The stars of the weekend.
Between ladies football and camogie, men’s football and hurling, from Derry to Kerry and from Connacht to Leinster, these winter weekends are jam-packed with club games.
The county and provincial Championships are reaching their business ends, the action is thick and fast, the wet, sloppy pitches are becoming more plentiful and the wooly hats are being broken out in the stands.
Our SportsJOE hybrid GAA team of the weekend has gone down a treat over the last two weeks, and the third has arrived after yet another enthralling weekend of club GAA action.
Here are the fifteen players across the four codes who made the best cases for inclusion.
1. Goalkeeper – Antoin McMullan (Slaughtneil, Derry)
Rarely puts a foot wrong, and inspires so much confidence for the Slaughtneil rearguard. The Derry netminder was at his solid best on Saturday night against Kilcar, making at least four point-blank saves to deny the Donegal attackers.
His levels of consistency are up there with the best number ones in the game, and his shot-stopping ability saves his sides bacon on countless occasions.
2. Left corner back – Damien Power (Rathnew, Wicklow)
Held Diarmuid Connolly scoreless from play. What more could you ask for?
3. Full back – Liam Healy (Moorefield, Kildare)
The Moorefield number three was safe as a house on the edge of the square for the Kildare champions, curbing the influence of Port’s talisman Brian McCormack well.
A tight marker, Healy’s doggedness was a crucial part in their eking out of a one-point victory.
4. Right corner back – Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels, Meath)
Was tasked with the challenge of picking up the Starlights’ danger man Darragh Pepper in Sunday’s Leinster senior football quarter-final in Wexford Park, and he fared well on the lively attacker.
5. Left half back – Ross O’Brien (Rathnew, Wicklow)
Played a pivotal role in the Wicklow side’s landmark victory over St Vincent’s, ghosting forward to slot an immaculately struck point in the first half that seemed to rally his teammates.
Energetic, tall and strong, played a stormer from the half back line.
6. Centre half back – Paul Claffey (Cappataggle, Galway)
The 24-year-old was desperately unlucky to be on the losing side of Sunday’s Galway senior hurling semi-final clash with Liam Mellows on Sunday. Aerially dominant and ferocious in the tackle, he was on the ball on countless occasions for the Cappy men in their first ever Galway senior last four clash.
Claffey had the balls to stand up and hit a crucial 65 in the last minute of the game, with his side trailing by one point to the Galway city club.
His effort tailed agonisingly wide, but he deserves huge credit for taking on the most pressurised shot in the game.
7. Right half back – Johnny Buckley (Dr Crokes, Kerry)
Such an inspirational figure, his first half goal set the tone for the defending All-Ireland champions rout of the Clare title holders.
Although he lined out at midfield, given his trojan work-rate, we feel Buckley is one of those players who could play in any position on the pitch.
He and the Crokes will take stopping again.
8. Midfield – James Stafford (Rathnew, Wicklow)
The recently retired Wicklow legend was responsible for the last three scores in Aughrim on Sunday, as the Wicklow champions pulled off one of the biggest shocks in recent club Championship history.
The towering midfielder grew into the game when it was in the melting pot, scoring that crucial goal on fifty minutes to turn the tide in the home side’s favour.
He wasn’t taking no for an answer.
9. Midfield – Garrett Foley (Fethard St Mogue’s, Wexford)
Fethard St Mogue’s defied the odds to shock the fancied John Lockes of Kilkenny in Innovate Wexford Park in Saturday’s Leinster Junior hurling final.
The Mogue’s got off to a flying start, and held a 1-9 to 0-5 advantage at the break, with their midfielder Garrett Foley running the show in midfield.
While the great Buff Egan labelled his display with the “GLORIOUS” seal of approval.
WELell Done to @StMoguesGAA who were Crowned Leinster Junior Hurling Champions Beating Kilkennys John Lockes in the Decider by 1-17 to 2-11. Gareth Foley giving a GLORIOUS display at Midfield while Mark Wallace impressed with 8 points for the Wexford side ? pic.twitter.com/fgHzCbq3BT
— Buff Egan (@buff_egan) November 11, 2017
Couldn’t be overlooked.
