Brian Barry

GAA editor @BrianGBarry

After completing the All-Ireland Football Championship 2021, we will vote for our Team of the Year. Champions Tyrone is the leader with nine players.

Last updated: 9/14/21 2:24 PM

Paudie Clifford and Conor Meyler both enjoyed great campaigns

And so another championship campaign is on the books, and as the focus shifts to the club season, the awards at the end of the year are not far away.

So who makes the team of the year?

Goalkeeper: Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

Edendork’s goalscorer grew as the season progressed. After conceding six goals on the National League trip to Killarney, he only got the ball out of the net once during the entire championship.

He played an intriguing role in the Ulster Finals, as part of the Red Hands’ defensive effort, taking big hits against Kerry and Mayo.

His ball over the top of the Mayo defense to get Darren McCurry’s first-half chance to score was just great.

Morgan has been excellent all summer

Full-backs: Pádraig Hampsey (Tyrone), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Ronan McNamee (Tyrone)

Pádraig Hampsey became only the third Tyrone man to ever win the Sam Maguire Cup, and he thrived with the added responsibility of captain this season. He fulfilled his defensive duties impressively and stormed for points against both Kerry and Mayo.

Lee Keegan was arguably Mayo’s best actor in the playoff. The veteran Westport club man is no stranger to major All Ireland finals shows and did so again to underpin a stellar season.

McNamee ousted Pádraig O’Hora and Michael Fitzsimons one last place. Despite having his hands full with David Clifford in the semifinals, he delivered a big campaign.

Hampsey leads by example

Hampsey leads by example

Half-back: Patrick Durcan (Mayo), Kieran McGeary (Tyrone), Peter Harte (Tyrone)

Kieran McGeary is the front runner for Footballer of the Year and was the first name on this team list.

Durcan was his consistent self, offered Mayo an attack with sharp runs forward, and was excellent at defense.

Peter Harte was one of several players on the Tyrone panel who held multiple positions. A one-mark rise in the second half against Mayo summed up his year. When the Red Hands needed him, the clubman Errigal Ciaráin delivered.

Kieran McGeary only wanted to say one thing full-time:

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– Sky Sports GAA (kySkySportsGAA) September 12, 2021

Midfield: Matthew Ruane (Mayo), Conn Kilpatrick (Tyrone)

Matthew Ruane was defeated in the All-Ireland final, but he has done more than enough throughout the campaign to warrant inclusion here.

Kilpatrick was enjoying a good debut season, keeping the ship in the middle of the park for Tyrone, which was a seemingly problematic position for the team ahead of the championship. His aerial play for the second goal in the final was decisive.

Ruane kicked 1: 2 in the Connacht final

Ruane kicked 1: 2 in the Connacht final

Forward line: Niall Sludden (Tyrone), Paudie Clifford (Kerry), Conor Meyler (Tyrone)

Niall Sludden and Conor Meyler could both have been named in the half-back because of their versatile roles.

Sludden showed his best form since 2018, but, unlike three years ago, was able to deliver a great performance in the final and score two points.

Meyler took on Ryan McAnespie, Ryan McHugh and Paudie Clifford and eliminated their influences. Then he started in the playoff and won his duel with Durcan. He is talking about the highest individual honor.

Clifford was the standout performer at the four provincial championships, pulling the strings when Kerry destroyed Clare, Tipperary and Cork. Even on a day off against Tyrone, he continued to struggle to grow into the game, leading the line until late into overtime. He beats teammate Seán O’Shea to take his place in this selection.

Paudie Clifford brings Seán O'Shea out with a remarkable pass in the Munster Championship

Paudie Clifford brings Seán O’Shea out with a remarkable pass in the Munster Championship

Full line of strikers: Darren McCurry (Tyrone), David Clifford (Kerry), Daniel Flynn (Kildare)

Darren McCurry set the tone for the summer, taking on Cavan 0-10 in the Ulster quarter-finals. He kept this form the whole time and crowned it with a 1-4 win in the All-Ireland final.

David Clifford may have been subdued by Cork but scored brilliant goals in wins against Clare and Tipperary. His semi-final injury was a fatal blow to the Kingdom after scoring 8-0 before retreating.

Daniel Flynn made two magical moments for the two Kildare goals in his Leinster semi-final win against Westmeath. He then took the bout to Dublin in the provincial decision, scoring a stunning solo motor and causing all sorts of problems for the Sky Blues rearguard.

Ryan O’Donoghue narrowly missed out after enjoying a good year leading up to the final, filling the void for Cillian O’Connor. Paddy Small and Ciarán Kilkenny were Dublin’s biggest attackers.