Sunday 11 December 2016

100 Greatest football stars of today

Published 08/01/2011 | 05:00

In 2010, for the first time in his nine-year inter-county career, Colm Cooper didn't kick a ball for Kerry in August. On his day he is virtually unmarkable, possessing the greatest array of skills. The 2004 Footballer of the Year.

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Once Seamus Moynihan retired in 2006 O Se could be considered the best defender in the game -- a mantle he retains five years on. In the 2009 All-Ireland final against Cork he didn't hit a stray ball from over 20 passes. Allied to his powerful running, he is some player.

Cavanagh has lost some of his dynamism since 2008, when he was the season's outstanding player -- but in full flight there isn't a more imposing ball-carrier in the game. A four-time All Star, he is equally comfortable at midfield, half-forward or full-forward.

Cavanagh provides the dash and plenty of the style, but Dooher has been the heartbeat for Tyrone for so long. His first-half point in the 2008 All-Ireland final against Kerry ranks as one of the greatest.

Thirteen years on from making his Galway debut, Joyce continues to shoulder the burden of leading the Tribesmen in fallow times. The 2001 Footballer of the Year produced some wonderful performances last year, underlining how he is as accurate as ever.

Probably Kerry's most undervalued asset. When he got injured early on against Down in August Kerry badly missed his direction and ball-carrying skills. A target of abuse in 2006, he has put in a few storming seasons since.

Armagh's dominance of Ulster through the noughties had much of its source in McDonnell's opportunism. The GPA Footballer of the Year in 2003, he still has the capacity to kick important and spectacular points.

Was in the shadows of his older brothers early on in his career, but by 2006 he had established a firm footing and in 2007 he was Footballer of the Year. Arguably the most skilful defender in the game.

The 'Red Adair' of Cork football puts out fires wherever they appear. One of the most inspirational figures of the last decade, a real leader, as evidenced by his second-half cameo against Down in September.

Ever-present and has taken goalkeeping to a new level, not just for his shot-stopping and security but for his restarts, which gave Dublin a decisive edge during their sequence of five Leinster titles. Three All Stars underline his pre-eminence in the No 1 position.

O'Neill has done spectacular things over the course of his career -- remember the GAA's 125th anniversary celebration league game against Dublin almost two years ago? -- but injury has been too common a problem for him. The 2005 Footballer of the Year.

The undisputed king of 2010, his graph is only heading in one direction -- upward. Another season like the one he had and he'll be well inside the top 10 in 12 months time.

Jordan has gone about his business quietly and efficiently, but the statistics reveal that there hasn't been a more prolific half-back in the last decade. Wasting a ball is alien to him too.

The 2008 Footballer of the Year mixes the good with too much indiscipline, but when he's on his game he's the consummate team player.

Brought a new 'old' dimension to Gaelic football in the middle of 2006, he probably possesses the best hands in the game, for passing and fielding.

Like Doyle, an All Star has come late in his career but his currency has been goals and an aerial ability that belies his height.

Now living in the shadow of his younger brother, but as Dublin dominated Leinster for much of the last decade Alan's influence was pivotal. Sometimes takes on too much himself.

Finally got a deserved All Star award this year -- for so long Doyle has been racking up the scores in league and championship.

The mainstay of the Tyrone defence for so long, his powers may be waning, but his positional sense and strength remain acute as ever.

Another who continues to stand the test of time. He was magnificent in 2009 after a few lean years, and he is arguably the best orthodox midfielder in the game.

Hasn't always had the best players around him and is now suffering from injury, but at his peak Forde is among the best attackers around.

Can flatter to deceive and has never been on a winning Galway senior championship team in Croke Park, but he is a mercurial attacking talent.

Coming close to retirement, the defender opponents love to hate is the embodiment of Tyrone passion and pioneered the role of the attacking corner-back.

For raw talent Bradley makes it in to the top 25 even if his contributions have sometimes been a little sketchy and unpredictable. Capable of shooting the lights out, however.

He's had his off seasons but Mulligan remains a prolific scorer, he has the best dummy in the game and scorer of probably the goal of the last decade against Dublin.

For service and commitment to Cork Murphy ranks highly. Ever-present since 1998, there are times when he can dominate a spell in a game with his aerial power.

