I called it an inaccurate science, and its precise nature quickly became apparent when trying to rank football across Ireland and cast the winners over 50 years in the Champions League series, which has continued here over recent weeks.
The very judgment, regardless of the research involved in assembling it, can be faced on a number of fronts. That is the beauty and frustration of such an exercise.
Since there is no reliable way to reach an end result, it is all down to opinion. I’ve said my words – now it’s the readers’ turn to have their say.
Today, we’re uploading a sample of their comments (edited for brevity in some cases) along with the responses.
As a football enthusiast throughout each of those 50 years, I have to say the analysis is very reliable and very interesting. I’m sure Kerry would feel that Numbers 1 and 2 are in the wrong order, but I think the Dublin strength meeting point makes a lot of sense.
The only flash or, as Hifu used to say, “a moment of madness” was in the composite team. Fourteen of them are fine but Michael Fitzsimmons is in the left-back corner. really? He was and still is a good player with a bag of medals, but rating him above Cooper, McMahon or Deenihan is odd. His rating ahead of Cian O’Sullivan and Paudie Lynch is simply off the wall.
Martin Brienny (MB): Fitzsimmons was underestimated. Still going strong at 33, he struggled with David Clifford (who hasn’t?) in the first half of this year’s semi-finals but recovered well in the second half. It was an example of tenacity that underpinned his long career (he first played for Dublin in 2010). As a specialist quarterback, I ranked him above his Dublin teammates and before Deenihan too.
As for Cian O’Sullivan, another excellent artist, he was mostly a half linebacker and/or sweeper. Powdy Lynch was a fantastic footballer, and his versatility was backed by his winning all-star midfield, quarterback and left-back between 1974 and 1981. But Fitzsimmons had him ahead as a solid linebacker.
I’ve enjoyed the series about winners of all-Ireland football for the past 50 years. I would have liked this assignment to go back another 10 years, which would have done the ’60s and would have allowed the inclusion of two teams that revolutionized Gaelic football: the Galloway triplex and down the 1960-’61, many of whom were still there when they won again in 1968.
Those parties have moved the match away from the old catch-and-kick game to a more refined tactical game, a precedent for what we have today which, though, isn’t all good news.
Catching and kicking wasn’t all about hitting it in the park and hoping for the best. It involved a precise kick. There was also a lot of field play, which was a pleasure to watch and is rare today.
Perhaps Martin is doing a follow-up series to take us a step back down memory lane.
megabytes: Two great teams, so if the ’60s were included, I would have put the Galway 1964-’65-’66 in third behind Dublin 2011-20 and Kerry’s 1975-86. This dropped Dublin 1974 – 1977 to fourth place, followed by down 1960 – 61 – 68 to fifth. This takes Tyrone 2003-2008 among the top five.
I’m a Limerick guy and I think Kilkenny 2006-15 should be ahead of Limerick 2018-22. Maybe in a few years we might be able to reverse these placements but for now, we’re in Kilkenny first and Limerick second.
megabytes: That’s how I rank them, too. Some readers have questioned why Kilkenny’s four-man squad was not placed in a row against the current Limerick side, claiming that Kilkenny’s extension through 2015 gave them a huge advantage. They’re right, but the Kilkenny teams have been hard to differentiate, as there hasn’t been more than a year without the Ireland national team in those 10 seasons. As for the quad side in the row versus the current Limerick, I’d still go with the Kilkenny.
A very interesting informative series. Two points can be made. First, the winning margins in the All-Ireland Finals. Kerry’s closest margin in 1975-86 was three points ahead of Roscommon in 1980. Dublin won four finals by one point. It could indicate Dublin’s calmness in tough situations, or it could indicate Kerry’s greatness in winning the Finals by a wide margin and lifting it just a bit above Dublin.
megabytes: Another unknown is the quality of the opposition faced by both groups. I would suggest it was higher in the last decade than it was in 1975-1986. Also, there were no playoffs at the time, which meant Kerry only had to win two games after the Monster Championship, while Dublin had three or more in the “Super 8” years. Dublin played 73 matches in the tournament in 2011-20, compared to 47 for Kerry in 1975-1986.
Great analysis but just to make a few comments. Dublin 1995 was better than a lot of the teams ranked higher. They have been in a few finals all over Ireland and have also won the National League final. Twenty-third is too low. Team Dublin should be 15th.
megabytes: It’s all about opinion, right? Paraic makes a valid point regarding the accomplishments of the Dublin team in 1991-1995. My ranking is based on the belief that the overall standard was fairly average around that period.
Barrick also disagreed with the Dublin-Kerry Composite, noting that Johnny Cooper, Sean O’Sullivan and Diarmuid Connolly were ahead of three of my picks, Michael Fitzsimmons, Tom Spillane and John Egan. We have to agree to disagree!
I’d like to comment on what that idiot Martin Brenny wrote this morning. I’m tired of him showing Keri. What does he have against them? Is it the pure jealousy of a province surrounded by rocks and water, but can produce such wonderful players, generation after generation.
He put Dublin on a pedestal, but chose eight Kerry players on his team (made up of the two counties). Where are Maurice Fitzgerald, Seamus Moynihan, Thomas and Mark C? He has no idea about football.
megabyte: Do not hold back Gear! “Slating Kerry”? Not guilty – just comparing them to others and suggesting the 1975-1986 team might be behind the 2011-20 Dublin.
As for Fitzgerald, Moynihan and his C brothers, they were not eligible for selection, because I was dealing with Kerry from 1975-1986.
In a series a couple of years ago about the best soccer players of the past 50 years, Dee Fitzgerald (12), Moynihan (15) and Thomas C (20) were in the top 20, from across the country. This is how high I rate them.
I can’t tell how Jair Lognan’s Claire team (1995-1997) ranked behind Galloway (1987-88). In fact, I had this Claire team ahead of many of the three winning All-Irelands teams.
Galloway reached the semi-finals of the All-Ireland Championship without playing a match, while Claire had to go through a tough Monster tournament every year.
They were not so lucky in 1996 when they lost by a point to Limerick. If the playoffs were in place and she got a second chance, they would have definitely won the All Ireland.
megabytes: I agree with the last point – it is very likely that Claire would win the 1996 All-Ireland Championship if they came back to it.
Granted, Galway never had a regional championship, but they had to beat champions Leinster or Monster to reach the final, which they did in five of six seasons (1985-90), only losing in 1989, one season they were without Tony Kiddie. In addition to winning two All-Irelands titles, they also won two National Leagues.
Martin Brenny’s list of the greatest teams of the past 50 years put Dublin footballers in 2011-2020 and the Kilkenny Hurlers from 2006-2015 at the top of their respective roster. For the full list see here