Saturday 24 February 2018

The 25 best Dublin players of the past 25 years

From players who graced Croke Park in the '80s to players who will start on Sunday, Colm Keys selects his finest

Stephen Cluxton: Dublin's number 1
Stephen Cluxton: Dublin's number 1
Brian Stynes
10: Mick Deegan
Vinny Murphy
3: Paul Curran
17: Diarmuid Connolly
9: Charlie Redmond
7: Keith Barr
19: Barry Cahill
4: Alan Brogan
5: Bernard Brogan
15: Michael Darragh McAuley
8: Dessie Farrell
24: Paddy Christie
16: Gerry Hargin
22: Bryan Cullen
25: Paul Clarke
2: John O'Leary
12: Paul Flynn
14: Jason Sherlock
23: Tommy Carr
6: Ciaran Whelan
18: Eamon Heery
11: Kieran Duff

DUBLIN football began the last quarter of a century in a firm headlock that their neighbours and great rivals to the north had placed them in. Meath had won three Leinster titles in successive years from 1986 to 1988, beating Dublin in the provincial final on each occasion as their rivalry soared.

But over the next 25 years Dublin have maintained a record of consistency that has taken them to 14 Leinster titles and 11 All-Ireland semi-finals.

They may have won just two All-Ireland titles but some of the greatest players to wear the sky blue jersey fall into this period. We present our top 25 from the period.

1 Stephen Cluxton

Cluxton's statistics say it all, 39 clean sheets from 65 championship games and just 37 goals conceded. But that's only part of why he ranks so highly. His impressive accuracy and judgment from restarts and his calm nerve and return from frees since he stepped up to take them from long range in 2010 elevates him further. A four-time All Star winner and hero of the 2011 All-Ireland win.

2 John O'Leary

O'Leary's record of 70 consecutive championship appearances between 1980 and 1997 stands as a monument to his consistency and brilliance in the position. Arguably the greatest shot-stopper in the game he spanned the eras with Dublin delivering 32 clean sheets and conceding just 51 goals. Dublin's most decorated All Star with five awards.

3 Paul Curran

Right man, right place, right time. Curran just had that knack. In possession he was a most graceful presence driving forward from right half-back and was equally at home in attack. Man of the match in the 1995 All-Ireland final, he was three times an All Star.

4 Alan Brogan

Injury has not been kind to him over the last two seasons but the older Brogan reached his peak in 2011 when Dublin won the All-Ireland final and he was crowned Footballer of the Year after a season at centre-forward that brought his playmaking qualities to the fore. There were times in the mid 2000s when he was Dublin's only attacker with real cutting edge.

5 Bernard Brogan

It says something when you are a unanimous choice for every individual award in a season when your county hasn't reached an All-Ireland final. So it was with Bernard Brogan in 2010 when he hit 3-42 in seven games and then followed it up with another impressive season in 2011.

6 Ciaran Whelan

In any list of footballers, regardless of origin, who haven't won All-Ireland senior medals Whelan is sure to figure among the best. His career was sandwiched between the 1995 and 2011 All-Ireland triumphs. Thrown in at the deep end against Meath in the 1996 Leinster final as a late replacement, he bowed out after the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kerry.

7 Keith Barr

Barr was a commanding presence at the heart of the Dublin defence for the best part of a decade. An All-Ireland winner in 1995 he loved nothing better than making direct penetrating runs forward and his goal against Kildare in the 1992 Leinster final remains one of the best from the last 25 years.

8 Dessie Farrell

Farrell's release to centre-forward for the 1995 campaign was critical to Dublin taking a first All-Ireland title in 12 years. A very effective corner-forward when coming on to the team in 1992, Farrell's posting at centre- forward for the Leinster final against Meath helped to transform them. In the leaner years of Tommy Carr's management he was Dublin's most influential forward.

9 Charlie Redmond

Redmond's consistency for Dublin during Pat O'Neill's three-year reign was such that he was chosen as an All Star in 1993, '94 and '95. A key player in the 1995 All-Ireland triumph he amassed 1-31 in the five-match campaign before being controversially sent off against Tyrone in the final.

