Who’s the manager of the year between hurling and football?
Fintan O’Toole: There’s strong claims for Davy, JBM, Jim Gavin, John Allen, Anthony Daly and Malachy O’Rourke. But no other manager has to face the obstacles in preparing his team that Paul Coggins does. London may have been convincingly beaten in the Connacht final and lost out at the last 12 to Cavan, but that overlooks the feats of defeating Sligo and Leitrim in Connacht, competing in Croke Park and Lorcan Mulvey claiming their first Allstar nominee. They provided a treasure trove of memories and in a sad era of emigration, it was heartwarming to see Exiles having a link to home. Coggins deserves plenty of plaudits.
Patrick McCarry: I’ll go for Davy Fitz as he has done wonders with getting a spry, promising bunch of players to transfer their U21 form into the big boy’s league. My interest in hurling was consistently and pleasurably piqued all year by the dashing brand of hurling from the Banner. Davy is pure gold in pre-match interviews too but can no longer claim, post-match, that they are small fish.
Sinéad O’Carroll: Would anyone else have brought that Clare team to All-Ireland victory in Year Two? Has to be Davy Fitz for me. But with honorary mentions for Malachy O’Rourke, John Allen and Anthony Daly for their provincial efforts.
Steven O’Rourke: Paul Coggins. He got a rag-tag bunch of London footballers to a Connacht final. Not only that, but it’s worth remembering they also went in level at half-time with Cavan in their qualifier too. Mayo will probably walk the province for the next few years but London will be there or thereabouts in terms of final appearances.
Paul Fennessy: Without a doubt, Davy Fitzgerald. Jim Gavin helped an already excellent team – whose foundation had been put in place by Pat Gilroy – fulfill close to their full potential. However, for Fitzgerald, making Clare All-Ireland champions was much more of a long-term and improbable ambition, and hence, required even greater effort. Paul Coggins deserves a special mention too for what he achieved with London.
Niall Kelly: It shouldn’t be the case that an All-Ireland win is identified more with a manager than his players but this year was a real vindication for Davy Fitz. Yeah, there are plenty of people who still can’t stand him but you can’t deny his quality in turning a young Clare side full of potential into believers and then champions.
Paul Hosford: You have to give it to Davy Fitz, don’t you? Through gritted teeth, like, but you have to hand it to him. Yeah, the Clare team he inherited was talented, but he did what nobody could and got Clare over the line.
Ben Blake: To do what Jim Gavin managed to do in his first year in charge is quite remarkable. Okay, Dublin’s array of attacking talent is second to none and they were always going to in the shake-up but seamlessly introducing young players like Jack McCaffrey took real courage.
What player lit up the hurling championship?
Fintan O’Toole: Podge Collins. His tricky and diminutive presence posed problems for defences all summer long. For a standout moment take your pick from that hand pass against Galway, that point against Cork and that interview with TG4 after winning man-of-the-match in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling semi-final.
Patrick McCarry: Podge Collins produced some real gems for Clare in the championship and scored a crucial point – hounded and on the run – in the drawn final against Cork.
Sinéad O’Carroll: Anthony Nash. A gent on and off the field. He waited patiently while Donal Óg finished out his illustrious career but, boy, he was worth the wait. You could watch that strike versus Clare in the All-Ireland again and again. One man, one stick and one ball versus 13 men and their hurls. How can a sliotar be hit that sweetly after throwing it up to the skies? Massive shout for player of the year if it doesn’t go Tony Kelly’s way in Clare.
Steven O’Rourke: He was virtually anonymous in both the All-Ireland finals but Podge Collins shone brighter than most for the rest of the campaign for me. Anthony Nash also deserves an honourable mention even if his goal-scoring methods are, eh, interesting.
Paul Fennessy: There are several names for both Cork and Clare that could be considered contenders. Shane O’Donnell will be remembered in the record books for his match-winning performance in the final, but for more long-term consistency, it’s hard to look past Tony Kelly. For someone who only made his championship debut last year, he showed a remarkable level of composure and maturity throughout the campaign.
Niall Kelly: When was the last time we were so completely transfixed by a goalkeeper and his prowess at both ends of the pitch? Tony Kelly and Podge Collins had superb breakout seasons but for me, Anthony Nash was the hurler of the year.
Paul Hosford: Anthony Nash. Donal Óg is the best keeper ever in my opinion, but he never lit up a single championship the way Nash has. Wins against Kilkenny and Dublin and the draw against Clare all came down in a big part to his saves and, unbelievably, his scoring.
Ben Blake: I’m going with Clare’s Tony Kelly. The Ballyea youngster was in inspiring form for the Banner en route to winning their first All-Ireland title in 16 years. At 19, the forward has deservedly been nominated for both Hurler of the Year and Young Hurler of the Year and I’d have him ahead of the likes of team-mate Podge Collins and Cork’s Anthony Nash.
What player lit up the football championship?
Fintan O’Toole: Michael Darragh MacAuley. Simply outstanding at midfield all season in what was perceived at times as a problem area for the All-Ireland champions.
Patrick McCarry: Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey edges out Ciaran Kilkenny in my blue-tinted mind. He may not have had the final to remember but his electric pace and handy scoring knack drove The Dubs on. Scored a great goal against Cork.
Sinéad O’Carroll: Aidan O’Shea and his fringe.
Steven O’Rourke: Cillian O’Connor. All those goals, not to mention his free-taking, and he’s still only 21. Scary.
