History to be made by 2020 PwC All-Stars
By Cian Murphy
Not one but two major landmarks are set to be reached when the 2020 PwC All-Stars are announced over the coming days.
The PwC Football All-Stars celebrating the cream of the performers in the 2020 Championship will be announced on Friday morning.
They will be followed then with the unveiling of the star-studded PwC Hurling All-Stars as part of a TV programme screened by RTÉ on Saturday evening where the players and young players of the year will also be crowned.
The iconic awards scheme stretches back to 1971 making this the 50th year of the prestigious GAA/GPA backed initiative.
This means that the left corner forward position on the PwC Hurling team will be the 1,500th All-Stars award to have been presented in those 50 years.
Not only that, the PwC football team is also expected to break new ground.
When you strip out the multiple award winners, at present there have been 799 inter-county players since 1971 who have won all-stars, 427 footballers and 372 hurlers.
This means that there is every chance that the 800 mark will be reached in the course of the football selection with several high profile Cavan and Tipperary players boasting strong claims for inclusion alongside Dublin and Mayo stalwarts in the final 15 and which would land them a first ever all-star.
The man behind these numbers is Jim O’Sullivan, the hugely respected former Gaelic Games Correspondent of the Examiner.
A sports reporter on Leeside since 1964 and the Examiner’s GAA Correspondent since the inaugural year of the All-Star scheme in 1971, he was involved in picking teams until 2009 and has kept meticulous records throughout the lifespan of the scheme.
There had been unofficial awards in place in the 1960s but an initiative among GAA Correspondents driven by the late RTÉ icon Mick Dunne led to the formal establishment by the GAA of the All-Stars scheme in 1971 with Offaly goalkeeper Damien Martin the first ever player awarded.
For Jim O’Sullivan, the prestige of being an All-Star is something that endures.
“Absolutely, it is something that has stood the test of time,” O’Sullivan told GAA.ie. “It is a huge honour for players to be selected as an All-Star. When you would get to meet players at the banquet or later when on tours you knew how much it had meant to them.
“What made an All-Star for me was consistency number one and then ability and then to cap it all off if he was a guy who was a sportsman.”
O’Sullivan recalls with fondness now the robust nature of those selection meetings – particularly in early years when there was a large selection committee involved.
Getting unanimity on the selection was never possible and there’s no doubt that there have been high profile omissions and some shock exclusions. If anything, it has added to the aura around the All-Stars that it represents the chosen few.
“There was sometimes controversy. You could never say ‘that’s my All-Star team’ because you might only agree with 10 or 11 of the final team chosen but by and large the best players in a given year were selected.
“Leaks had led to a secret ballot being introduced. But that was a reason why there was the embarrassing omission of Brian Whelahan in 1994. The late Joe McDonagh was President in 1997 when that was removed and there was a different approach and fewer leaks.”
Aside from the awards and the big black tie presentation night, the introduction from 1972 of tours to foreign soil added another huge attraction to being included.
In terms of county representation there hasn’t been a new member of the All-Star club since Louth’s Paddy Keenan in 2010.
Longford, Carlow, Waterford, Limerick and Kilkenny are the counties still waiting on a football award.
However, in the case of the Cats, O’Sullivan singles out the talismanic Tommy Walsh from Tullaroan as his stand-out All-Star.
“The one that’s stands out for me would be Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh because he won nine in a row but also because he was named across three different positions in defence, midfield and the forwards which is just exceptional.”
Henry Shefflin leads the way in hurling with the Kilkenny legend having won 11 All-Stars. In football, Kerry hero Pat Spillane is a holder of nine awards.
All-Ireland champions tend to feature prominently, and the 2020 selections will likely follow suit as Dublin and Limerick enjoyed such success last season.
Dublin’s biggest haul in terms of representation was the nine awards they claimed in 1977. It was a highlight not seen again until Kerry four years later.
Kilkenny have hit the nine mark three times – in 1983, 2000 and 2008. Limerick’s biggest total was the six awards captured when they won the Liam McCarthy in 2018.
In addition to the teams of the year being announced, the overall players and young players of the year will be announced – these decisions having been made by the players themselves.
PwC All-Stars Football nominations 2020
David Clarke (Mayo), Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), Raymond Galligan (Cavan)
Davey Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons, Eoin Murchan, John Small, Robbie McDaid (all Dublin)
Oisín Mullin, Eoghan McLaughlin, Lee Keegan, Chris Barrett, Patrick Durcan (all Mayo)
Ciarán Brady, Padraig Faulkner, Gerry Smith (all Cavan),
Kevin Fahy, Bill Maher (Tipperary)
Iain Corbett (Limerick), Aidan Forker (Armagh), Peadar Mogan (Donegal).
James McCarthy (Dublin), Brian Fenton (Dublin), Colin O’Riordan (Tipperary), Gearóid McKiernan (Cavan), Matthew Ruane (Mayo), Ian Maguire (Cork)
Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, Ciarán Kilkenny, Dean Rock, Seán Bugler (all Dublin)
Cillian O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin, Ryan O’Donoghue, Aidan O’Shea, Tommy Conroy (all Mayo)
Martin Reilly, Thomas Galligan (Cavan)
Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy (Galway)
Michael Langan, Ciarán Thompson (Donegal)
Conor Sweeney (Tipperary), David Clifford (Kerry)
PwC GAA/GPA Young Footballer of the Year nominees
Oisín Mullin, Tommy Conroy, Eoghan McLaughlin (all Mayo)
PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year nominees
Brian Fenton (Dublin), Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin), Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)
PwC All-Stars Hurling nominations 2020
Stephen O’Keeffe (Waterford), Nickie Quaid (Limerick), Eibhear Quilligan (Clare)
Seán Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash, Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes (all Limerick)
Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty, Calum Lyons, Tadhg De Burcá (all Waterford)
Daithí Burke, Aidan Harte, Pádraic Mannion (all Galway)
Conor Delaney, Padraig Walsh (Kilkenny)
Rory Hayes (Clare), Mark Coleman (Cork), Ronan Maher (Tipperary)
Will O’Donoghue (Limerick), Cian Lynch (Limerick), Jamie Barron (Waterford), Tony Kelly (Clare), Michael Breen (Tipperary), Conor Browne (Kilkenny).
Gearóid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Graeme Mulcahy (all Limerick)
Stephen Bennett, Dessie Hutchinson, Austin Gleeson, Jack Fagan (all Waterford)
Brian Concannon, Joe Canning, Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion (all Galway)
TJ Reid, John Donnelly (Kilkenny)
Donal Burke (Dublin), Cathal Malone (Clare), Shane Kingston (Cork)
PwC GAA/GPA Young Hurler of the Year nominees
Jake Morris (Tipperary), Eoin Cody (Kilkenny), Iarlaith Daly (Waterford)
PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year nominees
Gearóid Hegarty (Limerick), Tony Kelly (Clare), Stephen Bennett (Waterford)
Kerry (145); Dublin (130); Cork (64); Meath, Mayo and Tyrone (49 each); Galway (38); Donegal (34); Offaly (30); Derry (27); Armagh (24); Down (23); Roscommon and Kildare (15 each) Monaghan (13); Westmeath and Laois (5 each); Sligo and Fermanagh (4 each); Tipperary (3); Leitrim and Cavan (2 each); Antrim, Clare, Wicklow, Wexford and Louth (1 each).
Kilkenny (187); Cork (112); Tipperary (104); Galway (95); Limerick (55); Clare (52); Offaly (42);Waterford (39); Wexford (33); Dublin (8); Antrim (5); Down, Laois and Westmeath (1 each).