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The best gaelic footballers of the 1990s

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Current Sligo manager Paul Taylor in action against Roscommon in the Connacht Senior Football Championship semi-final in 1998.
Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Current Sligo manager Paul Taylor in action against Roscommon in the Connacht Senior Football Championship semi-final in 1998. Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Current Sligo manager Paul Taylor in action against Roscommon in the Connacht Senior Football Championship semi-final in 1998. Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

These recent months have certainly been a learning curve for me with the grandchildren's use of technology. I always thought a tablet was something you took for a headache and Zoom was a sort of ice lolly.

As we face uncertain times now, the nineties All-Ireland senior football championship was also a period noted for its unpredictability. No county was able to put together two championship in a row and in all, eight separate counties won All-Ireland titles. This hadn't happened before, and hasn't happened since.

The perennial cycle of dominance of All-Ireland senior football by Kerry and Dublin was broken and a northern renaissance began.

Cork benefited greatly from Kerry's chronic decline in the early nineties. The hurlers had reached the promised land some weeks previously, and what, at one stage earlier on in the season might have appeared to be an impossible dream, became a glorious reality. The historic double of the All-Ireland Football and Hurling championship was achieved by Cork.

By the nineties, Gaelic football had undergone profound changes, where the emphasis has switched from the high-fielding and long kicking, to speed, fitness and hand passing.

Footballers of previous generations were more or less glued rigid to their positions and defenders had a limited area of operating. The nineties football had become more fluid and defenders who should have been 'minding the house' were getting on the score sheet and forwards were looking after their goalkeeper.

Down football suffered a decline in their fortunes from 1968 'til 1991.The frustration of twenty-three long years was wiped away when the 'Mourne men' paraded 'Sam' across the border in '91. They repeated the feat in '94.

The 1991-92 seasons will always be remembered for the manner in which Donegal and Derry, with little or no record of playing in All-Ireland finals, reached the summit.

'Sam for the Hills' - emotive words indeed from Donegal captain Anthony Molloy as he lifted the Sam Maguire cup on Sunday 20th September 1992. His actions sparked off ecstatic scenes of celebration and jubilation at home and abroad. Donegal were the football champions for the first time ever.

Brian McEniff was team-manager and had been at the helm of Donegal football for the best part of thirty years. He lived for his football, both as a player and manager. During this time, Donegal won an All-Ireland and three Ulster titles. Brian was a shrewd tactician who blended together a team laden with talent, then nourished it to success.

At senior level, Derry won Ulster titles in the 70s and 80s. Their greatest success was in 1958 when they reached the All-Ireland final to be narrowly beaten by Dublin.

With the appointment of Eamon Coleman as manager in 1990, results started to improve. Self-belief had been somewhat lacking, but Coleman, a strict disciplinarian, instilled a winning formula which came to fruition in '93 when they achieved their ultimate aim, bringing the 'Sam Maguire' cup across the border for the first time.

The old reliables Dublin and Kerry were still lurking in the long grass and popped their heads out to win All-Ireland titles in '95 and '97.

A new decade, and a clutch of new faces for Meath, as herbalist Sean Boylan found a new way of re-energising the team from the eighties.

They completed the double in '96 and '99. There was no softening of their physicality, with opponents wearing shin-guards and gum shields! (joke) Having said that, Meath were a great team with superb players.

At long last a team from Connaught was taken seriously and Galway, after a thirty-two-year wait, climbed Everest in 1998. As former Galway great, Jack Mahon, once told me, 1998 was 'Galway's football Odyssey.'

The balance of power in the provinces also shifted, with Clare winning their first Munster football title in over seventy-five years, a feat made more memorable in that they beat Kerry in the final.

Leitrim, the poor relations in Connaught, created history by claiming their first provincial football title in 1994. They were always seen as cannon fodder by the likes of Galway and Mayo, who kept them west of the Shannon for eternity.

The 'lily whites' of Kildare, reached the All-Ireland football final in 1988, only to be beaten by Galway. This was their first Leinster title since 1956.

So, there you have it, the teams that made history during the glorious nineties. Now for the players of this era.

Goalkeepers

Gary Walsh, Donegal

Donegal have produced some exceptional goal-keepers over the years, and Gary was one of the best of them. A superb shot-stopper, few could match his agility and reflexes.

Neil Collins, Down

A fine custodian who played with Down for over ten years, his flair was evident when saving many a penalty.

Defenders

Kieran McKeever, Derry

A really tenacious corner back, who was quick off the mark and demonstrated his prowess on the pitch, with tight marking and good awareness of when to stay put or when to move.

Tomas Meehan, Galway

A footballer of slight build, who was endowed with great pace and a bewildering side step.

Tony Scullion, Derry

A player with exceptional balance and vision. Derry's success in '93 was very much down to the defensive solidity of the full-back line, which included the brilliant Tony Scullion.

Gary Fahey, Galway

A tremendous full-back who rarely kicked the ball, preferring to hand-pass to a better placed colleague.

Paul Curran, Dublin

A no nonsense player who played for Dublin in many positions. Football was very much in his blood as his father Noel won an All-Ireland medal with Meath in 1967.

