All-Stars feature: Legends of the game

NIALL Gartland takes a look back at the some of the most decorated players to play the game,

PAT Spillane was an outstanding player in his day and is the only gaelic footballer to have won nine All-Stars. He made his debut during the 19734 league campaign, and over the course of the next 18 years, won eight All-Ireland medals, 12 Munster titles, two league titles and was named footballer of the year in 1978 and 1986. An energetic half-forward who regularly got his name on the scoreboard, he was also tremendously resilient and bounced back from a career-threatening cruciate ligament injury sustained in the 1983 championship. To cap it all off, he was named on the football team of the century in 1984 and retained his position on the football team of the millennium in 1999 – what a player.

IT’S hard to believe that Cooper was never singled out for the footballer of the year award, but he’s still widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, if not all time. The ‘Gooch’ was an incredibly gifted attacker for Kerry for more than a decade, belying his lithe physique with a tremendous skill-set and seemingly perfect balance, as well as the ability to kick off both feet. Scored one of the best ever goals in an All-Ireland final against Mayo in 2004, and while he suffered some bruising defeats to Armagh and Tyrone in that era, was a model of consistency throughout his playing days. He showed his versatility in 2013 when playing in the playmaker role for Kerry, the year in which he was awarded his eighth and final All-Star. While he didn’t win the official footballer of the year award, he’s still worth noting that he was named Texaco Footballer of the Year in 2004.

PETER THE GREAT…Tyrone talisman Peter Canavan won six All-Stars

PETER the Great probably didn’t care too much about individual awards – winning the All-Ireland was his Holy Grail and he finally led Tyrone over the finish line in the 2003 decider. That aside, he’s the most decorated player from Ulster as far as All-Stars are concerned, winning six in a memorable playing career. He won three All-Stars on the spin between 1994 and 1996, when he was arguably at his peak. He was particularly special in 1995 with round-after-round of incredible scoring exploits, and he landed 11 out of Tyrone’s 12 points in the final. There were a few barren years for the Red Hands, but Canavan was still going strong when a host of young guns came onto the scene in the early noughties. He was the Championship’s top scorer in 2003, and while some thought he was fortunate to win his sixth All-Star in 2005, he still came up with some massive moments including the famous winning free against Armagh in the semi-final and his beautifully judged goal against Kerry in the final.

A CORNER-FORWARD with few equals, Sheehy’s scoring record of 29-205 in Championship football stood for 25 years. He was one of the most watchable players during Kerry’s golden years, starring in a swathe of All-Ireland finals. His opportunistic goal in the 1978 final, where he lobbed the ball over the head of Paddy Cullen, is one of the most celebrated scores of all-time, and he was also the team’s chief free-taker. Sheehy was also a model of consistency and scored a grand total of 22-251 in a combined total of 74 National League games across 16 years in the green and gold.

ONE of the most influential players of all-time, Cluxton spearheaded a goalkeeping revolution with his fluid restarts not to mention his ability to strike frees for the Dubs. He established himself as Dublin’s first-choice goalkeeper soon after making his debut in 2001 and pocketed his first All-Star awards in 2002 , 2006 and 2007, even though Dublin lagged in the slipstream behind the Tyrone and Kerrys of this world. That all changed over the course of the last decade or so, and Cluxton was a huge figure in their drive for the five in-a-row. His winning free in the 2011 final against Kerry arguably changed everything for Dublin, and he’s the only player in the history of the game to captain a team to All-Ireland titles, a crazy statistic. His leadership was unbelievable, even though he’s by nature an introverted figure, and he was described by commentators like Colm O’Rourke as the greatest goalkeeper of all time.

ANOTHER legendary figure, O’Shea was a midfield sensation throughout his Kerry career. Not just your trademark fetcher of the ball, O’Shea was an exemplary ball-player and polished off one of the most memorable team-goals ever when they got the better of Offaly in the 1981 final. It’s hard to parse such a sterling career into a paragraph, but his honours list speaks for itself and he was named Texaco Footballer of the Year on four separate occasions. He was named by the Irish Independent as the greatest footballer of the last 50 years in a poll conducted in May 2020 and he certainly set the golden standard for midfielders. His former manager said of O’Shea ‘“He had a Rolls-Royce engine and so much skill and determination that he needed no instructions. Off you go Jack, do your thing” and that just about sums him up.


A BRILLIANTLY talented player from a young age, Ger Power is the fourth player from the famous Kerry team of the Mick O’Dwyer era on this list. His father Jackie won three All-Ireland medals as a Limerick hurler, Power actually began his career with Kerry’s u-16 hurling team. However, he decided to focus on football and the rest is history – he won eight All-Irelands and six-All-Stars during a star-studded career. As a player, he was versatility personified and he won All-Star awards in the half-back, half-forward and full-forward line.
NOTE: It would be remiss not to mention Cork legend Jimmy Barry Murphy. The dual star also won seven All-Stars during his playing days, five as a hurler and two as a footballer.

READ MORE – Best players to never have won Sam. Click here..

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