality goalkeepers in the country and inevitably two or three worthy candidates miss out each year.

The second, and perhaps most telling, factor is Cluxton and Dublin's consistency. They say success can breed complacency, and while that hasn't been the case on the pitch for Dublin, voters may have taken Cluxton for granted because he has been so good for so long.

The standard of his performances have been so high for such a lengthy period that they can often be overlooked. Brilliance is expected and therefore often underappreciated.

Dublin's team success also no doubt plays a part, with Cluxton often worked far less than other goalkeepers who make it to an All-Ireland final. The advantage he holds over his peers is that he can be so influential on a game without even making a save, although he is certainly no slouch in that area.

There was a similar phenomena with Kilkenny goalkeeper in the hurling All-Stars for a number of years, with only goalkeeper from the county winning the award from 1994-2015, despite Kilkenny winning 11 All-Irelands during this period. It's difficult to think that something similar isn't happening to Cluxton.

Again, none of this is to disparage those who have been selected ahead of the Dubliner over the years. You just get the sense that when he does eventually hang up his boots, we will be asking how he didn't win more individual accolades.

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PWC Football All-Stars

Gary Connaughton

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