Players from Dr Crokes and Kilcummin dominate the 2018 Killarney Advertiser Sport Team of the Year with 11 footballers from the two clubs making the final cut.

It was another dominant campaign for the Crokes as they won the Club Championship, County League, County Championship, Munster Championship and East Kerry Championship, and six of Pat O’Shea’s charges have been selected in the Advertiser’s first ever All-Star team.

2018 was also a landmark year for Kilcummin as they bounced back to Division 1 of the County League while also securing the much-coveted Kerry and Munster Intermediate crowns. Five of their players, all of whom were also key members of the East Kerry team who reached the semi-final of the Kerry SFC, ultimately got the nod.

The line-up is completed by four players from three other clubs in East Kerry (Fossa x2, Firies and Rathmore).

Kerry star David Clifford is the 2018 Killarney Advertiser Sport Player of the Year while Kilcummin defender Seán O’Leary has been named Young Player of the Year. Interestingly, David and Seán are the same age and played alongside one another on the victorious Kerry minor team of 2017.

All senior footballers from Killarney and the surrounding areas were eligible for selection and all competitions (divisional, county and intercounty) were taken into account. Considering the amount of talent in the district at the moment, it certainly wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just 15 and a number of guys will undoubtedly feel hard done by.

Here’s the team I went with in the end (and my reasoning below):

1. Brendan Kealy (Kilcummin)
The former Kerry number 1 kept four clean sheets in five games as his side clinched the County Intermediate crown and he marshalled a defence that conceded just 1-11 in three games in the Munster Championship. That superior defensive record puts him slightly above the other candidates for the position.

2. John Payne (Dr Crokes)
This year Payne was deservedly handed the captaincy and he was a key player as the Crokes secured a record-breaking 13th County Championship (his 7th) back in October. Invariably tasked with guarding the opposition’s main threat, the diminutive defender is rarely beaten over the course of an hour.

3. Mike Moloney (Dr Crokes)
Crokes’ defence was far from airtight at the start of the year but veteran full back Moloney came good towards the business end of the season, crucially keeping Dingle danger man Paul Geaney quiet in the County Final. The performance prompted teammate Daithí Casey to call him “one of the most underestimated full backs in the county”.

4. Mike Joe Kelliher (Rathmore)
Rathmore came up short in the County Championship before relinquishing the O’Donoghue Cup to Crokes in December, but the performances of veteran defender Mike Joe Kelliher still caught the eye. The experienced man marker was also named Rathmore’s MVP by teammate Shane Ryan in the 2018 Killarney Advertiser Players’ Review.

5. Seán O’Leary (Kilcummin)
Former Kerry minor star O’Leary announced his arrival on the senior scene in May when he netted two goals in the Intermediate final against Glenflesk. His performances earned him a call up to the East Kerry team for whom he also impressed. A young man with a bright future in the game.

6. Gavin White (Dr Crokes)
Displaying maturity beyond his years, White showed great consistency in both the black and amber of Crokes and the green and gold of Kerry. The Kingdom fell well short of the mark in 2018 but White was excellent in his debut season, earning an All-Star nomination on the back of a string of assured displays.

7. David O’Leary (Dr Crokes)
In 2018 Buddy firmly established himself as an important part of Pat O’Shea’s half back line. The tough-tackling Woodlawn native is an imposing prospect for any forward in the county and he is also very composed on the ball, often initiating attacks with his unselfish play.

8. Kieran Murphy (Kilcummin)
An athletic midfielder who can field amongst the best of them, Murphy was a stand-out performer for his club throughout their historic 2018 season. He also captained the Kerry juniors to All-Ireland glory in June. His injury later in the year undoubtedly hampered East Kerry’s prospects in the County Championship.

9. Jack Sherwood (Firies)
Sherwood was an integral member of the Firies team who gained promotion to Division 3 of the County League but it was with East Kerry that the versatile all-rounder really sparkled. The former Kerry senior was spectacular for the East as they rampaged their way through the opening rounds of the championship.

10. Shane McSweeney (Kilcummin)
A midfielder by trade, Todd proved his worth at half forward for both his club and his district throughout 2018. His physicality around the middle third was crucial as Kilcummin ground down all-comers in the Intermediate, so much so that his teammate Kieran Murphy chose him as his side’s MVP in our Players’ Review.

11. Paudie Clifford (Fossa)
The elder Clifford brother’s swashbuckling performances for Fossa, East Kerry and the Kerry juniors make him an automatic choice on this Team of the Year. Blessed with pace, toughness and skill, Clifford wreaked havoc against every team he faced.

12. Kevin McCarthy (Kilcummin)
McCarthy was excellent in the Kerry Intermediate Championship, putting teams to the sword with his incisive solo runs and eye for goal. Kilcummin’s sole Kerry senior is deceptively rapid and his unselfish hard work was crucial throughout his side’s history-making 2018 campaign.

13. Tony Brosnan (Dr Crokes)
Brosnan grabbed national headlines last year and rightly so. The silky corner forward put up ridiculous numbers in the County Championship, most notably against An Ghaeltacht when he notched 1-14 (1-11 from play) with no wides. A contender for Player of the Year.

14. David Clifford (Fossa)
It was a year to remember for David Clifford as he made his breakthrough with the Kerry seniors and quickly established himself as a leading light. His last gasp goal against Monaghan will live long in the memory, and he deservedly earned an All-Star nod for his efforts. The prodigious youngster also starred for East Kerry as they reached the last four of the County Championship. The 2018 Killarney Advertiser Sport Player of the Year.

15. Kieran O’Leary (Dr Crokes)
There were rumours back in 2017 that Kieran O’Leary’s starting berth for Dr Crokes was in real jeopardy. So much for that. The 31-year-old was phenomenal in 2018, showing form reminiscent of his minor days as he pulled the strings in the Crokes full forward line to devastating effect. His incredible goal in the O’Donoghue Cup final was the icing on the cake.