The best footballer in Ireland this year is 100/1 to win Footballer of the Year 11 months ago

The best footballer in Ireland this year is 100/1 to win Footballer of the Year

You don't have to rewind too far to find Cathal McShane the midfield mullaker.

There he lined out for Tyrone's All-Ireland under-21 winning team in 2015. There he remained, if chosen to start, for the next three years in Mickey Harte's senior team. Unfortunately for McShane, the if was a big one.

Because though he was given a good break in his first season up, starting against Mayo in the 2016 All-Ireland quarter final, the waters were usually choppy and the sailing was rarely smooth.

Frequently one of the first men called ashore in '16, come 2017 his journey was about to get even more tedious. As an impressive Tyrone team ramped it up on through the championship, starting opportunities went with the wind. McShane was nothing more than a bit part player.

The All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin summed these struggles up. Mickey Harte emptied the bench during that unexpected hammering yet six subs were seen higher in command than the Owen Roes club man.

There was plenty of convincing to do. McShane looked a long way off.

Examined closely however, Mickey Harte was plotting. The semblances of a plan were linking together as one. Take the first two rounds of the League in 2017 for example when McShane lined out at full forward against Roscommon and then against Dublin. Watch this space.

The experiment was soon abandoned yet the seeds were sown. One to revisit? Maybe later.

Back out the field for 2018, McShane finally nailed a place down. Lár na Páirce the whole season long, his year was solid if unspectacular. The main talking point was probably his corner forward berth in the Super 8s game against Roscommon. That plan you were on about.

2019 and Cathal McShane has come of age. Mickey Harte's plan has come full circle.

From full forward, he lorded it in the League, most notably against Dublin in Croke Park. Tyrone had a legitimate out-ball to compliment their running game. The Championship was eagerly anticipated up north. Tyrone had a chance again.

It all hinged on their flame-headed assassin on the edge of the square but the pressure was non-existent in his man about ball world. All he wanted to do was win the ball and kick a point and then do the exact same thing again. The less time between the scores the better. Number 14 was in a hurry.

Derry were destroyed as Tyrone's kicking game kicked into gear. McShane took no less than Slaughtneil's finest Brendan Rogers to the cleaners. Five from play and plenty of admirers. Onto the next one.

That was the story of the summer. Donegal did the best job of nullifying him but that wasn't purely the work of Neil McGee. Hugh McFadden sat in front of McShane the whole game long.

He didn't drop the head though, he came back for more during the qualifiers. His scoring returns on that run, right the way up to Sunday's semi-final defeat to Kerry were jaw-dropping.

3-50 he'd managed in nine games. 3-24 from play (the same amount as Andy Moran when the Mayo man won the Footballer of the Year award in 2017.) That's an average of almost seven points a game.

  • v Derry (0-7, 0-2f)
  • v Antrim (0-6, 0-3f)
  • v Donegal (0-4, 0-3f)
  • v Longford (2-2)
  • v Kildare (0-5, 0-2f)
  • v Cavan (0-6, 0-4f)
  • v Roscommon (0-8, 0-5f)
  • v Cork (1-5, 0-4f)
  • v Kerry (0-7, 0-3f)

A counter argument is that Tyrone's opposition were not of the highest order, but a player can only play against what's in front of them and it's the same story for every good team. The majority of their games come against inferior opposition.

Not making the final may also count against him, but favourites for the award O'Callaghan, Mannion, Fenton, Clifford, O'Brien and co. will need a huge performance there to have had a better overall year than this man has had.

McShane is priced at 50/1 with Paddy Power for FOTY, but can be got at 100s with Boylesports

He consistently scored, assisted or won and then kicked a free when they needed a score. The amount of ball he won with defenders hanging out of him was unprecedented. His scores from all kinds of angles in Croke Park on Sunday summed up his appetite for the big day.

There has been no footballer in Ireland as consistently inspirational as he has been for his county this year.

Priced at 100/1 for Footballer of the Year. You must be joking.