Deadly Dublin duo or Armagh ace? The stars in the running for Player of the Year tonight

AFTER LAST WEEKEND’S GAA All-Stars, the focus now switches to ladies football.

Sinéad Goldrick, Aimee Mackin and Carla Rowe are in the running for the senior Players’ Player of the Year award.

Source: Inpho.

The top stars from the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland championships will be honoured on a special TV programme this evening. ‘Peil na mBan – Foirne na Bliana – le AIG Insurance’ kicks off on TG4 at 7.15pm.

Again, we’re in for a ceremony vastly different to other years where the crème de la crème of ladies football would converge on Dublin’s City West Hotel for a rousing reception. This year, the formalities take place in February as opposed to November, and largely remotely, for obvious reasons, with TG4 Peil na mBan lead anchor Máire Ní Bhraonáin hosting the hour-long programme from Croke Park.

On the show, Teams of the Championship across all three grades — junior, intermediate and senior — will be announced, along with the recipient of the the 2020 AIG Cúl na Bliana (Goal of the Year) honour.

But just like last weekend, the biggest prizes in the game will be watched even closer: the Players’ Player of the Year awards.

Two All-Ireland four-in-a-row winning Dubliners and a certain Armagh attacking sensation are in the running for the senior Player of the Year gong.

Looking to the Orchard county first, Aimee Mackin will be many people’s frontrunner for the award. One of the finest forwards the game has ever seen and already a two-time All-Star at the age of 23, this is the Shane O’Neills ace’s first nomination for the top prize.

Mackin scored a remarkable 5-17 across three championship games through the autumn,  and was central to Armagh’s charge as they reached their first All-Ireland semi-final since 2015.

She was named Player of the Match in both of their group games against Tyrone and Mayo; making a welcome return to the inter-county scene in style after a 15-month absence due to a devastating cruciate injury.

Her wand of a left foot certainly lit up the championship as she clocked some unbelievable scoring tallies, the most memorable of those a spectacular outside-of-the-boot point against Mayo in Parnell Park, and that cracking goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, which is also nominated for Goal of the Year.

DRAÍOCHT ag Aimee Mackin 😱👀💯

The @ArmaghLGFA forward is on 🔥🔥🔥 GOAL!!@LadiesFootball @20x20_ie @GAA_BEO #ProperFan #20×20 #PeilnamBan pic.twitter.com/p9RFF0aBxj

— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) November 28, 2020

The last time the senior Player of the Year award was claimed by someone from a county outside the All-Ireland winners was in 2014 when Mackin’s team-mate Caroline O’Hanlon was recognised despite Cork’s success. 

Could this be a good omen for Mackin? Will she follow in her footsteps tonight?

Running the rule over the Dublin duo, it could be a case of third time lucky for Sinéad Goldrick, who has been nominated twice (2012 and 2019) in the past decade, while like Mackin, Carla Rowe has earned her first nomination.

With seven All-Stars in eight years (2017 is the odd one out) under her belt, Goldrick is widely expected to bag her eighth tonight and make the Team of the Championship. But the big question is will she add a Player of the Year honour to her ever-burgeoning cabinet?

Goldie is, and always has been, a key player for the Sky Blues. Everything that Dublin do goes through her, and that was best seen in her stunning Player of the Match performance in the All-Ireland final.

Consistently brilliant, the Foxrock-Cabinteely defender is certainly one of the best we’ve seen in the modern era and she’s recently brought her excellence to Melbourne FC in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW].

The 30-year-old has really come to the fore in her second season, establishing herself as a central figure in the Demons’ half-back line, just like she has done for so long with Dublin.

Rowe, likewise, was a vital cog in the Dublin machine as they powered to their fourth Brendan Martin Cup lift on the bounce.

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When needed most, she stepped up — and she certainly stole the headlines in the business end of the year, playing vital roles in the semi-final and final in particular, in the absence of injured captain Sinéad Aherne 

Ever-impressive and a consistent figure in Dublin’s all-conquering running game, Rowe took her own game to another level this year and finished up with 3-10 across four games.

Dublin celebrate after December’s All-Ireland final.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After the loss of Aherne in the All-Ireland semi-final, the Clann Mhuire forward took over the free-taking and penalty duties and finished with 2-4 that day (1-2 of that from play). The exact same thing happened in the final, with Rowe making up for a quiet opening period by winning and scoring the all-important penalty early in the second half, and converting all of her frees.

All-Ireland finalists Cork can perhaps feel hard done by not to have a representative among the nominees — Melissa Duggan is one in particular who was excellent — while several other Dubs, namely Jennifer Dunne, could easily be included, but in Mackin, Goldrick and Rowe, we certainly have three of the top stars of the 2020 championship.

Will the Dublin trend continue with Goldrick or Rowe following in the footsteps of Siobhán McGrath, Aherne and Noelle Healy — winners in 2019, ’18 and ’17 respectively — or will Mackin become the first Armagh Player of the Year since 2014 — and just second ever? 

Elsewhere, Meath attacking duo Emma Duggan and Vikki Wall have been nominated for the intermediate honour, having helped the Royals make it third time lucky in the All-Ireland final against Westmeath. The Lake County’s captain, Fiona Claffey, is also in the running for that one, with Wall most likely the frontrunner.

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In the junior ranks, Fermanagh All-Ireland winners Joanne Doonan and Eimear Smyth — the reigning Player of the Year from 2019 — battle it out for the prize with Meadhbh Deeney, of beaten finalists Wicklow.

***

Who do you fancy to take home the three big prizes? Or do you have any other thoughts or tips ahead of tonight? Let us know in the comment section.

Let us know who you think should the senior winner should be here:

Poll Results:

Carla Rowe. (252)

Aimee Mackin (177)

Sinéad Goldrick (94)

Busy 🐝 's the last few weeks producing the 'Peil na mBan – Foirne na Bliana' in association with @AIGIreland

We can't wait!! 🤩🤩
Teams of 2020 and Players of the year announced!

📺 ar @tg4tv
👉 Satharn |19:15@LadiesFootball @sporttg4#properfan #EffortIsEqual pic.twitter.com/8rY1gQ8oqt

— NemetonTV (@nemetontv) February 25, 2021

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