Gaelic football team of the year: Peter Canavan selects his standout XV for 2020

Sky Sports pundit Peter Canavan selects his team of the year, after Dublin retained their All-Ireland title.

1. Raymond Galligan (Cavan)

There was a choice of three goalkeepers here. David Clarke came into the reckoning. Barring his kick-outs in the second-half of the semi-final win over Tipperary, he had a stellar year; making some eye-catching saves against the Premier and delivering from restarts in the decider, finding his targets 18/22 times.

Stephen Cluxton struggled with his kick-outs in the first-half against Mayo, but it didn’t unnerve him. He stuck to his guns, and had an excellent second-half. The Parnells man didn’t concede a single goal all year.

But I’m giving the nod to Galligan. His place-kicking and shot-stopping helped Cavan to the Ulster title, and his leadership was key.

2. Oisin Mullin (Mayo), 3. David Byrne (Dublin), 4. Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin)

Byrne and Fitzsimons are two of the unsung heroes on this Dublin team. The Cuala man has been the man-marker for the last decade, winning eight All-Ireland titles. His hits, tackles and tenacity were evident on Saturday night.

Byrne perhaps does not fully get the credit he deserves. Against Mayo, it was him who was breaking tackles, bursting out of defence with searing pace. He also knows his limitations – after a driving run, he will pass the ball to one of the shooters. For me, he just edges Lee Keegan, who had a decent season.

Mullin has been a breath of fresh air. A corner-back willing to bomb forward at every opportunity. He was superb in the National League, and carried that form into the championship. Such is his standing in the Mayo team, James Horan had confidence to put him on Dublin’s best forward in Con O’Callaghan.

5. Paddy Durcan (Mayo), 6. John Small (Dublin), 7. Robbie McDaid (Dublin)

Paddy Durcan is a modern defender. He can take a forward out of a game, but also is a strong runner. He contributes so much going forward. Prior to the final, he was the only Mayo defender to score from play, and his loss was felt in the second-half against Dublin.

Many felt there would be a weakness in the Dublin half-back line, given the absence of Jack McCaffrey. But Robbie McDaid filled the void. He was excellent, although he didn’t play as well as he might have liked to in the final.

John Small’s final performance gets him into this team. Eoghan McLaughlin was brilliant, but didn’t have as big an impact on Saturday. The Ballymun man was consistent all season, with physicality and aggression.

8. Thomas Galligan (Cavan), 9. Brian Fenton (Dublin)

James McCarthy is unlucky to miss out. But Cavan would not have won the Ulster title were it not for Thomas Galligan. He played a huge role in the Breffni’s remarkable campaign.

Brian Fenton was remarkable, and is in the mix to be named Footballer of the Year.

10. Niall Scully (Dublin), 11. Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin), 12. Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

A bit like David Byrne, Scully comes in under the radar. He is not one of the high-profile Dublin players. But go through every game, and his possession stats and assists are right up there. He covered every inch of grass in Croke Park on Saturday, and played a role in both goals.

The other two players are shoo-ins. In the final, Kilkenny kicked three clutch points, while O’Callaghan burst into the game with his goal. Two players that have been to the fore in Dublin performances this year.

13. Cillian O’Connor (Mayo) 14. Conor Sweeney (Tipperary), 15. Dean Rock (Dublin)

Tommy Conroy was in the mix ahead of the final. But this trio showed unerring accuracy throughout the year, and that sets them apart. Between them, they scored 8-93.

Footballer of the Year

For me, the top prize is between three players this year: Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan.

I would give it to Brian Fenton, based on his consistency and high levels of performance right across the season. When Dublin were in trouble on the kick-outs with Mayo dominating, the Plan B was simple: kick it to Fenton. He delivered.

He has taken his game to another level this year. He is Dublin’s go-to man, and he is my Footballer of the Year.

Tune into Inside The Game on Wednesday evening on Sky Sports Mix, as our pundits review the final, as well as the season as a whole.

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