1. Neil Gallagher (Louth)
SAYS A LOT about his side’s performance that he was beaten twice but still did more than enough to be their best player. Was at fault for neither of Bernard Brogan’s strikes but he stopped a whole lot more and his long kickouts were to one of the few areas where Louth held their own.
2. Philly McMahon (Dublin)
Sure enough both the system and the opposition helped him hugely but that was quite a return to championship football. Has a great mix of pace and power for a corner-back although far tougher tests await.
3. Barry Owens (Fermanagh)
Of all the players that nearly won that Ulster title in 2008, he has aged the best. Perhaps a little susceptible to the smaller and faster player but in the air he is a rock and did well when under siege in Brewster Park. Sadly though, he’s now the star man on a poor team.
4. Barry Gilleran (Longford)
Adrian Flynn kicked as much from play as his entire forward division and Gilleran was part of a defence that held it’s shape, put huge pressure on opposition attackers and forced them to kick from poor positions. That took massive concentration, discipline and fitness.
5. Adrian Flynn (Wexford)
He said afterwards he plays up front for his club but that still doesn’t explain away his five exquisite points from play off either foot. With the opposition back in numbers, the timing of his runs into space were up there with his finishing. Possibly the best player in any game yesterday.
6. Kevin McKernan (Down)
He turned into an attacking force after the Fermanagh sending off as he pushed up the field into a position of playmaker. Carried a lot of ball, took his time in probing the mass opposition defence and his quick hands in particular were key to unlocking it. Looked a natural leader.
7. Aidan Branagan (Down)
Like the man beside him on this team, his role changed early on and he adapted well, distributing a whole lot of possession and helping to stretch the home defence wide, allowing his own team to attack down the middle. Granted he really should have been put off and will face a suspension on review of his stupid punch.
8. Paddy Keenan (Louth)
There was a moment towards the end of their embarrassment where a vein on his forehead looked ready to blow. We don’t blame him because while he was the work horse and put his body on the line over and over, getting the better of the midfield battle, others around him had long given up.
9. Ambrose Rogers (Down)
We had a feeling yesterday morning he’d be making this team because the opposition were made for him. Even with Marty McGrath starting, he caused trouble in terms of winning and carrying ball forward. His attributes make him the perfect partner for Kalum King and they are one of the better midfields about.
10. Kevin McManamon (Dublin)
(Dublin’s Kevin McManamon escapes from Gerard Hoey of Louth - INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
We accommodate the full-forward here. Only his finishing when going for goal let him down but he offers so much that we wonder why he’s been benched in previous championships. With surprising pace, he always runs a great line and has the vision and cleverness to know when to shoot and when to assist.
11. Alan Brogan (Dublin)
He’s said that his brother’s scoring ability has allowed him to develop his game in other areas. But what he has done deserves huge credit. He is the play-maker and right now he’s possibly the best link man in football, as a key component in a system based on the fast break.
12. Paul Barden (Longford)
Dessie Dolan said after the Laois win he was one of the underrated stars of the sport. That’s slowly changing as he’s getting the recognition he deserves. Has a huge work rate, is a lovely passer, has great vision and his second goal of the day showed what a finisher he is too.
13. Conor Laverty (Down)
He picked the ball off the ground for the second goal but really stepped up in a light looking inside-forward line that’s devoid of Benny Coulter. He wanders everywhere at pace, is always in front of his man and pulls an entire defence out of shape when he’s on his game.
14. Brian Kavanagh (Longford)
Yes, he went out of it in the second half but that was more to do with the ball in. But his first half was enough to get him on this team as he tormented a player of the quality of Graeme Molloy, dragged him deep, dummied him, kicked over his shoulders and finished brilliantly.
15. Bernard Brogan (Dublin)
Looked rusty at the beginning with a couple of poor frees but even on his return he was too much to handle. Great dynamic with his brother, and with Connolly and McManamon going so well, he has extra space and time which he made the most of with 2-4 from play. Only going to get better.