Few have given so much to a county for so little tangible reward. A colossal presence in Limerick's engine room, he may just have been Darragh O Se's most difficult opponent.

Jack O'Connor once described him as the 'Beckenbauer' of the Kerry team and in 2009 he underlined why. A calm, unfettered defender.

Injury hasn't been kind, but Clarke remains one of the best ball-winning forwards in the game, and he can kick points well under pressure.

Curiously omitted from the starting team in the 2007 All-Ireland semi-final, he has made his mark impressively since then as Cork's chief scoring source.

Eyebrows will be raised at the low ranking of the Down stylist, but as his career progresses, he'll quickly rise to single figures.

Versatility is his greatest virtue: he's equally at home as a half-forward or corner-back, as he underlined in the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final and final.

The second highest-rated goalkeeper, he has recovered well since his mistake in the 2007 All-Ireland final and has worked hard on a solid kick-out strategy.

The archetypal centre-forward who was the key figure in Tyrone's brains trust when they arrived in 2003. Injury has derailed him but his intelligence still ranks him highly.

Prone to wild kicking, but at his best he has a propensity for the spectacular and his commitment to his county and longevity deserve to keep him right up there with the best.

Now entering the twilight of his career, Dolan brings craft and brilliant vision to his game, which were key components to Westmeath's 2004 Leinster success.

Monaghan's prominence in league and championship over the last six years has been built on the opportunism and prolific skills of Freeman -- one of the most explosive players around. A 2007 All Star.

Still eligible as an U-21 last year, the potential is enormous for the powerfully built Murphy as his little cameo late in the second International Rules Test against Australia illustrated.

Going into 2011 he is Gaelic football's longest-serving county player -- he keeps himself in pristine condition. A powerful ball-carrier, cue his spectacular goal in the 2007 Connacht final.

Has made quite an impact since his return from Australia in early 2008 and has picked up All Stars in successive years (2009/2010) for his confident defending.

Meath's only All Star of recent vintage has a devastating turn of pace and decent finish in any of the six attacking positions.

Made a quick impact at the beginning of his career with an All Star in 2002 and has been generally consistent as a midfielder or half-back since then.

One of the best corner-backs in the game because of his pace and tenacity in shadowing opponents. Twice an All Star.

The first Mayo man on the list mixes graft and vision and since Ciaran McDonald's departure has become the focal point of their attack.

Louth's first All Star has not been an overnight success: he has been producing energetic performances in the Wee county's engine room since the mid-2000s.

It's only in the last couple of seasons that Sheridan has really begun to realise his potential at this level. A powerfully built opportunist with a great shot and eye for goal.

With a more successful county, McNamee would be spoken of as one of the best forwards in the game. Capable of terrorising defences.

Armagh's confrontational defender is one of the strongest in the game and has settled into the role since Kieran McGeeney's retirement.

Kerry's 2008 All-Ireland U-21 winning captain brings youth to an ageing defence and loves to push forward. Will anchor the Kingdom defence in years to come.

Where to play him is the question. An attacking half-back or a playmaking centre-forward? Few defenders can match his accuracy. An alternative left-footed free-taker too.

51 James Kavanagh

His improvement under Kieran McGeeney continues, with his impact over the last couple of seasons really elevating him.

The industrious Harte has amassed an amazing 1-18 from half-back for Tyrone over the course of a five-year career.

53 Nigel Crawford

Never the most consistent performer, but can dominate a game when the mood takes him. Enjoys great longevity and is the only 1999 All-Ireland medalist still in the Meath side.

One of the best conventional full-backs around -- the younger McMahon was an All Star in 2008.

O'Neill came late to the inter-county game but for such a big man he is mobile and can get on the end of moves to score goals with perfect timing.

Cahill's star may be waning under Pat Gilroy, but for six previous years he has been a magnificent half-back.

Showed nerves of steel in the latter end of the 2010 championship to get the important scores for Cork. Oozes talent and will now have the confidence to match.

The All Star goalkeeper in 2008, Connaughton is one of the best shot-stoppers in the game.

With goals like the one he scored against Galway this summer he'll climb much higher in the years ahead. An elusive corner-forward.

Given a new role as a half-forward last year, Hughes showed just what a good football brain he has; was shortlisted for Footballer of the Year.

The teak-tough Fermanagh midfielder has taken some blows in his career, but he has been as ferocious a competitor as any in Ulster. An All Star in 2004.

The International Rules has shown just what a good footballer Glynn is and what an all-round game he has.

One of the best strikers of a ball in the game, whatever else he does he'll be remembered for that winning free in the 2010 Connacht final win over Sligo.

The best Cavan have to offer, an elusive and skilful presence in any position in their frontline.

Not the most robust player, but he's a reliable free-taker and his range of passes off his left foot is tremendous.

Spent last season on the sidelines recovering from injury but Griffin is an intelligent defender with great leadership skills.

Something of a jack of all trades for Kerry, he has had stints at midfield, centre-back and most recently full-back, where he had his best season in 2009.

Whenever Kildare sense a threat across their half-back line, Bolton is the man dispatched to deal with it. A much-improved defender.

Recent years haven't been kind to Lynch, who has struggled with injury and form, but on his day he was one of the most effective corner-backs around and a great servant to Cork.

His save from Declan O'Sullivan in the 2008 All-Ireland final surely prevented Kerry's three-in-a-row. Has finally edged his internal head-to-head with John Devine.

The warrior from west Cork enjoyed his finest hour in the All-Ireland final last September when he successfully shadowed Down's Martin Clarke.

Wherever there is a hole in the defence, Derry have deployed O'Kane to plug it. Easily their most consistent player of recent times.

One of only a handful of All-Ireland winners remaining in Galway, Bergin had great potential that he hasn't always maximised.

For so long the pillion passenger in the Kerry midfield, but in 2009 he became the anchor man. Has improved steadily.

The Dublin captain has just come off a frustrating year where versatility has cost him, but up to 2010 he was a consistent presence in the Dublin defence.

A supremely talented forward who has the capacity to infuriate his supporters as much as he delights them.

Won an All Star last season for his adventurous play from corner-back which has been developing for a few years now.

His 3-7 against Meath in a 2008 qualifier was some arrival to inter-county football that year and his capacity for spectacular points has scarcely diminished since.

With an All-Ireland medal secured, Kerrigan's pace can take him to much higher levels over the next couple of years.

A talented all-rounder, Lyng pressed the knife deep into Galway last season and had an outstanding 2008.

He has made a welcome return to the squad after a two-year absence through injury. Two All Stars underline his pedigree.

Monaghan's long-serving half-back can be just as effective in attack, but he has been one of the best 'extra' defenders deployed in recent years.

The central cog in what was once the most solid full-back line in Connacht, McKeon has had few peers as a No 3 during his time with Leitrim.

McCann is equally comfortable at midfield or full-forward, where his ball-winning capacity is put to good use.

If his struggle with injury is behind him, then Reilly can firmly establish himself as one of the best full-backs around.

Over the last three years he has begun to catch up on his older brother Paddy and when they work in tandem they are a difficult proposition.

Laois no longer have too many that stand out from the pack, but McMahon is rarely beaten and his goal against Meath last summer showed his class.

McVeigh is the current All Star goalkeeper and performed heroics against Kerry and Cork to earn the award.

Dual player Higgins can be an irritant to the best attackers and has been Mayo's most consistent defender in lean years.

Has come off a decent season with Armagh and Crossmaglen. Prone to the odd error, but ticks most goalkeeping boxes required.

Another Galway footballer who can find more but at his best he comfortably makes this list.

Monaghan have been competing at a high level for the last number of years and Clerkin has been one of their most combative players.

Has had a couple of quiet seasons, but Munnelly still retains enough quality for a second coming.

Clarke has beaten off much competition for the Mayo No 1 jersey and will have more to deal with in the years ahead. Still one of the best at his trade around, though.

Has mixed his time between Carlow and Wicklow, who've both valued his contribution as a competitive midfielder when at their service.

A fine footballer who has been at the heart of Longford teams for over a decade. A powerful half-forward well able to take his point.

Casey has been versatile across the Roscommon defence for the last number of years.

A classy young attacker who scored freely for the Banner in 2010 -- notching 1-11 of the team's 1-13 total in the league against Carlow.

A prolific sharpshooter who has taken over the 'Declan Browne' mantle, he has proven himself in open play as well as his accuracy from placed balls.

Perhaps he didn't reach the heights he threatened to early in his career and really struggled last year, but a strong ball-carrier, nonetheless.

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