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18th Jul 2023

Why Cormac Costello has to be in the conversation for Footballer of the Year

Niall McIntyre

Cormac Costello has never started an All-Ireland senior football final before.

That’s about to change.

The man has seven Celtic Crosses but hard as it is to believe, he didn’t even play a minute in three of those finals. Just three years ago, in the last final Dublin contested, Costello came on in the 70th minute, when Mayo were already beaten.

Bring it all back to two weeks time and, when Dublin play Kerry, he’ll be the first name on Dessie Farrell’s team-sheet.

Costello turned 29 today but, since the early stages of the year, he has been coming of age.

No offence to the other teams in Division Two but, apart from Derry, Dublin were expected to beat the rest of them at their relative ease. As it turned out, Dessie Farrell’s team were a little patchy, and stumbled over Cork and Clare in particular, before losing to Derry in Celtic Park.

But the Whitehall-Colmcille player scored 0-3 (0-1f) and was one of Dublin’s best performers that day, when, for once, the League resembled a championship fare.

Now while we’re not a second saying that League displays have a bearing on the player of the year awards, there is no denying the fact it was a sign of things to come.

Because that’s the pattern Costello’s season has followed.

An injury which he described recently as a heel problem continued to stalk him through the early stages of the championship, and he only played a bit-part-role in their Leinster campaign which, let’s face it, was only going to end one way.

Footballers of the Year won’t show themselves in the Leinster championship.

He also missed the Kildare and Sligo games in the All-Ireland series, but those were games where Dublin could do without him.

When they did need him, in their water-tight opener against Roscommon, Costello was Dublin’s best performer, kicking 0-7, including three from play.

Colm Basquel outshone him in the quarter final victory over Mayo, with a stunning 2-2 from play, but Costello showed his undoubted class in putting Basquel’s second goal on a plate. He also kicked 0-5 (0-3 frees) on a day when the Mayo backs couldn’t deal with his incisive runs.

Monaghan fell on the same sword last Saturday. Costello maintained his deadly recent form with another 0-7 showing, (0-3f, 0-1m), as he inspired Dublin over what was a gutsy challenge.

“Sometimes you see Costello coughing up turn-overs,” said Alan Brogan on The GAA Hour recently, as he reflected on Costello’s recent form. “But I wouldn’t be annoyed by that because you know when he’s playing like that, he’s going for the jugular.”

“Cormac is a fantastic footballer. He’s such a good shooter, he wants to take you on all the time, it’s such a tough job to mark him,” he continued.

“He might have been perceived a while back as a fella who doesn’t work as hard as the other Dublin forwards but if you look at him now, compared to when he started his career, he never stops working now, he’s always looking to get tackles in.”

Some of the points he scored against Monaghan were of the highest calibre, as he combined pace, trickery, composure and most importantly accuracy, in a manner that we just had not seen from him. Until this year.

Footballer of the Year

Footballers of the Year come from All-Ireland finals. That’s just the way it is. Bernard Brogan is the only exception to that rule, the Dublin forward having edged Cork and Down players respectively, in the anomaly that was 2010.

So while it could be argued that Shane McGuigan, for example, has had a more outstanding year than Costello, the reality is that when it comes to the banquet on North Wall quay in October, that will not matter.

So, while auto-pilot might have you pitting Con O’Callaghan against David Clifford for Footballer of the Year, the form he has shown as Dublin’s leading forward is a more accurate barometer, and it puts Cormac Costello marginally ahead.

Another big showing from the ever-outstanding James McCarthy could upset the apple-cart but for now, Costello is Dublin’s most consistent and leading player in the big games they have played this year.

Watch The GAA Hour with Ryan O’Donoghue here

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