Mayo's nearly men
Martin Breheny salutes 61 outstandingplayers who wore the green and redjersey with distinction during 61 yearsof All-Ireland agony out west
AS James Horan and his ambitious adventurers attempt to win the All-Ireland title for Mayo for the first time since 1951, it's an appropriate time to reflect on the dozens of great names who worked so hard to bring Sam Maguire to green-and-red land in the intervening years.
Mayo went 38 years before John O'Mahony steered them back to the final in 1989, when they lost to Cork. Meath (1996) and Kerry (1997, 2004 and 2006) also thwarted them in finals. And then there were the many seasons in which they lost in Connacht or in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Today, we salute the many players who did their best to bring All-Ireland glory to Mayo since Sean Flanagan last led them to success. Since that's all of 61 years ago, we name 61 outstanding Mayo players who missed out on the All-Ireland title.
The list, comprising five goalkeepers, 24 defenders, eight midfielders and 24 forwards, includes Conor Mortimer, although his career halt may be temporary.
Eugene Lavin: His career stretched from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, during which he played 73 times for Mayo, with his most consistent run coming in the 1984-88 period. He kept four clean sheets in the 1988 championship, against Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon and Meath (All-Ireland semi-final).
Peter Burke: The second most 'capped' Mayo 'keeper behind Lavin, he played 60 times between 1997 and 2004, years in which he played in All-Ireland finals. He kept a clean sheet against Kerry in 1997, and while Mayo were well beaten in 2004, he conceded only one goal.
Gabriel Irwin: Mayo's only All Star 'keeper, he was honoured in 1989, a season in which he kept clean sheets against Tyrone and Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final and final respectively.
Mick Webb: Played 49 times between 1979 and 1985.
Eugene Rooney: Had a relatively short career in the late 1960s and early 1970s but made quite an impression.
Willie Casey: One of two Mayo men selected on the best team comprising players who never won All-Ireland medal in GAA Centenary Year (1984), his inter-county career started just after Mayo's last All-Ireland win in 1951 and lasted 13 years.
Kenneth Mortimer: A dual All Star in 1996 and 1997, two seasons in which Mayo played in three All-Ireland finals, but failed to land the big prize.
Johnny Carey: Holds the distinction of being Mayo's first All Star, chosen at No 2 in 1971, the inaugural year of the scheme.
Jimmy Browne: The highlight of a consistent career came in 1989 when he captained Mayo to their first All-Ireland final appearance for 38 years. Unfortunately for them, they lost to Cork.
Ray Prendergast: Played 62 times for Mayo between 1965 and 1972, during which the county won two Connacht titles but lost the subsequent All-Ireland semi-finals.
Kevin Cahill: A towering figure who played 76 times for Mayo between 1992 and 2001.
David Heaney: One of the most versatile players of his generation, he could -- and often did -- play in both defensive lines and midfield.
Peter Ford: The boxing champion knew the ropes as a powerful No 3, prior to managing Sligo and Galway.
Dermot Flanagan: His father, Sean, captained Mayo to their last two All-Ireland titles in 1950 and 1951, but unfortunately for Dermot, who played 123 times for Mayo, he finished without the big prize despite playing in the 1989, 1996 and 1997 finals.
Gary Ruane: Shares with Jimmy Browne (1989), Noel Connelly (1996 and 1997) and David Heaney (2006,) the disappointment of captaining Mayo (2004) in losing All-Ireland finals.
Fergal Costello: Played in a number of positions in a decade-long career which started in 1996.
Anthony McGarry: A dependable defender from 1989 to 1996.
Ger Feeney: Played for over a decade from 1972, but it wasn't a good period for Mayo, who won only one Connacht title (1981). However, he maintained very high standards.
Pat Holmes: An All Star No 5 in 1996, he was equally comfortable in a variety of defensive positions. Managed Mayo to their last national title (NFL) in 2001.
Frank Noone: Played 63 times for Mayo in the 1980s-90s.
