Strenght in dept gives 2011 Dubs edge over 1995
As we discovered a few weeks ago from the reaction to the selection of O'Leary as the best Dublin goalkeeper of the last 50 years in our GAA Giants supplement, opinion is sharply divided as to whether he should be ahead of Cluxton (or Paddy Cullen for that matter). Many of those who opposed O'Leary backed Cluxton on the argument that he is an equally good shot-stopper, has a more accurate kick-out and brings an added dimension with his long-range point-kicking skills from placed balls.
I disagree on the first point, would question the second (besides there wasn't as much emphasis on this particular facet of play in his era) and while Cluxton's placed-ball exploits are a plus for Dublin, the fact that he has to come so far forward is a sad reflection on the kicking skills of his outfield colleagues. It was an aspect where Charlie Redmond was highly efficient for the 1995 side.
Cluxton still has time to strengthen his claim to be recognised as Dublin's best ever goalkeeper but, as of now, there's a stronger case to be made for O'Leary, who created a GAA record by playing in 70 successive championship games between 1980 and 1997.
Ciaran Walsh (29) v
Cian O'Sullivan (23)
An All-Ireland minor medal winner in 1984 (Dublin's last success in the grade), Walsh finally added a senior medal to his haul 11 years later. An injury to Dermot Deasy gave him his big chance in the 1995 final, having been in and out of the side over previous years. One of the new breed of highly efficient Dublin defenders, O'Sullivan's best years are ahead of him, provided he avoids injury.
Paddy Moran (28) v
Rory O'Carroll (21)
Better known as a corner-back, Moran could also handle full-back quite well, although all of Dublin's back three had difficulty figuring out how to deal with Peter Canavan in the 1995 All-Ireland final. O'Carroll has the capacity to become one of his generation's best full-backs, combining all the required attributes in an intelligent mix. He was unlucky not to win an All Star award last year.
Keith Galvin (20) v
Michael Fitzsimons (23)
Galvin was the second youngest player (behind Jason Sherlock) in the 1995 All-Ireland final, having forced his way onto the championship team after being drafted into the panel in April. His career was interrupted by illness a few years later and while he returned to the Dublin scene, he played his last championship game in the 1999 Leinster final at the age of 24. Fitzsimons had an excellent campaign last year and looks set to be an ultra-effective Blue for several years to come.
Paul Curran (26) v
James McCarthy (21)
Chosen at right half-back on our best Dublin team of the last 50 years, Curran was a special talent. He played in all outfield lines in a lengthy career, and his versatility was used to extinguish fires wherever they arose. However, it was as a half-back that he was at his most effective in a career that yielded All Star awards in 1992, '95 and '96. McCarthy made a big impact last season but is still in the formative stage of his career.
Keith Barr (28) v
Ger Brennan (26)
Barr gave a decade of excellent service as a no-nonsense half-back who brought a steely edge to his game. Won two All Star awards which was a modest return for a player of his calibre. Brennan has settled in well in recent seasons. More disciplined nowadays, his positional play has improved considerably too.
Mick Deegan (31) v Kevin Nolan 22)
Deegan was in the later stages of a long career when Sam Maguire finally returned to the capital while Nolan was in his second full season last year. Deegan was a versatile presence in the Dublin defence over the years but may not have been as influential in their All-Ireland-winning year as Nolan was last season.
Paul Bealin (27) v
Denis Bastick (30)
For reasons that are difficult to fathom, Bealin never won an All Star award. However, that in no way undervalues his importance to the Dublin midfield for a long time. An excellent fielder, he waged some great battles with Meath, in particular. Bastick is a versatile performer and had a very good campaign last year but doesn't have as many plus points as Bealin.
Brian Stynes (23) v
Michael Darragh Macauley (25)
A fascinating match-up of Ballyboden-St Enda's clubmates with Stynes edging it, although Macauley still has time on his side to make up the difference. Stynes was an imposing presence for a long time, using his energetic style to good effect over several years, some of which were interrupted by injury. Macauley's arrival onto the first 15 in 2010 brought an important impetus to Dublin as they carefully built towards the ultimate triumph last September.
Jim Gavin (24) v
Paul Flynn (25)
Dublin's current highly successful U-21 manager was a busy, intelligent half-forward who played an important part in the 1995 All-Ireland success, carved out with wins over Louth, Laois, Meath, Cork and Tyrone. Flynn was equally effective in last year's successful campaign and crowned the season with an All Star award, but he still has ground to make up to catch Gavin.
Dessie Farrell (24) v
Barry Cahill (30)
Farrell played senior championship football for 13 years, spreading his talents all over the forward line. An opportunist finisher, he was an out-and-out attacker, unlike Cahill who spent most of his career as an adventurous wing-back before moving forward in a restructured set-up. That Cahill managed to nail down a place amid a crowded queue in attack is testimony to his all-round game but, as a specialist forward, he loses out to Farrell.
Paul Clarke (29) v
Bryan Cullen (27)
Clarke won an All Star in his All-Ireland year (1995), whereas Cullen didn't hit the jackpot last year, losing out on the wing-forward positions to Paul Flynn and Darran O'Sullivan. Clarke won an All-Ireland minor medal alongside Jim Stynes at midfield in 1984 and played much of his senior career in the position before moving forward.
Cullen's career has alternated between the half-back and half-forward lines but has now settled in the more advanced role. A proven leader, he captained Dublin to All-Ireland success last year.
Charlie Redmond (31) v
Alan Brogan (29)
Dublin's top scorer for several years, thanks to his accuracy as a free-taker, Redmond was a massive presence in the Dublin team of his era. Successive All Star awards in 1993, '94 and '95 underline his consistency but then Brogan has been equally reliable in a senior career that began in 2002. Brogan was usually Dublin's top performer, even in disappointing times, before his Footballer of the Year campaign last year.
Jason Sherlock (19) v
Diarmuid Connolly (24)
On the morning of the 1995 All-Ireland final, a Sunday newspaper claimed that Sherlock was to join Liverpool FC, a move that never materialised. That was Dublin's gain as, after electrifying the 1995 season with his dashing style, he went on play for a further 14 seasons. Connolly may well overtake him in terms of achievement over the coming years but, for now, 'Jayo' holds the edge.
Mick Galvin (32) v
Bernard Brogan (27)
Galvin was an underrated performer in a lengthy career but he loses out to Brogan, a star figure in Dublin's rise over recent seasons.
1995: Pat Gilroy (for K Galvin); Robbie Boyle (for M Galvin); Vinny Murphy (for Farrell).
2011: Philip McMahon (for McCarthy); Kevin McManamon (for Flynn); Eoghan O'Gara (for Cahill); Eamon Fennell (for Bastick).
McManamon's goal changed the course of last year's All-Ireland final.
rest of the panel
(24 players were on the match-day panel in 1995 as opposed to 26 now)
1995: Davy Byrne, Brian Barnes, John O'Callaghan, Sean Cahill, Enda Sheehy, Brian Whelan.
2011: Michael Savage, Paul Conlon, Paul Casey, David Henry, 'Mossy' Quinn, Craig Dias, Ross McConnell.