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Time stands still for no man but retired stars will be missed

WITH apologies to our absent friends from the Big Apple, whose perennially fleeting association with the All-Ireland football championship starts and ends each early May, the race for Sam kicks off this Sunday. But something – or more precisely someone – will be missing from each of the five SFC venues.

There will be no Dessie Dolan at Páirc Tailteann. No Donie Kingston at Pearse Park. No Matthew Clancy at Hyde Park. No Kevin Cassidy (or Seánie Johnston, come to think of it!) at Breffni Park. No John Galvin at the Gaelic Grounds either.

The same pattern will be replicated at various locations in the coming weeks, as the championship proceeds without an array of marquee names who won’t be involved this summer.

It’s the nature of the cyclical beast: time stands still for no man, even All-Ireland heroes or All Stars, albeit our selection below isn’t entirely confined to those of ‘retirement’ age.

So let us unveil our Missing Marvels: we reckon they’d prove a match for any inter-county team in almost every department (talent, experience, winning mentality, speed of thought) bar the obvious (speed of leg!) ...

(1) PAUL HEARTY (Armagh): All-Ireland winning sub ‘keeper in 2002, his medal haul with Armagh and Crossmaglen could fill a bank vault.

(2) DAVID HENRY (Dublin): Bowed out with that long-awaited Celtic Cross, served the Sky Blue cause in a raft of positions but enjoyed his best years at corner-back.

(3) ANTHONY MOYLES (Meath): Another play-anywhere stalwart who revelled in a variety of central roles for the Royals. We’ve a gap at No 3: SOS Anthony!

(4) TOM O’SULLIVAN (Kerry): “He marked all the best left-footed corner-forwards in the country and over his career very few have beaten him,” said Jack O’Connor last week. “Gone at last - thank Christ!” echoed Citeogs Anonymous.

(5) KEVIN CASSIDY (Donegal): Current All Star who has closed the book on his inter-county career. Or, to clarify, the book has been closed on him.

(6) JOHN MISKELLA (Cork): A groin injury finally halted the veteran gallop of this 2009 All Star and 2010 All-Ireland winner.

(7) PHILIP JORDAN (Tyrone): Multi-decorated, multi-talented. The Rolls Royce of wing-backs.

(8) JOHN GALVIN (Limerick): The curse of the cruciate sequel. Unlikely to play any championship football this summer.

(9) ENDA McGINLEY (Tyrone): Challenged his colleague, Sean Cavanagh, for Footballer of the Year in 2008 when he was consistency incarnate.

(10) BRIAN DOOHER (Tyrone): The Duracell batteries have finally expired - after 16 seasons.

(11) BRIAN McGUIGAN (Tyrone): Is this starting to sound like a Red Hand testimonial? Then again, we’re talking about the prince of playmakers.

(12) TREVOR MORTIMER (Mayo): Gave his heart and soul in a variety of positions for the green-and-red, before Kenya came calling.

(13) STEVIE McDONNELL (Armagh): Stevie from Killeavy has destroyed his last inter-county defender. Jersey pullers throughout Ireland are sleeping easier tonight.

(14) DONIE KINGSTON (Laois): Our youngest inclusion by far, who opted out for the season. How Laois could do with this former boy wonder this weekend.

(15): DESSIE DOLAN (Westmeath): Not officially retired but tank emptied by another marathon club campaign. He’ll be missed, maybe fatally so, against Louth.


(16) BRENDAN MURPHY: Royal guardian and former soccer Don.

(17) TOMMY GRIFFIN: Kerry’s wall of steel.

(18) CIARáN GOURLEY: Tyrone man-marker who blazed a trail in ‘03’

(19) KEVIN HUGHES: Tyrone’s long-serving midfield ‘Hub’.

(20) NIGEL CRAWFORD: The midfield link to Meath’s last All-Ireland.

(21) MICHAEL HEGARTY: Donegal schemer with record SFC appearances to prove it.

(22) MATTHEW CLANCY: Galway’s goalscoring super-sub against Derry 11 long years ago.