First obvious question: why is Seán O’Neill, who was chosen on the Teams of the Century (1984) and Millennium (2000), not ranked in the top four?
Answer: His inter-county career ended in 1975, five years into the timespan for this exercise. And while he continued to play well right to the end, most of the exceptional performances that makes him one of the top forwards in history came in the 1960s.
He still deserves a high ranking, but we have chosen four ahead of him. Between them, Greg Blaney, Mickey Linden, Colm McAlarney and Liam Austin played senior for Down for a total of 70 years.
Blaney gets top spot for the number of boxes he ticked in the list of requirement for a centre half-forward. Excellent vision, a direct runner, good ball-retainer, all underpinned by strength and courage.
“The ultimate No 11” was how Peter McGrath, who managed the Mourne County to All-Irelands in 1991 and 1994 described him. Blaney was the All Star No 11 in both years, having picked up his first award at left half-forward in 1983.
Linden played for Down from 1981 to 2003, remarkable longevity at such a high level. His pace and finishing made him a nightmare for corner-backs, some of whom went well beyond the legal limits in their attempts to reduce his impact.
His best season was 1994, which he finished with an All-Ireland medal (he scored 0-4 from play and set up a crucial goal in the final against Dublin), All Star and Footballer of the Year awards.
Success came early in McAlarney’s career when winning an All-Ireland title as a 20-year-old midfielder in 1968. Down dropped off in the seventies. It certainly wasn’t McAlarney’s fault as he continued to deliver, earning All Stars in 1975 and 1978.
1. Greg Blaney, 2. Mickey Linden, 3. Colm McAlarney, 4. Liam Austin, 5. Seán O’Neill, 6. James McCartan, 7. Benny Coulter, 8. Conor Deegan, 9. Ross Carr, 10. Paddy O’Rourke, 11. DJ Kane, 12. Paddy Kennedy, 13. Neil Collins, 14. Dan McCartan, 15. Barry Breen, 16. Eamonn, Burns, 17. Ambrose Rogers, 18. Brian Burns, 19. Brendan Mason, 20. Kevin McKernan
Click on your county below: