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Looking back over 50 years of sporting greats

Half a century of sporting memories celebrating our greatest sportsmen and women is brought to our readers today in a special 32-page supplement that is bound to provoke intense debate and bitter dissent among sports fans.

Unrivalled charts the achievements of our heroes, the great teams and the individual acts of brilliance. But making a judgment call on those our panel deemed the greatest in each decade was always going to be provocative.

Yet the process has been illuminating - bringing back a flood of wonderful memories from each of the five decades parsed and analysed by our award-winning stable of sports writers. Was Eddie Keher of Kilkenny the greatest hurler between 1965 and 1974? Did the flawed genius that was George Best make him one of our top 10 sporting icons of the same decade?

And the process also put pressure on our writers to look into their souls and determine the sporting hero they admire most and why.

It threw up some surprises. All-Ireland-winning footballer and Sunday Independent GAA analyst Colm O'Rourke looked beyond his own code to find his sporting hero.

He chose jockey AP McCoy who retired yesterday in front of a sell-out crowd at Sandown after a stellar career.

O'Rourke writes of McCoy: "To my mind, cyclists and jump jockeys are the bravest of men. The jockeys pay a particularly heavy price and McCoy has all the war wounds . . . genius madness, brilliance. We are unlikely to see anything even near comparable again. A sportsman for 500 years, never mind 50."

Other calls by our judging panel may even provoke anger.

Memories of Saipan still cause bitter division whenever the name of Roy Keane comes up for discussion. Yet Keano makes our list of the 10 Irish sports stars who lit up the 1990s. That was a big call and a contentious one. Keane's critics will never forgive the walk-out in Saipan.

Of course that is all grist to the mill. Irish sports fans are knowledgeable and eclectic in their tastes, and they love nothing better than to argue over sport. Unrivalled provides a gilt-edged opportunity to do just that.

Mostly it is about sweet memories of sporting triumph, those heroes we believe deserve their place in the pantheon of Irish sporting greatness.

Sunday Indo Sport