Wednesday 17 January 2018



The Clare team of 1977-78 was one of the best never to win an All-Ireland title and nobody did more than Durack in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make the breakthrough. A remarkably consistent goalkeeper, his excellence earned him three All Star awards (he was the first Munster goalkeeper to be chosen) in 1977-78-81.

2 Stephen McDonagh (Limerick)

Apart from being very unlucky not to win an All-Ireland medal, he was also unfortunate to have never picked up an All Star award (his omission in 1996 was especially surprising). However, the game was about a whole lot more than medals and awards to McDonagh, whose expertise at corner-back comfortably sustained him through an inter-county career which lasted more than a decade.

3 Noel Drumgoole (Dublin)

Chosen in Centenary year (1984) on the best team never to have won an All-Ireland medal up to then, nothing has happened in the interim to change the ratings. Other strong contenders have emerged but none has displaced a man whose understanding of full-back play provided a revealing text book for aspiring No 3s.

4 Ollie Canning (Galway)

Having won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1994, he made his senior championship debut in 1996. Surely, it would be only a matter of time before he won a senior medal? Fourteen seasons later, he played his last game for Galway last July, still waiting for the big prize, although it in no way detracts from his big reputation. A four-time All Star winner.

5 Ciaran Carey (Limerick)

Comfortable and efficient in a variety of positions at half-back/midfield/ half-forward, he made his senior debut at the age of 18 and went on to enjoy an exceptionally successful career in every facet except winning that elusive All-Ireland senior medal. He won three All Star awards in 1992-94-96, a fitting tribute to his consistent excellence.

6 Sean Stack (Clare)

Fourteen seasons on the Clare team underlined his durability. However, there was much more to his game than that, as he displayed at a time when Clare came so agonisingly close to ending the Munster and (possibly) All-Ireland famine. He won successive NHL medals in 1977 and '78, the latter as captain, and was All Star centre-back in 1981.

7 Pat McGrath (Waterford)

His son Ken wasn't eligible for selection on the 'Unsung' team (it's confined to retired players), but his career is now in danger of ending up like that of his father, without an All-Ireland medal. Pat battled bravely for many years in the Waterford jersey, but had to rely on Munster for his biggest achievements. Still recalled as a wonderful hurler.

8 Joe Salmon (Galway)

He played for 15 years for Galway, but despite experiencing three All-Ireland finals he never enjoyed the thrill of success on the big day. A true stylist, his skill and craft drew admiration across the hurling scene as he worked so tirelessly in the Galway cause, often against very long odds. Chosen at midfield in 1984 on the best Centenary team never to have won an All-Ireland medal.

9 Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton (Antrim)

Antrim were always battling to reach the level consistently occupied by hurling's big powers and nobody took on the challenge more enthusiastically than 'Sambo.' A steely determination to succeed underpinned everything he did, while the versatility which enabled him to play in so many different positions was always a trademark feature. An All Star winner in 1991.

10 John Callinan (Clare)

Another of the squad which brought Clare so close to real glory in the 1970s, his senior career lasted from 1973 (he made his debut at the age of 18) to 1987. He played in five Munster finals, losing them all, but that didn't take away from his deserved reputation as an excellent half-forward. An All Star winner in '79 and '81.

11 Gary Kirby (Limerick)

An All-Ireland minor success in 1984 was followed by an U-21 title three years later. However, the senior medal eluded him, despite playing in two finals in 1994 and '96. A four-time All Star winner (1991-94-95-96), three at centre-forward, one at full-forward, his accuracy from frees and open play was a consistent characteristic throughout a distinguished career.

12 Martin Quigley (Wexford)

An All-Ireland minor medal winner in 1968, just hours before the seniors completed a memorable double, it looked only a matter of time before he won a senior equivalent. However, despite playing at senior level for 19 seasons, he ended his career without a medal. However, his brilliance in a variety of positions enabled him to win four successive All Stars (1973-74-75-76).

13 Jimmy Smyth (Clare)

Beginning in 1945, he played minor hurling for Clare for five seasons, was promoted to the senior side at the age of 18 and endured for 19 seasons as an opportunist forward who specialised in goal-scoring. A regular on the Munster team for many years, he won six Railway Cup medals. He was also one of those selected on the best team never to win an All-Ireland medal in 1984.

14 Christy O'Brien (Laois)

Unlike the rest of this team, all of whom got to play in provincial and/or All-Ireland finals, those honours eluded him. However, it didn't diminish his reputation as an outstanding forward, which was recognised over many years by Leinster, with whom he won three Railway Cup medals in the 1960s. Selected at full-forward in 1984 on the best team never to win an All-Ireland up to then.

15 Paddy Molloy (Offaly)

He played in every position, except full-back, for Offaly over a 16-year career which ended in 1971. Reaching the Leinster final, where they lost by two points to Kilkenny, in 1969, was the closest Offaly came to a major breakthrough but Paddy made a big name for himself with Leinster. He was chosen on the 'Gaelic Weekly' team of the year in 1966.

Irish Independent

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