Donegal have been rewarded for their magnificent season in winning the All-Ireland with a record haul of eight All-Star awards.
The football awards were announced today (Thursday) and the eight Donegal players to be honoured are goalkeeper Paul Durcan; defenders Neil McGee, Karl Lacey and Frank McGlynn; midfielder Neil Gallagher and forwards Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden.
The All-Star awards will be presented at a gala banquet in the Convention Centre, Dublin on Friday night, which is televised live on RTE television at 7 p.m. The hurling All-Stars will not be revealed until the night, something which is rotated each year.
The announcement brings the total of Donegal players honoured with All-Stars to 21, dating back to Brian McEniff winning the first in 1972.
The naming of the football All-Stars to include eight Donegal players is no big surprise, as it was felt that Donegal had won the All-Ireland this year through the toughest route, defeating the big guns in Tyrone, Kerry and Cork before overcoming Mayo in the final. It is believed to be the first time any team has won seven games in succession to bring home the Sam Maguire.
For most of the winners, it is their first award - Paul Durcan, Frank McGlynn, Neil Gallagher, Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden.
However, Neil McGee joins a unique group in the county with two All-Stars and along with Karl Lacey, creates another first as they are winning All-Stars back-to-back.
The other double All-Stars in Donegal include Martin McHugh (1983 and 1992) and Kevin Cassidy (2002 and 2011).
But one player - Karl Lacey - now stands head and shoulders above the rest of Donegal as he will be presented with his fourth All-Star on Friday night.
When Donegal last won the All-Ireland in 1992, they were honoured with seven All-Stars - Gary Walsh, Matt Gallagher, Martin Gavigan, Anthony Molloy, James McHugh, Martin McHugh and Tony Boyle.
This time around they have been given the honour of picking up eight awards, a fitting reward for the way they dominated the Ulster and national game in the championship.
There will be big celebrations in places like Glenfin, Glenswilly and St. Michael’s, who will be picking up All-Stars for the very first time. It just seems that there have been a series of firsts over the last two years.
In recent times few teams have got more than seven awards, but Tyrone had eight All-Stars in 2005, the year they won their second All-Ireland title. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s when Dublin and Kerry were dominant, there were nine awards for Dublin in 1977 while Kerry picked up nine in 1981.
However, these were exceptions and getting eight awards in the modern era is a major achievement, of which Donegal can be very proud.
On Friday night also there will be further honour bestowed on Donegal when the Player of the Year is announced. The three nominees are all Donegal players - Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn and Colm McFadden. Also Patrick McBrearty is one of the nominees for the Young Player of the Year.
There will be three other Donegal players honoured at the awards night with Sean McVeigh (St. Eunan’s), Lee Henderson and Justin Mc Gee (MacCumhaill’s) set to pick up Lory Meagher awards.
The full All-Star football team is: Paul Durcan; Neil McGee, Ger Cafferkey (Mayo), Keith Higgins (Mayo); Lee Keegan (Mayo), Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher, Aidan Walsh (Cork); Paul Flynn (Dublin), Alan Dillon (Mayo), Mark McHugh; Colm O’Neill (Cork), Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden.
There are 10 first time winners in this year’s selection - Paul Durcan, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Frank McGlynn, Neil Gallagher, Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Colm O’Neill.
The McHugh father and son combination sees the family join an illustrious band of father/son recipients which includes Liam/Kevin O’Neill, Pat/Paddy Reynolds, Dermot/Dermot Earley, Frank/Brian McGuigan, Bernard/Alan and Bernard Brogan, Tim/Tadhg Kennelly.
Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam Ó Néill lauded the efforts of those who made the final cut and congratulated them on the achievement.
He said: “After the honour of winning an All-Ireland medal I know how much store our players place on winning these awards. They acknowledge individual excellence and are accolades that are cherished long after playing days end.
“I heartily congratulate those who have made the selection and I hope it inspires them to challenge for future honours both as individuals but also as team players.
“A special word of thanks is also due to Dessie Farrell and the GPA as this joint scheme in its second year continues to go from strength to strength.
“Thanks also to Opel and their Ireland MD Dave Sheeran and our selection panels which is comprised of journalists.”
THE DONEGAL ALL-STARS (pictured above in order below)
Paul Durcan: The Four Masters man, so modest in all he does, had an outstanding season and his save in the final seconds of the Ulster semi-final against Tyrone probably sealed his award. In another era, without Stephen Cluxton, he would have picked up an award long before now.
Neil McGee: The Gaoth Dobhair man wasn’t as brilliant as he was in 2011, but despite that his presence at the heart of the Donegal defence was the steadying influence and his display in the All-Ireland final, especially in the second half, was probably the clincher.
Karl Lacey: The Four Masters man was troubled by injury early in the season, but when it mattered he was at his best. Gave one of the finest displays of the year in the semi-final win over Cork, fittingly his 100th game for the county. Hasn’t missed a championship game since his debut in 2004. What a record!
Frank McGlynn: A few years ago Karl Lacey was reinvigorated when released from corner-back and the same happened Frank McGlynn this year. His natural ability to come forward and take vital scores, including a goal against Down, were moments from this year’s championship that never will be forgotten.
Neil Gallagher: Almost on the scrap heap 12 months ago, Gallagher put the head down and was magnificent for Glenswilly in winning the club championship and then made himself as important for Jim McGuinness. His display against a Cork side that were supposed to dominate midfield was simply superb.
Mark McHugh: The Kilcar man gets the award in the half-forward line but rarely played much of his football there. But it was his ability to read the game, win and use possession wisely as well as being able to get up and down the field which impressed everybody during the year.
Michael Murphy: How could Colm O’Rourke dismiss the Glenswilly man when he was naming his team? Murphy is so vital to Donegal, not just as the complete captain, but he showed in the final that when the chips are down, he is the go-to man. After missing out last year, he fully deserves his award.
Colm McFadden: It was just a magnificent scoring season for the St. Michael’s man. He finished with 4-32 in the championship, being easily top scorer. His goals came at vital times and his long range points in the big games were the difference between Donegal winning and losing the All-Ireland title.
The latest additions to the Donegal All-Star list brings the total of Donegal players honours to 21. The full list is:
1972: Brian McEniff
1974: Donal Monaghan
1983: Martin McHugh
1990: Joyce McMullan
1992: Gary Walsh, Matt Gallagher,
Martin Gavigan, Anthony Molloy,
James McHugh, Martin McHugh,
1993: John Joe Doherty
2002: Kevin Cassidy
2003: Adrian Sweeney
2006: Karl Lacey
2009: Karl Lacey
2011: Karl Lacey, Neil McGee,
2012: Paul Durcan, Neil McGee,
Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn,
Neil Gallagher, Mark McHugh,
Colm McFadden, Michael Murphy.