10 Mick Deegan

Now a selector with Jim Gavin, Deegan was a very polished defender for Dublin in the 1990s. His versatility allowed him to play at corner-back or wing-back with equal effect though it was at half-back where he won his All-Ireland medal in 1995.

11 Kieran Duff

Duff's powers may have waning at the beginning of this period but he won All Stars in 1987 and 1988 and scored a magnificent goal against Meath in the 1989 Leinster final. Never a forward to take a step back in the face of adversity.

12 Paul Flynn

The Fingallians man really blossomed in the second half of Pat Gilroy's management and picked up All Stars in 2011 and 2012. Has developed into a hugely productive half-forward with the accolade of 'pound for pound best footballer' from former Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney delivered on more than one occasion.

13 Vinny Murphy

Prior to the 1992 All-Ireland final against Donegal – a game that he struggled in – there were few who would dispute that Murphy was Dublin's best forward and one of the best in the game. A favourite of the Hill because of the honesty and randomness of his play he was unequalled under a dropping ball.

14 Jason Sherlock

Sherlock's time with Dublin can often divide opinion. What can't be disputed though is the impact his arrival had on an ageing Dublin team in 1995. His commitment to the cause for most of his 15 seasons in a Dublin shirt was exceptional. His awareness of space and lithe movement were his greatest assets.

15 Michael Darragh MacAuley

Not everyone's idea of the perfect midfielder at the start, but Pat Gilroy had great faith when he enlisted him in 2010 and was repaid instantly. Unorthodox in so many ways but his energetic thrust makes his runs very difficult to defend against. An All Star in 2011 he was unlucky not to add to that in 2010 and 2012.

16 Gerry Hargan

The first of a series of Ballymun Kickhams full-backs to represent Dublin with distinction. Hargan was a tigerish man-marker who brought poise too with his clearances off his left foot. A cornerstone of the 1983 All-Ireland winning side he was still playing in 1992 when they lost to Donegal.

17 Diarmuid Connolly

Connolly may not be everyone's choice because of a suspect temperament and inconsistency to his game but he is a wonderful talent and arguably the best two-footed kicker in the game right now. His performance against Tyrone in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final when he scored seven points from play was one of the best from any forward in recent times.

18 Eamonn Heery

Heery fell out of favour with the management which forced him to miss 1995 when Dublin got over the line. He was renowned as one of Dublin's toughest players but more often than not Heery got the mix right with the level of skill that he applied to his game.

19 Barry Cahill

Cahill's versatility is reflected in the range of positions he played on various Dublin teams. When he won his All-Ireland medal in 2011 he was centre-forward, having started out life at corner-back and half-back. Scored a memorable goal from half-back against Kildare in the 2009 Leinster final.

20 Shane Ryan

Ryan was comfortable in just about any position for Dublin. Began life as a corner-back and routinely switched between attack and defence before settling for his last full season (2008) as a midfielder when he won his only All Star.

21 Brian Stynes

An All-Ireland minor finalist in 1988 Stynes followed his late brother Jim to Australia and had a few years with Melbourne as an AFL player before resuming a career with Dublin in 1994. He was pivotal to Dublin in '95 with the athleticism and fielding strengths that he brought.

22 Bryan Cullen

Like Cahill and Ryan, versatility has been his strength. Much under-rated, Cullen broke into the Dublin squad while still a minor in 2002 and had spells at half-back and half- forward from where he captained Dublin to their 2011 All-Ireland title.

23 Tommy Carr

Carr was at his best when Dublin played Meath in their four match series of Leinster championship games in 1991, the year he claimed his only All Star at right half-back. Always supremely conditioned he brought an iron will to his game.

24 Paddy Christie

Nothing reflected Christie's importance to Dublin in the middle of the last decade more than the void he left when he stepped away. Had calm authority at full-back but he was also an astute footballer and an All Star in 2002.

25 Paul Clarke

Industrious and committed to the cause, Clarke offered versatility at midfield and across the half-forward line. Had his best year in 1995 when Dublin won the All-Ireland title and he got the crucial goal to break Meath in the Leinster final. No surprise he is a committed triathlete now in his 40s.

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