1. Brian Scanlon (Limerick) – He made a great save only for Niall Mulligan to get the rebound for the goal, but was responsible for the key moment of the game when a reflex stop denied Francis McGee. Got on the scoresheet too with some great ball-striking which enabled him to hold off Eoin Culliton and Paul Fitzgerald for this spot.
2. Ciarán McDonald (Tipperary) – Second time in succession he’s made this team as he develops into one of the better corner-backs about. His positioning is excellent, his tackling strong and legal and it enabled him to shackle Red Barry for large portions of a surprise upset this time around.
3. Johnny McCarthy (Limerick) – Longford’s two-man inside-forward line had received huge praise but it wasn’t just tiredness that saw Brian Kavanagh taken off at half-time in extra-time. The full-back held him scoreless while kicking a point himself. That was a game-changing effort.
4. Ross Donovan (Sligo) – The Sligo defence was good but he was even better. He was sticky, great at getting a hand in, so hungry around the massive amounts of dirty ball on offer in many, many nearby rucks and his shoulder on Kevin McLoughlin was the physical highlight of the weekend.
5. Paul Sharry (Westmeath) – Really good defensive display where his work rate was high but also getting on the front foot against Kerry is no mean feat. Carried the ball safely and at pace and joined plenty of attacks to give an extra option. Kicked a point to top it off.
6. Barry Moran (Mayo) – Such was the midfield talent on show, we’ve a diamond of them on this team and Moran slots in here after a Man of the Match display in the Connacht final. Good in the air and crucially hugely physical around breaking ball which his side dominated and that was the basis of their second-half fight back.
7. Emmet Bolton (Kildare) – Back to his natural attacking game after man-marking duties against Meath limited him. Started one goal, finished another goal and turned the Cavan wing-forwards into defenders for a large part of the game. More of this across the remainder of summer and he’ll be chasing back-to-back All Stars.
8. Michael McCann (Antrim) – We noted in the build-up that Galway’s midfield wouldn’t match-up to his powerful and energetic game. Well, we can now say we were right. Was the main man at centrefield and remarkably kicked more points from play than anyone else on the field with three crucial efforts in a tight, low-scoring game.
9. John Heslin (Westmeath) – He’s matured and learned to control his aggression to the extent he’s becoming one of the stars of the game at 19. A dominant force in the mould of Ciarán Whelan. Excellent high-fielder but likes to break forward and can shoot too, as his point from play and four frees showed. His county need to build a team around him.
10. Ross Munnelly (Laois) – His three frees were nothing new but there was a completely new dimension to his game as he was willing to get back and work hard as well as ghost into space and pull the usually claustrophic Monaghan back line out of shape. Quietly impressive.
11. Brendan Quigley (Laois) – The best we’ve seen from him in an age. Went toe-to-toe with a physical, if not overly mobile, Monaghan midfield, got on ball and then ran them ragged. His goal epitomised his display as he broke into space and finished brilliantly.
12. Peter Acheson (Tipperary) – It wasn’t his scoring that stood out – after all he only kicked a point – but his ball-carrying is a crucial part of his side’s set-up and he relieves a huge amount of pressure from his defence as he covers ground and can distribute well at the end of it all. Hugely underrated player.
13. Alan Smith (Kildare) – We counted seven shots from him yesterday. From that he kicked 1-5. There’ve been signs in recent weeks he’s slowly returning to his best which we saw circa 2009. His confidence is certainly back as he’s shooting on site and he’s not shy about going for goal anymore either. This was as good as it’s been in years.
14. James Glancy (Leitrim) – Emlyn Mulligan scored six but they were all frees, but his five were from open play as he roasted the Wicklow full-back line and even as he drew more and more attention in a nip-and-tuck game, he kept on delivering in an unlikely win.
15. Darren McCurry (Tyrone) – He only played for 28 minutes, but that just shows what he achieved in that time. Kicked four points from play and in a game where his county were only three up at the break having played with the wind and where Stephen O’Neill wasn’t about, he stepped up big time.