If Mayo supporters were told at the start of 2011 that by the end of the decade their team would have contested five All-Ireland finals, won 24 All Star awards, received 46 nominations and picked up two Footballer of the Year awards, the automatic assumption would be that Sam Maguire spent a few seasons out west.
Not so. Despite numerous individual awards, their
All-Ireland drought continued, often in the cruellest circumstances.
Despite that, Mayo actually created a record by becoming the first county to take the Footballer of the Year award (Lee Keegan 2016, Andy Moran 2017) in successive seasons without winning the All-Ireland title.
Keegan added four All Stars to his haul, helping him to take No 1 spot on our top 20. His consistency as a specialist marker, usually deployed against the opposition’s main attacking threat, backed up by an intuitive ability to time his forward runs with split second precision, makes him one of the best all-rounders in the modern game.
Keegan’s All-Ireland ambitions are still alive, unlike Liam McHale, who did so much to boost Mayo’s fortunes in the 1980s/90s.
Whether operating at midfield, centre-forward or full-forward, his fielding ability, subtle basketball touches and game-reading combined in a formidable package.
And still the questions remains: if he wan’t sent off early in the 1996 All-Ireland final replay against Meath, would Mayo have won?
Keith Higgins, James Nallen and Colm Boyle are three of the best defenders ever to play for Mayo; Andy Moran and Ciarán McDonald have similar claims in attack while David Clarke is one of only six goalkeepers who have won All Stars in successive years.
Unlike most other counties, ten of our top Mayo 12 are drawn from goalkeeper/defence/midfield, pointing to a pattern which may go some way to explaining why Mayo’s All-Ireland misery continues.
Quite simply, they haven’t produced as many really top class forwards as their main rivals over many decades.
1. Lee Keegan, 2. Liam McHale, 3. Keith Higgins, 4. James Nallen, 5. Andy Moran, 6. Ciarán McDonald, 7. Colm Boyle, 8. David Clarke, 9. Willie Joe Padden, 10. Aidan O’Shea, 11. Kenneth Mortimer, 12. Noel Connelly, 13. Alan Dillon, 14. Martin Carney, 15. Cillian O’Connor, 16. TJ Kilgallon, 17. James Horan, 18. Conor Mortimer, 19. David Heaney, 20. Colm McManamon
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