Mighty Paul Flynn goes fourth with record All Star haul
Dub star creates history as Kingdom lead way
IT may count as minor consolation for what happened on the last day of August, but Paul Flynn enters the GAA annals today as Dublin's first ever four-in-a-row All Star.
The flying Fingallian is one of three Sky Blues honoured on this year's GAA/GPA football team of the year, earning selection alongside two first-time winners from the capital - James McCarthy and Diarmuid Connolly.
The team's overall make-up is along largely expected lines and is indicative of the relative gulf separating the four provincial winners from their nearest challengers: All-Ireland champions Kerry lead the way with five All Stars, followed by beaten finalists Donegal on four and the two vanquished semi-finalists, Dublin and Mayo, with three apiece.
In terms of individual achievement, however, Flynn's selection is the most noteworthy. The workaholic wing-forward won his maiden All Star in the All-Ireland winning year of 2011 and hasn't looked back since.
Incredibly, he is the first footballer since 1985 to enjoy such an unbroken sequence of All Star success. That was the year Jack O'Shea collected his sixth consecutive football All Star while his Kerry colleague, Páidí O Sé, completed a personal five-timer. Pat Spillane, who remains the most decorated football All Star with nine awards, had earlier won six on the spin between 1976 and '81.
Not even the modern-day benchmark, Colm Cooper, has done four-in-a-row (or even three) despite the Kerry forward having amassed eight awards since his senior baptism in 2002. Moreover, Flynn is the first Dub to achieve this landmark. Several famous predecessors have completed All Star hat-tricks, such as Tommy Drumm ('77-'79), Barney Rock (' 83-'85), John O'Leary and Charlie Redmond (both ' 93-'95).
As one of the few Dublin players who performed to expectation in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal, Flynn was always deemed a near-certain inclusion on this year's Opel-sponsored team. The same applied to Connolly, even more so after Dublin's No 12 was named as one of three nominees for Footballer of the Year (alongside Kerry's James O'Donoghue and Donegal defender Neil McGee, with the winner as chosen by the players to be revealed at tomorrow night's televised All Stars banquet).
In terms of summer form graphs, Flynn delivered on a more consistent level than Connolly but the latter lit up the year with numerous cameos of brilliance, bordering on genius. His highlights package included that club final tour de force for St Vincent's last March, a stunning match-winner away to Tyrone in April, his exquisite goal that broke Monaghan's quarter-final resistance - and finally four points from play, one more outrageous than the next, against Donegal.
We'll take a wild guess that Connolly didn't require his latest club heroics for the All-Ireland champions to sway the selectors, all journalists from the national media.
The third Sky Blue to make the cut is McCarthy. The Ballymun defender of the Rolls Royce engine has now gone one step further than his father John, who won three All-Ireland medals in the 1970s without ever gaining the All Star seal of approval.
McCarthy was a model of consistency all season - and particularly impressive against Meath and Monaghan - until suffering a last-day form dip against Donegal.
However, that wasn't enough to negate his claims, despite some intense competition in the half-back line from Kerry veteran Aidan O'Mahony and Monaghan dynamo Dessie Mone.
Overall, this year's team will provide plenty of ammunition for those sceptics who believe too much attention is focussed on the latter stages of the championship.
An intriguing nugget is the fact that three Kerry players who didn't even start their All-Ireland quarter-final make the team: half-back Peter Crowley, midfielder David Moran (both came off the bench against Galway) and Kieran Donaghy (who didn't see a minute of action that day).
The counter-argument, of course, is that Kerry would never have won the All-Ireland without Donaghy's inspirational cameo in the drawn semi-final against Mayo - or his pivotal contribution in the only two matches he started, against Mayo in the replay and Donegal in the final.