Unsung heroes: The impossible task
WE knew it would be difficult but it wasn't until we got down to checking through the long list of candidates for selection on the Unsung Heroes teams that the sheer scale of the task became apparent.
Drawn from retired players who had never won All-Ireland senior championship medals over 50 years (1960-2010), we could have chosen 10 hurling and football teams and still not had room for some outstanding talent. Narrowing it down to the final 15 in either code was akin to sifting through the purest diamonds, wanting to showcase them all, but having to discard many simply because of a lack of space on the shop window.
We consulted extensively throughout the process, talking to those who had played in different decades and others who had observed. The one absent ingredient on any player or position was unanimity. For every argument, there was a counter view; for every apparent certainty, there was a strong case for an alternative.
Given that it has a broader base, football offered the bigger difficulties, with multiple choices for every position. In the end, we settled for a team made up of players from 15 counties, drawn across the five decades.
Gabriel Kelly (Cavan), John Egan (Offaly), Packy McGarty (Leitrim) and Mickey Kearins (Sligo) represent the earlier part of the period under review, with Brian McEniff (Donegal), Dermot Earley Snr (Roscommon), Brian McAlinden (Armagh), Kevin Kehilly (Cork), Johnny Hughes (Galway), Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes (Monaghan) and Frank McGuigan (Tyrone) taking it well into the 1980s.
The last 20 years are represented by Kevin O'Brien (Wicklow), Glenn Ryan (Kildare), Ciaran McDonald (Mayo) and Ciaran Whelan (Dublin).
The hurling team comes from Clare (4), Limerick (3), Galway (2), Waterford, Wexford, Offaly, Laois, Dublin and Antrim.
It means that between the two teams, 21 counties are represented, with Dublin, Offaly and Galway featuring on both selections. Those not represented are: Carlow, Meath, Longford, Louth, Westmeath, Kilkenny, Fermanagh, Down, Derry, Kerry and Tipperary.
- Readers' Prize: thanks to all those who entered our Unsung Heroes competition. We got a huge response so please be patient while we wade through them all to ascertain who matched, or came closest to, our selections.