GAA editor @BrianGBarry
Ahead of the All Ireland Final, we rank the front runners for the Footballer of the Year awards. Watch Kerry v Galway in the All-Ireland SFC final live on Sky Sports Arena from Sunday 14:30.
Last updated: 7/21/22 2:05 p.m
While the Sam Maguire Cup is the grand prize on Sunday, the race for the title of Footballer of the Year is still open. Here are the main contenders.
David Clifford (Kerry)
That the Fossa striker, at 23, has long been considered the best footballer in the country speaks volumes for the heights he has reached in his career.
He has continued his stunning form in 2022 and that has taken the Kingdom to the National League title and an All-Ireland final.
Despite being kept quiet by Cork and missing the Munster final against Limerick, he led the Kingdom 3-1 past Mayo and earned a 6-0 win over Dublin in the semi-final win.
His spring shows – with a score of 1-6 in Mayo’s most recent loss – underpin a strong campaign so far.
If he does his best in the finals and leads Kerry to her promised land, he could be up for the highest individual honor in the game.
Clifford hopes Kerry can deliver in the final
Damien Comer (Galway)
With the All-Ireland semi-finals apparently going from Rory Gallagher’s script, Galway needed someone to grab the game by the neck.
That’s exactly what Comer did and scored the 2:2 from the game. After several injury-interrupted seasons, he’s benefiting from a long fitness run.
“The poor Divil has come a long way. He had some terrible injuries,” Pádraic Joyce said of the Tribe target man.
“He’s the key. He is one of our marquee strikers. Every county would love to have someone like him. He’s powerful, he’s strong, he can play indoors, he can win kickouts. He’s really important to us.”
“We haven’t gotten him into really good shape for the last two years so we probably haven’t gotten over it [the line], get Connacht title. But this year he’s been in great form and he’s also working really hard for the team.
“He changed his game a lot, I know he did a lot of work on the field that he was asked to do against Mayo at Castlebar, he made it to the tee and scored a couple of points. He works really hard for the team and he’s in great, great shape and he’s enjoying his football, which is great.”
If the Connacht champions can get a quick ball into his number 14 on Sunday, he could do real damage.
Comer led the Galway charge against Derry
Sean O’Shea (Kerry)
Should the Kingdom manage to end their eight-year wait on Sunday, O’Shea’s late win over Dublin in the semi-finals will go down in Kerry folklore.
The Kenmare man has been a consistent goalscoring threat from both placed balls and open play all summer. He has already scored 1-23 in four league games with 1-10 coming from the game.
He showed his big-game temper against the dubs, not only with his late buzzer-beater but also scoring 1-4 points throughout the competition.
O’Shea is one of the most versatile footballers in football right now and will look to prove that in the finals.
O’Shea kicked in a stunning late free-kick to beat Dublin
Shane Walsh (Galway)
Some criticisms of Walsh in the past have centered on a lack of consistency. The talent has always been in sight. But seldom before this year has he produced in big games so frequently.
With a contribution of 1-6 he dominated the Connacht final. He’s shown nerves of steel on placed balls in the All-Ireland series. He scored the first three points of the second half against Derry which turned the tide.
Despite coming off the ball for some tight coverage and extra attention, Walsh was still able to rise above it and add to his team.
He is capable of winning games on his own and Pádraic Joyce will be hoping for a big showing from his marksman on Sunday afternoon.
Tom O’Sullivan (Kerry)
In 15 games so far in 2022, Kerry has conceded just three goals. One was an inconsequential penalty by Conor McManus late in a league game. The others came from Darren McCurry and Cormac Costello.
Jack O’Connor identified strengthening defense as a key area last year and they’ve certainly tightened things up at the back.
Tom O’Sullivan was a key part of that and was watertight on defense.
But the Dingle man has also delivered an attack threat.
He took three points from the game in both the quarter-final win over Mayo and Munster’s final win over Limerick. He also raised a white flag against the dubs.
O’Sullivan is the perfect modern corner defender and will look to have a similar impact against the Tribesmen.
Watch Kerry v Galway in the All-Ireland SFC final live on Sky Sports Arena from Sunday 14:30.