10. Left half forward – John Heslin (St Loman’s, Westmeath)
Same story, different weekend.
By this stage, John Heslin is surely one of the most consistent club footballers in the country. The St Loman’s star was at his brilliant best on Sunday, continuing a rampant run of form for his club that has stretched for quite a while now.
The Mullingar outfit ousted Longford champions St Columba’s Mullinalaghta by a single point in the Leinster quarter-final, with Heslin scoring 1-7 of their 1-12 total, including a nerveless penalty that set them up for a comeback victory.
With him fit and well, they can never be ruled out.
11. Centre half forward – Brian Hogan (Lorrha Dorrha, Tipperary)
It was the weekend of all weekends for Brian Hogan of Lorrha Dorrha, the most northerly club in Tipperary.
The rangy centre forward, a goalkeeper on the Tipperary senior hurling panel, captained his parish to their first North Tipp under-21 B title in 34 years on Saturday, ending a famine that ran since 1983.
Hogan strode over the soggy Toomevara turf with a relentless drive and hunger in the stormy setting, taking the game to the Silvermines rearguard and dragging his team forward when they began to struggle in the decider.
He ended his day with a personal tally of 1-3, which was particularly admirable due to the woeful conditions. The waterlogged pitch saw the sliotar regularly burying itself in the ground.
His 27th minute goal was a definite contender for goal of the weekend. He audaciously controlled a drilled Paddy Reddin puck-out with one hand, held off marker Eamonn Corcoran with the other before putting the head down and searing through the heart of the ‘Mines defence.
From 30 yards out and with at least four scrambling defenders hot on his heals, the number 11 unleashed a bullet shot, somehow avoiding the attempted hooks, that scurried into the left corner of the net.
That night, he celebrated his 21st birthday party in the Chestnut pub in Birr, with the welcome company of the under-21 trophy.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
12. Right half forward – Mikie Dwyer (Fethard St Mogue’s, Wexford)
The nippy forward played a crucial role in Fethard’s victory over John Lockes, terrorising the Kilkenny defenders throughout. He ended his day with four from play, as the east Wexford men advance to the All-Ireland stages of the junior competition.
13. Left corner forward – Emma Reaney (Galway Under-21 ladies)
The Galway ladies won their first ever All-Ireland under-21 football title at the weekend, walloping neighbours Mayo on a scoreline of 10-15 to 0-10.
Their sprightly forward Emma Reaney wasn’t in the mood for taking prisoners, netting five goals – off both feet – in the sixty minutes of play.
The Caltra star was unplayable.
14. Full forward – Paddy McBrearty (Kilcar, Donegal)
McBrearty didn’t deserve to be on the losing side of Saturday night’s thrilling Ulster football semi-final clash between Kilcar and Slaughtneil, but that’s the cruelty of sport.
Grabbed the bull by the horns when his parish needed him on so many different occasions, keeping Kilcar in touch with the dominant Derry giants for much of the game.
The stocky, explosive attacker raised ten white flags, with that iconic left foot earning rave reviews from far and wide. “That left foot would open a bean can,” said one admirer.
Was the first name on this team sheet.
Some tally from the Kilcar man at the weekend https://t.co/6AFUBA0Fg5
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) November 13, 2017
15. Right corner forward – Amy Kennedy (Burgess Duharra, Tipperary)
The North Tipperary side won their sixth straight Munster senior camogie title on Sunday, defeating Inagh-Kilnamona of Clare by three points.
Tipperary camogie congratulates Burgess Duharra on spirited 2 in a row Munster Senior Club titles! 3 point win ! pic.twitter.com/OGTLgiT7eb
— Tipperary Camogie (@camogietipp) November 11, 2017
The difference between the sides was the settling early goal scored by Amy Kennedy, and her influence extended to the last minute when she raised the last white flag of the game to seal the victory for the Tipperary women.