‘I’d like to comment on what that imbecile wrote’ – Martin Breheny and our readers have their say on All-Ireland rankings

I described it as an inexact science, the precise nature of which became quickly apparent when trying to rank the All-Ireland football and hurling winners over 50 years in the Champions of Champions series, which ran here over recent weeks.

very judgment, irrespective of the research involved in compiling it, can be countered on a number of fronts. That’s the beauty and the frustration of such an exercise.

Since there’s no reliable way of reaching a definitive conclusion, it’s all down to opinion. I’ve had my say – and now it’s the turn of readers to give theirs.

Today, we carry a sample of their comments (edited for brevity in some cases) with replies.


As a keen football enthusiast for every one of those 50 years, I have to say the analysis is very credible and very interesting. I’m sure Kerry will feel numbers 1 and 2 are in the wrong order, but I think the clinching point about the strength of the Dublin squad makes a lot of sense.

The only blip or, as Heffo used to say, ‘moment of insanity’ was on the composite team. Fourteen of them are fine but Michael Fitzsimons at left corner-back. Really? He was and is a fine player and has a bag of medals, but to rate him ahead of Cooper, McMahon or Deenihan is strange. To rate him ahead of Cian O’Sullivan and Paudie Lynch is simply off the wall.

Dermot Murray

Martin Breheny (MB): Fitzsimons is underrated. Still going strong at the age of 33, he had his difficulties with David Clifford (who hasn’t?) in the first half of this year’s semi-final but recovered well in the second half. It was typical of the tenacity that has underpinned his long career (he first played for Dublin in 2010). As a specialist corner-back, I rate him higher than his two Dublin colleagues and also ahead of Deenihan.

As for Cian O’Sullivan, another excellent performer, he was mostly a half-back and/or sweeper. Paudie Lynch was a super footballer, his versatility underpinned by winning All-Stars at midfield, left half-back and left full-back between 1974 and 1981. He was at centre-forward in 1977. A certainty on a ‘most versatile’ selection, but I’d have Fitzsimons ahead of him as an out-and-out corner-back.


I enjoyed the series on All-Ireland football winners of the last 50 years. I would have liked the remit to go back a further 10 years, which would have brought in the 1960s and would have allowed for the inclusion of two teams that revolutionised Gaelic football: Galway’s three-in-a-row side and Down 1960-’61, many of whom were still there when they won again in 1968.

Those sides moved the game away from the old catch-and-kick to a more nuanced tactical game, a forerunner of what we have today which, though, is not all good news.

The catch-and-kick wasn’t all about lashing it up the park and hoping for the best. It involved precision kicking. There was also a lot of high fielding, which was a joy to watch and is rare today.

Perhaps Martin might do a follow-up series to take us back a step further down memory lane.

Seán O’Donnell

MB: Two outstanding teams, so if the 1960s were included, I would have put Galway 1964-’65-’66 in third place behind Dublin 2011-’20 and Kerry 1975-’86. That drops Dublin 1974-’77 down to fourth place, followed by Down 1960-’61-’68 in fifth. That takes Tyrone 2003-2008 out of the top five.


I’m a Limerick man and I think Kilkenny 2006-’15 should rank ahead of Limerick 2018-’22. Maybe in a few years’ time, we might be able to reverse those placings but for the time being it’s Kilkenny first and Limerick second.

Séamus Walsh

MB: That’s how I ranked them too. Some readers questioned why I didn’t put Kilkenny’s four-in-a-row squad against the current Limerick team, claiming that stretching Kilkenny to 2015 gave them a big advantage. They’re right, but it was difficult to differentiate between Kilkenny squads, as they were never more than a year without an All-Ireland in those 10 seasons. As for the four-in-a-row side versus current Limerick, I’d still opt for Kilkenny.


A most enjoyable, informative series. Two points could be made. Firstly, winning margins in All-Ireland finals. Kerry’s closest margin in 1975-’86 was three points v Roscommon 1980. Dublin won four finals by a point. That could point to Dublin’s composure in tight situations, or it could signify Kerry’s greatness in winning finals by big margins and elevate them slightly above Dublin.

Fran Mulhall

MB: The other unknown is the quality of opposition both squads faced. I would suggest it was higher in the last decade than in 1975-86. Also, there were no qualifiers back then, which meant Kerry had to win only two games after the Munster championship, whereas Dublin had three or even more in the ‘Super 8’ years. Dublin played 73 championship games in 2011-20, compared to Kerry’s 47 in 1975-86.


A superb analysis but just to make a few comments. Dublin 1995 were better than a lot of teams ranked higher up. They were in a few All-Ireland finals and also won two National League finals. A 23rd place is too low. That Dublin team should be in 15th place.

Paraic Farrelly

MB: It’s all about opinion, isn’t it? Paraic makes a valid point regarding the Dublin team’s achievements in 1991-’95. My ranking is based on the belief that the overall standard was fairly average around that period.

Paraic also disagreed with the composite Dublin-Kerry team, suggesting that Johnny Cooper, Cian O’Sullivan and Diarmuid Connolly were ahead of three of my selections, Michael Fitzsimons, Tom Spillane and John Egan. We’ll have to agree to differ!


I’d like to comment on what that imbecile, Martin Breheny, wrote this morning. I’m sick of him slating Kerry. What has he got against them? Is it pure jealousy of a county that’s surrounded by rock and water, but can produce such brilliant footballers, generation after generation.

He has Dublin up on a pedestal, yet he picked eight Kerry players in his team (comprised of the two counties). Where is Maurice Fitzgerald, Séamus Moynihan, Tomás and Marc Ó Sé? He hasn’t a clue about football.

Ger Martin

MB: Don’t hold back Ger! ‘Slating Kerry’? Not guilty – merely comparing them with others and suggesting the 1975-’86 squad might be just behind Dublin 2011-’20.

As for Fitzgerald, Moynihan and the Ó Sé brothers, they weren’t eligible for selection, since I was dealing with Kerry 1975-’86.

In a series two years ago on the best footballers of the previous 50 years, I had Fitzgerald (12), Moynihan (15) and Tomás Ó Sé (20) in the top 20, drawn from the entire country. That’s how highly I rate them.


I can’t figure out how Ger Loughnane’s Clare team (1995-’97) are ranked behind Galway (1987-’88). In fact, I’d have that Clare team ahead of several of the teams who won three All-Irelands.

Galway got into the All-Ireland semi-finals without even playing a game, while Clare had to go through a tough Munster Championship every year.

They were very unlucky in 1996 when they lost to Limerick by a point. If the qualifiers were in place and they got a second chance, they would have definitely won the All-Ireland.

Tom Brennan

MB: I agree with the last point – it’s highly likely that Clare would have won the 1996 All-Ireland if they got back in.

Granted, Galway didn’t have a provincial championship, but they had to beat either the Leinster or Munster champions to get into the final, which they did in five of six seasons (1985-’90), losing only in 1989, a season they were without Tony Keady. As well as winning two All-Irelands, they also won two National Leagues.

Martin Breheny’s list of the greatest teams of the past 50 years placed the Dublin footballers of 2011-2020 and Kilkenny hurlers from 2006-2015 at the top of their respective codes. For the complete list see here

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