Limerick and Kerry Stars Shine at PwC GAA/GPA Awards
In a historic moment for the Patrickswell club, Limerick hurler Aaron Gillane has been named the PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Year for 2023. Gillane follows in the footsteps of his clubmates Cian Lynch, who won the award in 2021, and Diarmaid Byrnes, who won it last year. This marks the first time that three players from the same club have won the prestigious award in consecutive years. Gillane’s outstanding performances throughout the year made him a deserving recipient of the honor.
On the football side, Kerry’s David Clifford has made history as the first player to win back-to-back Footballer of the Year awards. Despite losing the All-Ireland final, Clifford’s exceptional skills and contributions to the Kerry team earned him the recognition. He joins the ranks of previous winners such as Mayo’s Andy Moran in 2017. Clifford’s talent and impact on the field have solidified his status as one of the best footballers of his generation.
The annual All-Stars banquet, held at the RDS and televised for all to see, provided another talking point. Dublin, the reigning champions, had to settle for five winners, their lowest representation in this era of dominance. This number was only one more than runners-up Kerry and beaten semi-finalists Derry. The reduced number of Dublin players receiving All-Stars is a testament to the competitiveness of this year’s championship.
However, the evening was not without joy for seven first-time winners. Monaghan’s Conor McCarthy and Roscommon’s Enda Smith were among the recipients. Smith’s All-Star is particularly noteworthy as he becomes Roscommon’s first winner in 22 years and the first footballer from outside the top-eight championship counties since 2010. These new faces in the All-Stars team demonstrate the depth of talent in Gaelic football across the country.
While there were deserving winners, there were also notable omissions. Dublin’s Paul Mannion, who had a standout performance in the final against Kerry, was not included in the final selection. Mannion’s contributions throughout the season were pivotal, and his absence from the team is a disappointment. However, it is important to remember that individual accolades pale in comparison to the ultimate goal of winning the All-Ireland title.
The All-Star selectors in the media nominated Clifford, Dublin’s Brian Fenton, and Derry’s Brendan Rogers for the Footballer of the Year award. The decision ultimately rested with their peers, who voted in favor of Clifford. This makes him only the third player in the history of the All-Stars scheme to win the award twice, joining the likes of Fenton and Meath’s Trevor Giles. Clifford’s talent and impact on the game have been recognized by his fellow players.
Looking at the All-Stars football team, there may be some discontent among Dublin supporters. Despite their status as champions, only five Dublin players made the final cut. This is the first time in nine years that Dublin’s representation has dipped so low. In previous years, they had six or seven players selected. It is a testament to the strength of other teams that Dublin’s dominance has been challenged.
Kerry, on the other hand, had three players selected in the All-Stars team. David Clifford, Paudie Clifford, and Seán O’Shea were all recognized for their contributions to the Kerry team. This marks the third consecutive year that the Clifford brothers have made the team, highlighting their consistent excellence. The inclusion of three Kerry players reflects their strong performance throughout the year.
There were also notable omissions in the half-back division, with Dublin’s Brian Howard missing out. The three chosen for this position were James McCarthy, Gareth McKinless from Derry, and Monaghan’s Conor McCarthy. The competition for these spots was fierce, and ultimately, these three players were deemed the most deserving.
In conclusion, the PwC GAA/GPA Awards showcased the outstanding talent and achievements of Gaelic footballers in 2023. Limerick’s Aaron Gillane and Kerry’s David Clifford were deserving winners of the top individual awards. The All-Stars team reflected the competitive nature of the championship, with Dublin’s representation reduced and other teams making their mark. While there were some notable omissions, the selected players have been recognized for their exceptional performances throughout the year.