There’s only one game remaining in this year’s All-Ireland Championship and Niall Gartland casts an eye over the footballers who have scored the most from play…
1 Colm Basquel (5-15)
IS the word revelation pushing it a little? Yes, Basquel was largely nullified in Saturday’s dogged victory over Monaghan, but otherwise he’s exceeded expectations and then some in Dublin’s run to a first All-Ireland final since 2020. Basquel had been pigeon-holded as a ‘decent club footballer’ in the county prior to this season but he’s finally become a nailed on starter for the Dubs and his eye for goal has seen him score five majors in this season’s championship. Whether he can tear it up against a mean Kerry rearguard remains to be seen, of course.
2 Con O’Callaghan (2-23)
THERE’S been a few disparaging comments made online about Con O’Callaghan’s performances this year. To be honest it’s been completely unfair – he’s one of the players of his generation, even though he probably isn’t quite as formidable as he was between 2017-2019. Injury curtailed his progress last season, but he’s recovered and has played a significant enough role in Dublin’s rejuvenation. It was interesting to see Dubs coach Pat Gilroy practically berate him to get closer to goal during last Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Monaghan.
3 David Clifford (3-19)
IT may come as a surprise that Clifford is ‘only’ third in the overall pecking order, but if you take a look at his overall contribution against Derry on Sunday for example, it’s evident that his points-from-play tally of four points doesn’t tell the story of a truly sensational performance, winning marks and frees and setting up scores and all the rest of it. The most talented player in the country and some would say it’s not even close.
4 Shane McGuigan (1-22)
SHANE McGuigan is in line for a possible All-Star after a brilliant showing for Derry this season. The Sleacht Néill dual star was clutchness personified in their Ulster final triumph over Armagh and was a marked man (if you know what we mean) in their All-Ireland semi-final clash against Kerry, where he still managed to score three points from play. He’s also an excellent free-taker and as it stands is this year’s overall top scorer in this season’s championship.
5 Sean O’Shea (2-15)
O’SHEA has arguably lived in David Clifford’s shadow in recent years but he’s a fine player in his own right and it may surprise some that he’s so high up in the rankings given that he’s more renowned as a stellar free-taker. His goal against Tyrone helped put the game to bed and he bagged three points from play in their dramatic victory over the Oak Leafers. Definitely knows where the posts are even if sometimes he fades in and out of contests a bit.
6 Darragh Canavan (1-17)
EVEN though he was nominated for Young Footballer of the Year in 2021, in a way this was Darragh Canavan’s break-out season for Tyrone. In previous seasons there was a sense that he was almost too selfless a performer, but this time around he was entrusted with more of a traditional inside forward role and he duly obliged with a string of starring performances in front of the posts. His nine-point salvo against Westmeath was particularly memorable and he scored one of the points of the championship against Donegal.
7 Paul Cassidy (1-15)
DERRY half-forward Paul Cassidy can be extremely proud of his efforts this year. One of the team’s unsung heroes, he scored two sublime points in the first half against Kerry at the weekend. He also scored 1-2 in the side’s opening day victory over Fermanagh and can always be relied upon to put in a serious shift for his side.
8 Conor McCarthy (2-11)
THE Monaghan man has been outstanding this season and at the very least will be nominated for an All-Star. Vinny Corey’s decision to repackage McCarthy as an attack-minded wing-back was a true masterstroke and McCarthy delivered a number of starring performances throughout their championship campaign.
A particular highlight was his late winning score in a crucial group stage clash against Kildare.