On the eve of the roaring twenties,hails the doyens of the last decade in football
Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
Unfortunate not to have picked up one or two more All-Stars this decade but his standing as the most influential footballer of his generation is unquestionable. Dessie Farrell will be keeping everything crossed that his former team-mate will be available this forthcoming season.
Keith Higgins (Mayo)
Set to turn 35 in a few weeks, there has been no indication that Mayo’s evergreen will not be available to James Horan in 2020. Higgins rages against the dying of the light. In a team of the greatest players never/yet to have won an All-Ireland, he is one of the first names down.
Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin)
If 2014 was the year Jim Gavin learned the biggest lesson of his managerial career, O’Sullivan provided him with the solution as the deep-lying centre-back. No more were Dublin going to be caught on the break. O’Sullivan, despite injury, has successfully filled several firefighting roles.
Colm Boyle (Mayo)
Only second to Higgins in terms of dynamism in the Mayo back-line, Boyle remains the most tigerish defence in the green and red. Whatever dips in form he had during the decade were slight. Unlucky not to pick up a fifth All-Star this year after an excellent Championship campaign.
Lee Keegan (Mayo)
Of the four Mayo players in this 15, an argument could be made that he has had the quieter latter half of the decade. But then that would neglect the expert man-marking roles Keegan has performed in recent seasons, which have taken away from his attacking forays.
James McCarthy (Dublin)
For all the talk about Diarmuid Connolly’s two All-Stars being an unfair return, McCarthy’s three is low considering what he has contributed to every All-Ireland success. So often he came back to fire after early season injuries.
There are few better big-game footballers.
Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
There have been several players who have come close to being crowned All-Stars footballer of the year twice but McCaffrey has possibly been closest and at only 26 will have more opportunities to do so. Speed to burn and always wearing a smile on his face, he is a delight to watch.
Brian Fenton (Dublin)
His record of never having lost a Championship match is a remarkable one and the contribution he’s made to it has been colossal. The best midfielder in the country and possibly this generation, his level of performance as a footballer and an athlete continues to astound.
Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)
A totemic force for Mayo who has done expert jobs at the edge of both squares but his best football has largely been in midfield, one place where Mayo haven’t been lacking. For all the punishment he has taken, O’Shea has never taken a step back. His county’s fear láidir.
Paul Flynn (Dublin)
Transformed the wing-forward position in the early 2010s with his ability to win dirty ball and field while being able to act as playmaker and score. Always a strong athlete, his footballing skills improved immensely in Pat Gilroy’s time in charge. An all-action hero.
Colm Cooper (Kerry)
It’s easy to forget that some of Cooper’s best football featured in the first half of this decade when he was pulling the strings in the Kerry attack. It might not have been reflected as much in All-Irelands as it was in the 2000s but the autumn of this great’s career was bright.
Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin)
The point guard for Dublin these last few seasons, so much of the flow for Dublin’s play is dictated by Kilkenny and to be given that responsibility so young says everything. His football intelligence is on another level and he’s not shabby in front of the posts either.
Conor McManus (Monaghan)
No better point finisher in the country and Monaghan will sure know what they will be missing when he retires. The spearhead for his county’s attack, his has often been a lonely furrow but he has produced regardless. To think that he began his senior career as a wing-back.
Michael Murphy (Donegal)
Not too far behind McManus as the top marksman around and other than Cluxton there is no player more important to his team than Murphy. Captain of his county for the vast majority of his senior career, he is a leader in every sense and three All-Stars is a low figure for a master of his trade.
Bernard Brogan (Dublin)
Some will say he was never as brilliant as he was in 2010 but then Dublin wouldn’t have beaten Donegal the following year were it not for his incisiveness. He continued to be an incredible score-getter particularly against Mayo. Unmarkable at many stages he rarely disappointed in finals.