Eamonn Walsh: A solid performer in the late 1950s and up to the mid-60s.
John Morley: Lost out to Roscommon's Gerry O'Malley at No 6 on the best team never to win an All-Ireland (selected in the GAA's Centenary Year in 1984), but will always be remembered as an iconic Mayo name.
James Nallen: Like Morley, an outstanding centre-back in a career which saw him played 132 times for Mayo.
John Maughan: How high would he have gone if a knee injury hadn't ended his playing career at the age of 26?
Tom Kearney: Did well in the early 1980s.
Noel Connelly: An excellent captain in Mayo's All-Ireland final bids in 1996 and 1997, but Sam Maguire eluded his grasp.
Henry Gavin: Played 84 times for Mayo in a variety of positions in the 1975-86 period.
John Finn: So who did break his jaw in the 1985 All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin? It has remained one of the great mysteries.
Anthony Egan: Not a specialist No 7, but did enough elsewhere in defence and midfield to be included in the 'Gang of 61'.
Willie Joe Padden: A famous brand name in Mayo football. The art of high fielding was appreciated in his days. Not anymore -- these days, there's more joy in rules heaven for ground-based spoilers who wait for the catcher to return to base.
TJ Kilgallon: A good centre-back too, but played mostly as a midfielder in his 118 appearances.
Liam McHale: Could also be slotted in at centre-forward or full-forward, but at his best at midfield.
Joe Langan: In his prime throughout the 1960s at a time when Galway dominated.
Pat Fallon: An All Star in 1997, which was his peak season, but he did well prior to that too.
PJ Loftus: Solid performer in the 1960s.
Sean Maher: Had several good seasons between 1984 and 1993.
David Brady: A better player than he often got credit for.
Martin Carney: Didn't win an All-Ireland with Mayo or his native Donegal. He deserved it with both!
Tommy O'Malley: Scored 12-147 in 77 appearances.
James Gill: A powerful presence, he was also comfortable at midfield.
John Gibbons: Played 57 times for Mayo up to 1974 before moving to Meath, where an All-Ireland also eluded him.
Ciaran McDonald: Brought style and precision to whatever position he played in.
Colm McManamon: A tireless worker, often starting in his own half-back line.
JP Kean: Measured and calculating, he was aboard the Mayo train for a decade, starting in 1972.
Johnny Farragher: A versatile and consistent performer in the 1960s.
Joe Corcoran: Top Mayo scorer since 1950 on 20-358 until overtaken by Conor Mortimer this year.
James Horan: The current manager knows all about clever forward play.
Trevor Mortimer: One of three brothers who missed out on All-Ireland medals, he could play in attack or defence.
Noel Durkin: An All Star in 1989, a year in which Mayo's inexperience in All-Ireland finals cost them dearly against Cork.
Conor Mortimer: How will Mayo's top scorer since 1950 feel on Sunday after signing himself off the panel back in July?
Kevin McStay: A classy performer who got only one shot at an All-Ireland final (1989)
Kevin O'Neill: Won an All Star in his first season in 1993; scored 2-0 in the 2006 All-Ireland final against Kerry; often hampered by injury in between.
Anthony Finnerty: An opportunist finisher in a 15-year career in the 1980s and 1990s.
Willie McGee: Selected on the GAA's Centenary Year on a team made up of players who didn't win All-Ireland titles.
Mick Ruane: A powerful force in a number of positions in the 1960s.
Padraig Brogan: At his best, he was a real box-office draw.
Jimmy Burke: Scored 9-37 in 77 games (44 starts) in the 1980s.
Ray Dempsey: In Mayo's top 10 scorers since 1950, having hit 16-97 in 64 outings.
Joe McGrath: Scored 25-61 in 44 appearances. An All Star in 1979.
Maurice Sheridan: There was a whole lot more to his game than accurate free-taking.
John Nealon: His career ran from 1954 to 1971, during which he scored 14-16 in 45 appearances.