Kenneth Mortimer, Mayo

A very good footballer, and one of the best man-marking corner backs in the game.

Seamus Moynihan, Kerry

Seamus left a lasting impression on Gaelic football, with his infectious enthusiasm on the field and his versatility. He played in many defensive roles for Kerry. One of the greatest footballers of all time.

Terry Ferguson, Meath

A chip of the old block, following in his father footsteps, (Des Ferguson of Dublin football and hurling fame of the fifties and sixties), Terry's ability to marshal a staunch defensive back-line was first class.

Glenn Ryan, Kildare

1988 was a momentous year for Kildare when they reached their first All-Ireland senior final since 1928. Glenn Ryan was an inspirational captain, known for his hard work and general reliability.

Brian Corcoran, Cork

A dual player of renown, who was clever and quick to close down attackers. He was excellent in the air, and read the game well.

Martin O'Connell, Meath

Martin was deceptively quick as a half back with great composure. He was fearless in the tackle, and had good tactical vision. Like all Meath players, he was physically tough.

D.J.Kane, Down

The captain of the great Down team of '94. A hugely competitive footballer, with bags of energy and a-never-say-die attitude.

Midfielders

Larry Tompkins, Cork

Larry first made his name in football in the fertile lands of Co. Kildare. A chance meeting for a job interview landed him in Cork, where his football ability was soon discovered. He played in four consecutive All-Ireland senior football finals, winning two of them. A gifted footballer with great hands who dominated the centre of the field position.

Anthony Molloy, Donegal

One of the most influential midfielders of all time, his immense physical power enabled him to win a phenomenal amount of ball around the middle of the field. Anthony was a central figure in Donegal's All-Ireland glory.

Forwards

Trevor Giles, Meath

One of the greatest half-forwards of his generation, Trevor had the capacity and vision to made that killer pass, a trait that only a minority of players have.

Padraig Conway, Clare

1992 was great year for Clare football when they were crowned Munster football champions. Padraig was appointed captain, and proved to be an excellent choice with his scoring feats.

Martin McHugh, Donegal

The 'wee man' from Kilcar oozed class with everything he did on the pitch. Martin was equally effective with both feet, which made him difficult to handle. A player who enlightened spectators with his blistering pace and scoring opportunities.

Declan Darcy, Leitrim

Declan will always be remembered in Leitrim as the captain of the team that brought glory to the county, winning the Connacht title in '94. Quite a dynamic player, who was capable of kicking long range points at vital times of the game.

Greg Blaney, Down

An absolutely brilliant forward, with a telepathic understanding with other forwards, particularly Mickey Linden. He was very much a team player, more interested in creating chances for colleagues rather than receiving plaudits himself.

Ger Houlahan, Armagh

A prolific scoring machine for Armagh, unfortunately just missing out on All Ireland glory with the 'Orchard' county in the noughties. He also excelled at soccer, playing with Sligo Rovers in the mid-nineties.

Mickey Linden, Down

One of the longest serving members of the Down football team, Mickey had it all, speed, ability and courage. A remarkably gifted footballer with an eye for goal. Every time he got the ball, there was a buzz in the crowd.

Colm Corkery, Cork

For a big man, Colm was a nippy corner forward, who could play anywhere, but was most commonly utilised in the full forward line. A great target man, who used his strength to score spectacular goals.

Padraic Joyce, Galway

A footballer of immense quality, who had the ideal temperament as a player, when hard knocks were par for the course. Padraig was pivotal in the Galway attack, and one of the most prolific and stylish footballers ever to grace the game.

Liam McHale, Mayo

A magnificent footballer, and also a very talented basketball player, Liam was a powerful built tall man, with great aerial ability. The grace and courage with which he soared for high balls was wonderful to see.

Maurice Fitzgerald, Kerry

The complete footballer, tall, stylish and blessed with suburb shooting ability and tremendous creative skill, Maurice had foresight and vision, and would have stood out in any football era.

Paul Taylor, Sligo

Paul played with Sligo for over 14 years and was the county's most prolific scorer during the nineties. He represented Connaught in the Railway Cup competition on many occasions.

I have found this decade quite difficult to pass judgement on, and struggled to select my best team. There were so many excellent players, particularly around the centre of the field.

Selections normally generate a certain amount of controversy, and I'm sure this one will not please everybody.

Take care, and bye for now.

Henry Wymbs (born 11 November 1947) is a radio presenter in the United Kingdom. He presents 'Irish Eye', a weekly Irish music programme broadcast from Oxford across BBC Radio Oxford, BBC Radio Berkshire and online via BBC iPlayer.

Born on his parents' farm near Cliffoney, the eldest of ten children.

Wymbs moved to England in the late 1960s where he forged a successful career with Thames Valley Police.

Since retiring from the police force he has been championing Irish music in the UK, first appearing on BBC Radio Oxford in 1996.

Wymbs lives in Oxfordshire with his wife and has adult sons.

If you wish to get in touch with Henry about his team selections you can email him on henry.wymbs@bbc.co.uk

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