Limerick’s Cian Lynch, seen here in action against Cork’s Sean O’Donoghue during the eventual All-Ireland finalists’ Munster SHC semi-final clash in July, was among 12 Limerick players named as All Stars for 2021. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

All Stars cheaper by the dozen

A good friend of mine in the same line of work has always emphasised to me how much disdain he has for ‘man of the match’ accolades (not cracked about them myself) and, in particular, the annual GAA All Star awards, in what are team sports.

And there is no denying that he makes valid points. Except for the overly-hyped Ryder Cup (sure whichever side wins never does a tour of American or European schools like an inter-county or club championship-winning side), golf is one of many individual sports which I love watching (and the only one I find better on television than in the flesh), and a ‘golfer of the year’ award is fair game. Likewise, with tennis etc.

Needless to say, when I deliberately asked him what he thought of last week’s decisions by the All Star selectors, especially the 12 statuettes going to Limerick hurlers, he threw his eyes up to heaven, a destination many of us fear we won’t reach and where those deceased former recipients (old-style ‘pudgy but deadly’ Cork corner forward par excellence Seanie O’Leary being the latest) were probably throwing their eyes up even further (if there is a higher location in the clouds).

All of fifty years ago, those of us old enough to remember the original Carroll’s All Stars scheme (and the must-have glitzy colour posters that accompanied them and were displayed in pubs – think about it, fags and booze, two no-go areas for most modern footballers and hurlers at a certain level) liked the idea that the gongs, while understandably favouring those who made the latter stages of their respective senior championships, also recognised National League heroics and general all-round displays in mucky conditions. Witness a boyhood hero of this columnist, Sligo’s irrepressible scorer-in-chief Mickey Kearins, being on the first football team selected in 1971.

A column I put together four years ago honed in on my immense pride when Ringtown maestro David Kilcoyne garnered the Lake County’s first All Star award in either code when he was named on the 1986 hurling team of the year in very elite company. It was to be 15 years before Rory O’Connell got our first football statuette, the towering Athlone midfielder deservedly being named after a memorable ‘back door’ campaign which could actually have yielded Sam (how are these days, you heart-breaker Ollie Murphy?).

John Keane (two – and good luck to the former Rosemount defender in his new role with Jack Cooney), Dessie Dolan and Gary Connaughton kept the maroon and white flag flying at (pre-Covid) award banquets. Frankly, additions to that list look highly unlikely in the short-term, despite the presence of top class players on both the squads managed by the aforementioned Cooney and Joe Fortune.

Now back to Limerick’s 12 apostles (and not a Judas in sight). Good luck to John Kiely’s multi-talented dozen, even if the unlucky threesome will wonder why they were confined to the selectors’ ‘naughty steps’. As oft-referred to, this then-hirsute scribe started an accounting apprenticeship on September 3, 1973, the day after Eamonn Grimes and co had ended a 33-year famine by lifting Liam in the rain in Croke Park (rest in peace recently deceased full forward Ned Rea, whose hostelry on Parkgate St was a great stop-off point on journeys home from GAA headquarters). I’ve had a soft spot for the green and white-clad outfit ever since and am delighted with the recent glut of titles won by a truly superb side. But 12 All Stars? No thanks.

If Cork can’t win even one having reached the All-Ireland final, what chance does a modern-day David Kilcoyne have? Lest we forget it, his richly-deserved award came courtesy of promotion to Division 1 and an excellent display against the Cats in a league quarter-final (the match report of which I only read two weeks ago in a very fair piece in the Kilkenny People from April 1986). Indeed, Westmeath went on to be hammered unexpectedly in the first round of the Leinster championship by Laois (and well done to the O’Moore County champions Clough Ballacolla on their great victory last Saturday against Raharney’s conquerors Kilmacud Crokes).

There is no denying that Limerick were head and shoulders above the rest of the small ball game’s other top counties in 2021, albeit Tipperary had them in all sorts of bother for a long stretch of the Munster final. However, I would argue that Mick O’Dwyer’s Kerry team in their pomp were every bit as dominant in the big ball game as their northern neighbours are now in hurling, particularly as Heffo’s Dubs began to age. I suspect there would have been outrage had men in green and gold even got double-figure awards, never mind a dozen. And for those who argue that the Covid-induced knockout format in 2021 was a cause of Limerick’s 12 names on the team list, let us recall that ‘back doors’ were firmly shut pre-2001 in football (ironically, Cork, the Kingdom’s annual victims in the Munster final would have been the biggest beneficiaries had Qualifiers existed).

Perhaps I am just getting old and contrary (older and more contrary?). Indeed, two mates with whom I carried on a delightful three and-a-half decade tradition of meeting up for Christmas again last Saturday night, were laughing that our festive chat has now come down to, ‘How many tablets are you on?’ However, yours truly feels that awarding Limerick a dozen places on the hurling team of 2021 is a complete pain in the ass (All Star scheme).