By Jack Maguire
Another year of all-star selections and another year wondering how we can improve on the current system.
There’s no doubting that the players selected were amongst the best in the country, hurling and football, but the variety of players from different counties needs to change.
In the last three years Dublin have dominated the All-Stars with just under 50% of the selections. There is no question that they have been the most dominant force the past three seasons, but there selections are merely based on the fact they have reached the final, and won the Sam Maguire.
Similarly in hurling, taking the last three winners (Kilkenny, Tipperary and Galway) into account, the winners have accounted for 21 of the 45 all-stars in each of the last three years. Just this year, Waterford and Galway (All-Ireland hurling finalists) had 12 of the 15 selections.
In the current system, there’s no doubt that the All-Ireland winners and finalists alike deserve to win All-stars. They play at the pinnacle of the sport while all other teams’ and players’ seasons have ended, and for some, ended months previous.
This is why the system is flawed however. Mayo played 9 championship games in all this year, while some counties only played 3 or 4. Dublin won every game they played in this year’s championship and most by a healthy margin, most of their players could have won all-stars. What about a standout player on a small county who plays exceptional in every game he plays in, but ultimately his county get knocked out early in the summer?
Basing the All-Stars on a championship were some teams get to play 50% more matches is wrong. In the NBA, there are play-offs were the top 16 teams (of 30) battle until they are left with one. It would be unfair to pick the best players from this bunch (although most are) so their All-Stars are decided in the regular season, when each team plays the same amount of games.
A possible solution could be that All-Star selection is based on performance in the league. Although there will be different opposition for most teams, it seems like a more balanced playing field than the current system whereby you will need to make the All-Ireland quarter finals to even be within a sniff of a possible selection.
In saying all this however, most will agree that Andy Moran and Joe Canning were the standout players in both codes this year. Con O’Callaghan was also deserving of his place and former DIT alumni Aidan O’Shea stood up for Mayo during their long run to the final. But for me, I would love to see a greater mix of players, a Kevin Feely, a Lee Chin or someone to break the mould of the selections coming from ‘the best 4 or 5 teams’.