Middle ground: Some of the greatest midfield partnerships

Derry were hailed as having the best midfield partnership in the game this year. We look back at some of the finest midfield pairings in GAA history.

Brian McGilligan and Anthony Tohill (Derry)

IT pretty much says it all that both men made up the midfield spots when the All-Stars were handed out in the wake of Derry’s historic All-Ireland success in 1993. McGilligan and Tohill were midfielders par excellence, McGilligan a beast of a man and Tohill a gifted all-rounder who was hardly lacking in the physical stakes either. You could hardly invent a more formidable midfield pairing – high fielding, power, work ethics and everything else, they had it all.

Sean Walsh and Jack O’Shea (Kerry)

THE Kerry team of the Golden Years was littered with legends of the game and it’s no coincidence that they had an exceptional midfield. Jack O’Shea is the high king of midfielders, arguably its greatest ever exponent. An unbelievable athlete, he set new standards for the position – and Sean Walsh wasn’t half-bad either! Indeed, Walsh is the focus of one of the greatest GAA photographs of all time, captured outjumping Dublin’s Brian Mullins in the 1978 final.

Brian Fenton and James McCarthy (Dublin)

A DREAM pairing with a bucketload of medals to show for it. Brian Fenton is all elegance but he’s well fit for the midfield battle and he won six All-Ireland SFC titles with Dublin without so much as losing a championship game, an unbeaten run unlikely ever to be repeated. James McCarthy has regularly worn the number five jersey but he’s a ferocious combatant with an uncanny ability of plucking the ball out of the sky amidst opposition players. Both are living legends.

Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh (Donegal)

WE all know the story by now of how Rory Kavanagh transformed himself into a muscle-bound midfielder during Jimmy McGuinness’ first year in charge. But that aside Kavanagh and Gallagher formed a deadly double act and played a massive role in a memorable period for Donegal football. Gallagher was a no-frills type of player but let there be no doubt that he is one of the greatest midfield players ever produced in the province. Kavanagh was more of a box-to-box player and he was well able to take a score.

Liam Hayes and Gerry McEntee (Meath)

MEATH have a proud tradition of producing fine midfielders and they had one hell of a partnership for their All-Ireland wins over 1987 and 1988. Liam Hayes and Gerry McEntee were both great fielders of the ball, they were tough hardy men, and they were also good distributors of the ball. They played as big a part as any in Meath’s back-to-back successes in the late eighties.

Sean Cavanagh and Kevin Hughes (Tyrone)

THIS comes with a caveat that they didn’t actually line out too often alongside each other in the middle during their lengthy Tyrone careers. Hughes took a sabbatical in 2005 while Cavanagh at times played in the full-forward line, but we still found them suitable for inclusion on the back of Tyrone’s run to All-Ireland honours in 2003. Hughes won the man of the match award in the final, no mean feat when up against Paul McGrane, while Cavanagh was a revelation that year even though he was still only a teenager.

Paul McGrane and John Toal (Armagh)

ARMAGH had a perfect midfield pairing the year they won the All-Ireland . Paul McGrane’s reputation precedes himself – he was as good as any midfield player of his era and as tough as old boots – while John Toal, whose career was unfortunately cut short by injury, was immense throughout their run to All-Ireland honours.

Aidan Walsh and Nicholas Murphy (Cork)

CORK got their All-Ireland in 2010 after years of trying and a major factor in their success was their midfielders Aidan Walsh and Nicholas Murphy. Both giants of men, they were the major factor as Cork reeled in Down in the second-half of the 2010 final. Walsh was sometimes maligned as not being the best kick-passer in the world but it’s easy to forget that he won two All-Stars. As for Murphy, he gave everything to the cause during a memorable career.

Shay Fahy and Teddy McCarthy (Cork)

ANOTHER pairing from the Rebel County. Cork had a dynamite midfield in the late eighties and early nineties, and Fahy and McCarthy were at the forefront of their All-Ireland wins in 1989 and 1990. Fahy won two All-Stars during his career while Teddy McCarthy was an exceptional dual player who was presented with the Texaco Footballer of the Year award in 1989.

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