Thursday 18 January 2018



Back in the mid-90s, Brian McEniff, Pete McGrath, Peter McGinnity and Sean McCague all selected McAlinden as the best Ulster goalkeeper of his era. He had an excellent reputation nationally too, although he never won an All Star award, which probably said more about the selection system than him.

2 Gabriel Kelly (Cavan)

He won four Ulster medals in the 1960s but never got to play in an All-Ireland final. However, he enjoyed huge success with Ulster, winning five Railway Cup titles. A tight, tigerish marker, his consistency at No 2 earned him the position in the best team never to have won an All-Ireland, chosen in the GAA's Centenary year.

3 Kevin Kehilly (Cork)

One of a lost generation of Cork players whose hearts were broken by Kerry's seizure of power in 1975. Kehilly was one of the reliable crew who came back season after season and while the All-Ireland title eluded him, his excellence over a decade deserves recognition. He won All Star awards in 1980 and '82.

4 John Egan (Offaly)

His inter-county career ended early in 1971, months before Offaly won their first All-Ireland. It was tough on a man who had done so much for so long, including playing a major part in Offaly's double Leinster success in 1960-61. That was one of the best teams never to win an All-Ireland and unfortunately for Egan, an excellent corner-back, his career would end with a similar deficit.

5 Brian McEniff (Donegal)

Player/player-manager/team manager/administrator -- his career has encompassed all aspects of GAA life over several decades. Ahead of his time in his playing days, he was player-manager when Donegal won their first Ulster title in 1972, a year in which he became the county's first All Star at right half-back. As a manager he led Donegal to glory in the All-Ireland final against Dublin in 1992.

6 Glenn Ryan (Kildare)

He beats a powerful list of candidates for the centre-back slot. An influential presence over several seasons before Kildare made the Leinster breakthrough in 1998, his leadership was crucial in that achievement and again in 2000 when they regained the title. An All Star in 1997 and '98, he was chosen as centre-back on the Kildare team of the Millennium.

7 Johnny Hughes (Galway)

Galway had three shots at the All-Ireland final in four seasons (1971-73-74) but came up short each time. Hughes was aboard for the latter two and it certainly wasn't the fault of the dynamic wing-back that they failed to land the big prize. He was at right full-back on the team which lost to Dublin in the 1983 final, completing a miserable treble. An All Star in '74 and '76.

8 Dermot Earley (Roscommon)

A county minor at the age of 15 and a senior at 17, his lengthy career earned him every honour except an All-Ireland senior medal. Skilful, intelligent, determined, committed and always sporting, he epitomised everything that is good in sport and extended it to the rest of his life where he became Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces before early retirement and his untimely death last June. An All Star winner in 1974 and '79.

9 Ciaran WhelaN (Dublin)

When he made his championship debut as a 19-year old in the 1996 Leinster final on a Dublin team that was defending the All-Ireland and provincial titles, he probably thought he was only a few months away from glory. Thirteen years later, the Raheny clubman's career ended without an All-Ireland medal for the Dubs. It shouldn't take away from his excellence as a powerful midfielder.

10 Ciaran McDonald (Mayo)

Every team needs a spark of unpredictability and McDonald provides it on this selection. One of the most naturally gifted forwards of his generation, he brought something different to the game but, alas for him and Mayo, it wasn't enough to end the All-Ireland drought as he was on the losing side to Kerry in 1997, 2004 and '06. The Crossmolina clubman was hugely versatile and could play anywhere in attack.

11 Packy McGarty (Leitrim)

The name still resonates around football, even if it is 40 years since he retired. His inter-county career spanned four decades (he made his debut in 1949) but he never won a provincial medal. He was chosen on the best team never to win an All-Ireland in Centenary year and was Leitrim's only representative on the Connacht team of the Millennium.

12 Mickey Kearins (Sligo)

Another popular choice on the best team never to win an All-Ireland medal in Centenary year, he played in 17 successive Connacht championships (1962-78), winning the title in 1975. The country's top scorer in 1966-68-72-73, he was an expert finisher as well as also being a superb ball-winner and provider. Played for 13 consecutive years on the Connacht side in the Railway Cup. He won Sligo's first All Star award in 1971.

13 Kevin O'Brien (Wicklow)

Wicklow's first All Star (full-forward 1990), he was comfortable anywhere in attack. Despite suffering some bad knee injuries, he took his career to the maximum with club (Baltinglass), county and country (Irish International Rules team). A reliable finisher, he was especially good at grabbing opportunist goals, a trait that was recognised when he was inducted into the GAA's Hall of Fame in 2010.

14 Frank McGuigan (Tyrone)

Still remembered for kicking 0-11 from open play in the 1984 Ulster final, he certainly wasn't a one-hit wonder. He captained Tyrone to Ulster glory at the age of 19 in 1973 and while he later spent a few years in the US, he returned to become an impressive presence in the Tyrone attack. Unfortunately, his career was ended when he broke his leg in a motor accident in late 1984.

15 Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes (Monaghan)

A member of the elite band who won All Stars in defence and attack, he was honoured at right full-back in 1979 and at left corner-forward in 1985 and '88. Tricky and impish, he liked to give the impression that he took nothing seriously, but deep down he was a hugely committed and intelligent performer who could play in most positions.

Irish Independent

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