By Niall McCoy
1) Eugene ‘Nudie’ Hughes – 1979
THE ALL-STAR awards came into play in 1971, replacing the unofficial Cú Chulainn awards, and Castleblayney’s ‘Nudie’ Hughes was the first Monaghan man to collect one as he was named in the 1979 team. The then 21-year-old was named at right corner-back as the Oriel county defeated Down, Armagh and Donegal on their way to the Ulster title. Kerry were far too hot in the semi-final but Hughes was Monaghan’s best player on the day. Members from clubs across Monaghan met in ‘Blayney’s Hope Arms Hotel to celebrate Hughes’s success.
2) Eugene ‘Nudie’ Hughes – 1985
MONAGHAN were crowned Ulster champions again in 1985 – and with it came ‘Nudie’ Hughes’s second All-Star. What was incredible about this achievement was that the player had moved from right corner-back to left corner-forward, the furthest positional distance an outfield player could travel. Hughes was excellent in the Ulster final having postponed his honeymoon to face Derry. He had already starred in the wins against Armagh and Donegal, and although he was quieter in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry, he still scored a point and set up four others. The Kingdom proved too strong in the replay.
3) Ciarán Murray – 1985
MONAGHAN had a second All-Star winner in 1985 as Ciarán Murray was named at centre half-back with Kerry’s Tommy Doyle and Mayo’s Dermot Flanagan flanking him. Murray has been more recognisable in the soccer world in recent times having acted as the Republic of Ireland’s physio, but he was a rock for Monaghan in the 1980s. The Clones man was excellent in the drawn All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry and didn’t give Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran a sniff. Started the season at wing-back before moving into the centre, and kept out the All-Star challenge of Kerry’s Tom Spillane who won awards in 1984, ’86 and ’87.
4) Ray McCarron – 1986
RAY McCarron made a mark in 1985 as he hit 15 points in Monaghan’s six games, and he kept up his scoring exploits the following year even if the county failed to win a championship game. He did hit 10 points in their two matches with Down while he was superb as Monaghan made it all the way to the National League final where they lost to Laois by a point. He hit 1-6 in the quarter-final win over Derry, three of their 10 points in their semi-final win over Mayo and a further 1-1 in the final defeat to Laois. Children Jack and Ellen continue to show that class on the field for Monaghan teams today.
5) Eugene ‘Nudie’ Hughes – 1988
‘NUDIE’ Hughes enhanced his reputation as one of Monaghan’s greatest ever players as he claimed a third award in 1988. This one, for the record, was again at left corner-forward. Much of the heavy lifting came in the Ulster final against Tyrone as he produced a magnificent display to cause the Red Hands all sorts of problems. He had previously managed five points in a narrow quarter-final win over Cavan. The All-Ireland dream again fell at the semi-final stage against Cork with the Ulster side left unhappy with the performance of the officials.
6) Paddy Linden – 1988
UNTIL a certain Rory Beggan came onto the scene, Paddy Linden was the golden boy of Monaghan goalkeepers – and his performances were awarded with an All-Star gong in 1988. It was no surprise given that Linden conceded just one goal in four championship games, and none in the Ulster Championship. He also saved a Larry Tomkins penalty in the loss to Cork. Linden had first come into the squad 10 years earlier under Sean McCague, and 1988 would be a memorable season as he also helped Ulster to the Railway Cup. The first Ulster goalkeeper to win an All-Star.
7) Tommy Freeman – 2007
MONAGHAN had a long wait for their seventh All-Star but Tommy Freeman was a shoo-in following his incredible attacking displays. The Magheracloone man hit 3-23 in five games and it was his goal that so nearly saw the Oriel county shock Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final. His highest tally of the season came against Donegal as he hit 1-5 in their Qualifier meeting. A nightmare to mark that season, and Freeman was rightly recognised when he was named at the left corner-forward position which had twice been occupied by ‘Nudie’ Hughes.
8) Colin Walshe – 2013
MONAGHAN’S long wait for an Ulster title came to an end in 2013 as they shocked Donegal. Malachy O’Rourke’s side were huge underdogs as they were attempting to lift the Anglo Celt for the first time since 1988. After the 2013 win they would never be written off again. Walshe was superb, keeping Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty, Cavan’s Martin Dunne and Antrim’s Paddy Cunningham to just a point from play between them. Got on the scoreboard twice too as Monaghan claimed the Division Three title earlier in the season.
9) Conor McManus – 2013
THE overriding memory of Conor McManus’s 2013 season is being hauled down by Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh in the famous incident that brought the black card debate right to the fore. McManus, for his part, spoke fairly about the incident in the aftermath, as he does about most matters. It shouldn’t define his 2013 campaign though. McManus was held to three frees in the Ulster final win over Donegal, and didn’t even end up in the top 10 scorers in that year’s championship, but his impact was sublime. Took out in the National League as he hit 2-32 in seven games, and his 2-7 against Wicklow was the highest individual tally across the four divisions, equalled by Bernard Brogan’s 1-10 against Mayo.
10) Conor McManus – 2015
IN 2013 the nation found out what everyone in Monaghan already knew – that Conor McManus was a superstar – but by 2015 the entire country was well aware of his talents. Being aware of his abilities is one thing, stopping them is another as he picked up a second All-Star – this time at right corner-forward having been named in the other corner two years earlier. By that stage, it became about limiting McManus’s influence rather than stopping him outright.
11) Karl O’Connell – 2018
THE 2018 season saw the first running of the ‘Super Eight’ series, and Monaghan fans were fed on a diet of Karl O’Connell making swashbuckling runs up and down the wing. The Ulster Championship had not gone to plan as, despite a superb win over Tyrone in Omagh, they conceded a late goal to lose to Fermanagh in the semi-finals. Monaghan bounced back though and O’Connell was on target in the Qualifier wins over Leitrim and Laois. He hit three points in a brilliant display in the rain against Kildare and another point in the drawn thriller with Kerry.
12) Conor McManus – 2018
MONAGHAN reached their first All-Ireland semi-final in 30 years in 2018 and it was no surprise to see that Conor McManus was at the heart of their progress. His late point against Tyrone was the best score of the championship, while his 1-9 against Kerry deserved a lot more than the draw the Oriel county left Clones with that day. With his third All-Star, McManus came into the conversation surrounding the best forward in the country. He also matched county mate ‘Nudie’ Hughes who had previously won three awards. Can the Clontibret man overtake him before he is finished?
13) Rory Beggan – 2018
IT would be fair to assume that Rory Beggan had to wait until 2018 for his first All-Star due to the incredible standards set by Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton – but it would be a wrong assumption. In Beggan’s seven previous seasons with the squad, Cluxton only won two All-Stars. He was close to another in 2018, but Beggan got the nod after a brilliant campaign. Strong in the air, incredibly accurate with kick-outs and he brought a real scoring threat too – landing 16 points across the championship campaign.