Best players NOT to win Sam Maguire 2001-2011

Updated: February 27, 2012

So Dublin won the 2011 All Ireland Senior Football Title and the Dubs thrilling one point win over Kerry means that many great players of the last decade have finally reached their holy grail and claimed a Celtic Cross medal.

That means that its time to reignite that old Pub conversation of the greatest players NOT to have claimed Sam Maguire in their career.

The names of Cluxton, Cullen, Brogan(s) and others will now be missing from the list of contenders for greatest players not to win an All Ireland Senior Football Title. This lead to us debating the point about the greatest players not to have won an All Ireland Medal of the past ten years. The choice is truly subjective and feel free to agree or disagree with our selection at the bottom of this page.

1. Fergal Byron -Laois

Byron was a top drawer keeper for the Queen’s County throughout his career and was pinpoint accurate with kickouts along with being an outstanding shot stopper. Played a key role in Laois march to the Leinster title in 2003.

Contenders: Brendan Murphy (Meath), Gary Connaughton (Westmeath)

2. Karl Lacey – Donegal

Lacey is a versatile, sticky, tough defender who is currently lining out at centre back for Donegal in their “blanket defence.” Time is still on his side for him to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect Sam but as it is he is surely meritous of a place in this team.

Contenders: Cathal Daly (Offaly), Peter Kelly (Kildare), Kenneth Mortimer (Mayo)

3. Paddy Christie – Dublin

Ballymun Kickhams hardman who shored up the Metropolitan defence in the early part of the last decade. Won 3 Leinster titles but the biggest prize eluded him. Strong competition here at full back with All Stars Owens and McCloy being particularly unlucky to miss out. Christie however proved his worth over many years in the Blue.

Contenders:, Dan Gordon (Down), Barry Owens- (Fermanagh), Kevin McCloy (Derry), Conor Whelan (Clare)

4. Kevin Cassidy- Donegal

Another versatile Donegal defender who we will accommodate at corner back for the benefits of this team. Cassidy has had a distinguished career for the men from the Hills and picked up an All Star at wing back in 2002 and has filled in at Midfield in the past also for his county. Cassidy has a no holds barred approach and cuts a dash in whatever position he lines out in for Donegal.

Contenders: Coman Goggins (Dublin), Charlie Harrison (Sligo), Joe Higgins (Laois)

5. Tom Kelly -Laois

Ordinarily a centre back but this versatile defender will be accommodated at half back for this Utopian selection. Fearless player who wore his heart on his sleeve and was at the heart of all things good of the Laois Football revival lead by the ubiquitous Micko which was capped off with a Leinster title in 2003. Kelly also starred for Ireland in the International Rules series and is worthy of inclusion on any team.

6. Glenn Ryan – Kildare

Inspirational, swashbuckling leader of an exciting Kildare side who won two Leinster Finals and were unlucky not to add Sam Maguire to their medal collection. The Round Towers man lined out with Kildare until 2006 before taking up a managerial role with Longford. The classy James Nallen is particularly unlucky to lose out here.

Contenders: James Nallen (Mayo), Ambrose Rogers (Down), Francis Grehan (Roscommon)

7. Anthony Rainbow – Kildare

Rainbow was a model of consistency in a stellar inter county career that lasted over a decade. Rainbow bowed out after the Lilywhites close defeat to Down in the 2010 semi final. Nobody could begrudge that Rainbow was one of the outstanding wing backs of his generation.

Contenders: Leighton Glynn- Wicklow

8. John Galvin- Limerick

Galvin is a brilliant all rounder who has perhaps never got the national acclaim which his talents merit. He was ruled out with a cruciate injury for Limerick in their march to the Quarter Finals this year but has proved himself to be the “go to” man for the Shannonsiders on countless occasions. Galvin has proved himself to be a powerhouse in the midfield and always acquits himself well against his Munster rivals O’Se, Murphy and Walsh amongst others.

Contenders: Johnny Doyle (Kildare), Paul Barden (Longford), Martin McGrath (Fermanagh), John Quane (Limerick), John Keane (Westmeath)

9. Ciaran Whelan – Dublin

Powerhouse midfielder with a prodigious knack for scoring breathtaking points in front of an adoring Hill 16, the Raheny man dominated the airwaves on Jones Road for the best part of a decade. His tussles with Dara O’ Se in particular were box office affairs but alas for Whelan, he too often ended up on the losing side on the big occasion.