Paul Fennessy: It’s difficult to think of someone who was brilliant for the entire duration of the campaign. Aidan O’Shea, barring his somewhat disappointing performance in the final, was exceptional and played a significant role in getting Mayo that far. Ultimately though, Dublin’s Michael Darragh MacAuley deserves to be singled out on the basis of how flawlessly he performed for much of the championship.
Niall Kelly: Did any one footballer make this championship their own in the way that Nash or Collins did in the hurling? Probably not. MacAuley will deservedly be Footballer of the Year but for an exemplary one-off that will live long in the memory, it’s hard to beat Colm Cooper’s masterclass against the Dubs.
Paul Hosford: Aidan O’Shea did up until the final but was fairly poor in the decider. For me, the emergence of Michael Dara MacAuley as not just a promising player, but as a midfield general, was something to behold. Dublin were supposed to be weak in midfield, but bossed the game against Cork and then used the midfield as a platform to beat Kerry.
Ben Blake: He was criticised for the length of time he took to send over a couple of frees when Mayo were chasing the game late on the All-Ireland final but the Connacht champions wouldn’t have been there in the first place if it wasn’t for Cillian O’Connor’s superb free-taking.
Thoughts on your own county after 2013?
Fintan O’Toole: A progressive year for the Cork hurlers even if it did not yield silverware. Contributed richly to the two-game All-Ireland final saga but had to give way to a superior team. Additions to the panel would help but players like Horgan, Nash and Harnedy – the breakthrough player of the year – enhanced their standing. The Cork footballers had a frustrating year as they never seemed to tap into their best form. History is likely to judge departed boss Conor Counihan kindly and his successor has plenty to work with, even if they are now a rung below the likes of Dublin and Mayo on the football ladder.
Patrick McCarry: Pretty chuffed about the Dublin footballers and hopeful for a mini dynasty, which in this ever-evolving GAA world means two years. It’s a real shame the hurlers could not get to the final but a Leinster title and great wins over Kilkenny and Galway will keep them warm over the winter. Good to see Anthony Daly is sticking around.
Sinéad O’Carroll: In the end, there has been too much focus on management instead of the wider setup of Kildare football and hurling. On a positive note, there are some really committed and impressive young footballers on the rise. The likes of Paul Cribben, Paddy Brophy and Niall Kelly will have learned a lot about the pressure of Senior Championship. Hopefully that will stand to them in the years to come.
Steven O’Rourke: It’s hard to know how to feel about Kildare. We went into the season being tipped as an outside bet for All-Ireland glory – or, at least TheScore.ie‘s Niall Kelly was tipping us – to parting ways with the manager after some underwhelming performances. Like Sinead, I think there are definitely some positives to draw but it feels as if we’ve been rebuilding longer than the Sagrada Família at this stage.
Paul Fennessy: Not much to be negative about at all. The Dublin footballers played some great stuff and unquestionably deserved their triumph. The hope now is that they build on their success. The difficulty of retaining an All-Ireland has been well documented, but there is so much depth and talent within the current squad that it genuinely feels like they have the potential to acquire a legacy as one of the truly great GAA sides. The hurlers, similarly, had an encouraging year, and cannot be ruled out of winning next year’s All-Ireland, especially given how unpredictable the past few months have been. I also have a grandmother from Clare. Can I claim them too?
Niall Kelly: Strip away all the rhetoric and Jim Gavin’s footballers were still an absolute pleasure to watch this season. Winning is great; winning while playing beautiful football is even better. Delighted that Dalo is staying on with the hurlers as well. If they can produce similar performances next summer, they’ll be in the Championship shake-up again.
Paul Hosford: In the hurling: we made a final and were 15 seconds away from snatching a Liam MacCarthy. We then didn’t perform in the replay and were deservedly beaten. Overall, a massive step forward and one that we have the players and management to build on. The unearthing of Seamus Harnedy was a real plus. In football: A disappointing end to Conor Counihan’s reign. Only an amazing last 10 minutes against Galway stands out after lacklustre performances against Kerry and Dublin.
Ben Blake: An incredible year for the Dubs winning Leinster titles in both codes with the footballers going all the way and the hurlers continuing to develop under Anthony Daly.
One moment from GAA 2013 that you won’t forget?
Fintan O’Toole: Kevin Moran’s Superman impression in drawing Waterford level against Kilkenny in the qualifiers.
Go to 5:56
Patrick McCarry: Walking out to the shops and seeing Dublin concede a third goal to Kerry and thinking, on my five-minute walk, ‘We’ve had it’. By the time I had returned, Dublin were back in the mix. A crazy, crazy game of football.
Sinéad O’Carroll: As a club camogie player in Kildare, we don’t witness too many great days but we were blessed with one this year as we watched our ladies play in Croke Park for the first time since 1990. And they won the Premier Junior All-Ireland final in style, meaning next year they will play Division Two league and Intermediate Championship – a win for the whole county and game. On a more personal note, it was with immense pride I saw my sister Susie score 2-2 to help that side to victory. After over 10 years of commitment to Kildare camogie, it was nothing less than she deserved.
Steven O’Rourke: This, a thousand times this.
Paul Fennessy: Incredible as the two hurling finals were, as a Dub, it’d have to be the Kerry semi-final and in particular, the unbearable tension of the last few minute. Anthony Daly’s tears after the hurlers’ Leinster final victory are a close second.
Niall Kelly: Nobody who was at Dublin v Kerry will ever forget it; a real privilege. Domhnall O’Donovan’s equalising point in the drawn hurling game is a close second.
Ben Blake: I love this picture of Jonny Cooper consoling Mayo keeper Robert Hennelly after the final whistle.
Credit: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan