The goalie of the noughties and well ahead in the race to be the keeper of this decade too now that he’s added All-Irelands and leagues to go with the multiple Leinster medals and All Stars.
Probably the most influential player of the last five years by virtue of setting trends and not just standards, especially with his exceptionally accurate and strategic kickout and long-range place-kicking from dead balls.
Nearest contender: Paul Durcan (Donegal)
Most likely long-term challenger: Rob Hennelly (Mayo)
Marc Ó Sé may still be playing and winning, but while the Kerryman made our team of the noughties with Ryan McMenamin in the other corner, Higgins with his speed of foot and thought now sets the benchmark for the position, winning three straight All Stars.
Nearest contender: Michael Shields (Cork)
Most likely long-term challenger: Johnny Cooper (Dublin)
He’s won three All Stars now over the last four years, and while that’s partly down to the Donegal system and cover which allows him to attack that ball in a way more conventional one-on-one defenders like Rory O’Carroll and Ger Cafferkey can’t, there isn’t a better man to attack that ball.
He’s well able to use it too, as his points against Armagh and Dublin last summer illustrated.
Nearest contender: Rory O’Carroll (Dublin)
Most likely long-term challenger: Rory O’Carroll
Not your orthodox corner back, but then little about the Donegal defence is.
McGlynn simply had to be accommodated in this backline for his strength, speed, tackling and ability to transform defence into attack, often finishing it with a score off either foot.
Nearest contender: Eamon McGee (Donegal)
Most likely long-term challenger: Fionn Fitzgerald (Kerry)
The prototype modern wing back. For the past three years he’s averaging a score per championship game but it’s not as if he’s shirked the less fashionable work; the manner in which he man-marked and essentially shut down Shay Walsh and Paul Kerrigan this past summer alone underlines how exceptional his tackling and defending is.
Nearest contender: Anthony Thompson (Donegal)
Most likely long-term challenger: Peter Crowley (Kerry)
Another exceptional two-way defender.
With his injuries and age profile, Lacey may only have a year or two at the highest level left and thus fall between two decades, but from 2004 to 2014 his collection of four All Stars proves there was none better over that timeframe.
Nearest contender: When you factor in club as well as county, Ger Brennan (Dublin)
Most likely long-term challenger: Donal Vaughan (Mayo), or if he’s released further out the field, Michael Shields (Cork)
He may play mostly on the right wing but given he can play other spots, such as midfield in an All-Ireland club final, it would hardly be too testing to switch him to the left.
Like Keegan, he is an exceptional athlete and footballer with his capacity to repeatedly attack.
Nearest contender: Emmett Bolton (Kildare)
Most likely long-term challenger: Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
Now that he’s switched to hurling, Walsh will hardly be holding this spot down in five years’ time, but his athleticism, daring and improved shooting exemplified the best of Cork when they were at full tilt.
MacAuley likewise is a two-time All-Star, and while Aidan O’Shea will very likely usurp them both as the standout midfielder of the decade, until he leads Mayo to the big prize he’s still the bridesmaid here.
Nearest contenders: Aidan O’Shea (Mayo), Neil Gallagher (Donegal)
Most likely long-term challengers: Aidan O’Shea and the so underrated but steady Anthony Maher (Kerry)
The complete wing forward and the ideal team-mate, who can tackle, run and kick points, often in the same sequence of play.
Four consecutive All Stars is just one measure of how consistent he is.
Nearest contender: Donncha O’Connor (Cork)
Most likely long-term challenger: If he returns, Ciarán Sheehan (Cork)
Along with his fellow 2002 debutant Cluxton, Cooper is very likely to pull off the remarkable feat of making two consecutive team of the decades, having accumulated another three All Stars since he last won an All-Ireland on the field of play in 2009.
Nearest contender: Alan Brogan (Dublin)
Most likely long-term challenger: Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)
While in many ways his colleague Paul Flynn is the complete wing forward, Connolly on the other flank can go even better by being probably the most complete forward in the game.
There used to be questions over his temperament but now there’s no better man for the big game or close attention.
Nearest contender: Paul Kerrigan (Cork)
Most likely long-term challenger: Mark or Ryan McHugh (Donegal)
The most exciting and most lethal footballer in the country right now.
And the great news is that is he’s still only 24, we’re going to get see him for the rest of the decade and more.
Nearest contender: Colm McFadden (Donegal)
Most likely long-term challenger: Paddy McBrearty (Donegal)
He maybe doesn’t score as much from play as he used before Jim McGuinness took the reins in Donegal but his leadership and influence has surpassed even our expectations of the boy wonder that broke onto the scene in 2008-2009.
Nearest contender: For not just the impact but the contribution he makes as a sub or a starter, Kevin McMenamin has to be in the debate among the best and most influential forwards of the decade to date.
Most likely long-term challenger: Brian Hurley (Cork)
Three All Stars in five seasons. Player of the Year in (2010), a year in which his side didn’t even reach the All-Ireland. He may have had a disappointing season — or at least a disappointing end to it — but along with O’Donoghue he remains the most lethal finisher in the game.
Nearest contender: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)
Most likely long-term challenger: Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)