Contenders: Rory O’ Connell (Westmeath), Padraic Clancy (Laois), Shane Ryan (Dublin), Paddy Keenan (Louth)

10. Dermot Earley – Kildare

The expression that “the apple doesnt fall far from the tree” seems quite apt here. Earley like his namesake Father of Roscommon fame was one of the leading footballers of his generation. Burst on to the scene as a rangy wing forward in Kildare’s run to the final in 98 and rarely left the limelight in the years that followed. Demonstrated his longevity by picking up a second All Star in 2009, eleven years after his first. Quite the feat.

Contenders: Rory Woods (Monaghan), Danny Hughes (Down), Stephen Bray (Meath), Ross Munnelly (Laois), Odhran O’Dwyer (Clare)

11. Ciaran McDonald – Mayo

Mercurial, erratic, infuriating on occasion but frequently, undoubtedly brilliant. McDonald was a player of sublime skills and arguably a once in a lifetime talent. His winner against Dublin in front of the Hill in 2006 will surely go down as one of the greatest ever. Awesome talent who sadly never got the Celtic Cross his talent surely merited.

Contenders: Eamon O’ Hara (Sligo), Donie Shine (Roscommon), Denis Russell (Clare), Michael Lyng (Cavan), Enda Muldoon (Derry)

12. Ciaran McManus- Offaly

Barnstorming Midfielder/Wing Forward who frequently made devastating attacking bursts into the oppositions half. McManus was a player with a terrific engine who to use soccer parlance was a “box to box player”. The Offaly man also had the eye for the spectacular and his thunderbolt strikes were often candidates for Goal of the season.

Contenders: Dessie Dolan (Westmeath), Ian Fitzgerald (Laois), Stephen Kelly (Limerick)

13. Brendan Coulter – Down

Mayobridge mainstay of the Down team since his debut in the late nineties. Coulter was and continues to be one of the leading lights in the game and has consistently been the Mourne men’s best player in that timeframe. Formed a devastating partnership with Marty Clarke in the past two seasons which has revitalised his career and allowed him more leeway from the clutches of the nations defenders.

Contenders: Tomas Freeman (Monaghan), Michael Meehan (Galway), Brendan Devenney (Donegal), Ciaran Lyng (Wexford), Stephen Kelly (Laois)

14. Mattie Forde- Wexford
Forde was a Rolls Royce of an attacker with all the skills in the world. Was the spearhead behind the Yellowbellies football revival in the last decade without ever picking up any national silverware. Prodigious scorer with an eye for goal. Big, strong, skills to burn. Forde has to be included here in spite of the embarrassment of riches that are not picked as seen below.

Contenders: Adrian Sweeney (Donegal), Martin Clarke (Down), Ray Cosgrove (Dublin), Colm Parkinson (Laois)

15. Declan Browne- Tipperary

2 All Stars for the Tipp man for whom the term “One man team” should have been invented for. Classy operator who terrorised the best defenders in the game without ever winning any provincial honours for the Premier. 2003 in particular confirmed his genius when he took the game to Donegal single handedly in a thrilling quarter final at Croke Park. Some might argue that he never played on the biggest stage but that certainly was’nt due to him.

Contenders: Conor Mortimer (Mayo), Beano McDonald (Laois), Paddy Bradley (Derry)

So there we go, a controversial selection perhaps? A host of class players have been omitted from the team but it’s a genuine attempt in naming the team nonetheless.I’m sure everybody has their tuppence worth to say on this team which is forever the debate heard in bars in every corner of Ireland. Feel free to criticise or ridicule the selection below. Personally, i think its a strong team with representations from the four provinces. Hopefully some of the players mentioned will be able to get their hands on Sam before their time runs out.

The selection in full is as follows:
1. Fergal Byron- Laois
2. Karl Lacey- Donegal
3. Paddy Christie- Dublin
4. Kevin Cassidy – Donegal
5. Tom Kelly- Laois
6. Glenn Ryan – Kildare
7. Anthony Rainbow – Kildare
8. John Galvin- Limerick
9. Ciaran Whelan- Dublin
10. Dermot Early- Kildare
11. Ciarán McDonald- Mayo
12. Ciarán McManus- Offaly
13. Benny Coulter – Down
14. Mattie Forde- Wexford
15. Declan Browne- Tipperary

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