Best GAA Players of All time: Ultimate Football XV 2000-2020
Over the past 20 years we’ve been graced with some of the best GAA players of all time lining out for their counties.
We’ve seen Dublin become the greatest team ever, Mayo’s continual All-Ireland heartbreak, the great Tyrone/Armagh rivalry of the Noughties, some Kerry magic and much more.
We love our GAA at Intersport Elverys, so we’ve tasked ourselves with the unenviable task of picking the best GAA players of all time for our ultimate football XV.
It wasn’t easy and we had to make some difficult decisions for who gets the start.
We know we’ve left some lads disappointed at being omitted, but that’s what GAA management is all about right?
Making those hard decisions!
Before we start, you might like to check out our Ultimate Guide to Gaelic Football Positions Blog?
Best GAA Players of all Time
1. Goalkeeper: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin GAA)
Without doubt, one of the easiest decisions we had to make.
Cluxton will go down as the greatest GAA goalkeeper of all time, finishing up last year with eight All-Ireland medias to his name, captain for seven of those.
He was the great revolutionary of the goalkeeping position, transforming the requirements and expectations on modern-day goalkeepers to a more quarter-back role.
His kickouts and quick restarts, as well as his dead-ball accuracy, made his one of the most important cogs in the Dublin juggernaut.
Full Back line
2. Right Corner back: Keith Higgins (Mayo GAA)
The former Young Footballer of the Year retired with four All Stars but without that All-Ireland medal he came so close to achieving.
However, the Ballyhaunis GAA man was consistently excellent across two decades and on the biggest stage of them all.
Versatile enough to play anywhere on the pitch if required, Higgins really made his name as a man-marking corner back who could punish teams on the front foot with his electric pace.
3. Full Back: Seamus Moynihan (Kerry GAA)
The Kerry star was a colossus defender, finishing his career with four Celtic Crosses and three All Stars, being considered as one of the greats.
Comfortable at centre back or full back, Moynihan was a complete package – renowned for his marking, football ability, strength, and pace.
Although he retired from inter-county football in 2006 and played much of his football during the 1990s, Moynihan could not be omitted from the team.
4. Left Corner Back: Marc Ó Sé (Kerry GAA)
The youngest of the Ó Sé brothers had some competition here, with Mick Fitzsimons, Philly McMahon and Johnny Cooper all unlucky not to be picked.
But as a former Footballer of the Year and for his out-and-out defensive qualities, the Kerry man gets the nod.
Often underappreciated compared to his brothers, Tomás and Darragh, Marc was consistency personified during the past two decades.
He won his last All-Ireland with Kerry in 2014 before calling it a day two years later.
There never anything too swashbuckling about him, but he did all the basics at the highest of quality and that is crucial.
Half Back line
5. Left Wing Back: Lee Keegan (Mayo GAA)
Mayo’s greatest player of all time, Lee Keegan is also the highest scoring defender of all time with 6-40 in championship football.
The Westport GAA man made his name as an explosive and attack-minded wing back, before adapting to a man marking corner back later in his career.
In Mayo’s biggest days, Keegan has been able to negate the opposition’s best player while also hurting them at the other end.
Footballer of the Year in 2016, there ill never be another Lee Keegan.
6. James McCarthy (Dublin GAA)
A Rolls Royce football, McCarthy was a pivotal figure in Dublin’s six-in-a-row winning team.
Comfortable in midfield and in the half forward line, McCarthy’s best position is in the half back line where his physicality, presence, calmness on the ball and explosiveness make him a huge threat.
A four-time All Star, the Ballymun star is widely and rightly considered as one of the best footballers the game has ever seen.
Karl Lacey of Donegal GAA can feel hard done by, but the competition in the half back line was simply immense.
7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin GAA)
Watching Jack McCaffrey in full flight is something special and his goal against Kerry in the 2019 All-Ireland Final was him at his best.
Making his championship debut in 2013, McCaffrey won the Footballer of the Year award in 2015 and received a second nomination in 2018.
His electrifying pace destroyed so many teams throughout his years, while his attacking threat and defensive skills improved year-on-year.
One of the greatest wing backs ever.
8. Midfield: Brian Fenton (Dublin GAA)
Fenton is midfield and Gaelic football royalty – arguably the greatest midfielder of all time, and we don’t say that lightly.
Genius when in possession and a trojan workrate when in not, Fenton was an inspirational figure for Dublin during their famous campaign playing in every minute of the six-in-a-row.
Amazingly, the Raheny GAA man didn’t lose his first game in a Dublin jersey until 2021 and to date has five All Stars to his name.
A Footballer of the Year award is coming down the road.
9. Midfield: Darragh Ó Sé (Kerry GAA)
No midfield could be complete without this towering Kerryman.
The second of the Ó Sé brothers to make this team, Darragh was the engine room and midfield dynamo of the great Kerry team during the noughties.
Powerful on the ground and dominant in the air, Ó Sé was also an excellent kickpasser and much of his great play involved supplying quality ball to a dangerous attack.
He retired in 2010 with four All Stars and six All-Ireland titles.
Half Forward Line
10. Right Half Forward: Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin GAA)
Much maligned at times during his career for various incidents not involving a football, there is no doubting the class of Diarmuid Connolly.
On his day there was few, if any, who could match the sheer level of skill and the effortlessness of how he executed those skills than Connolly.
Many say his return of only two All Stars is an indication of how he was perceived by the public and media due to his discipline issues.
However, you can’t deny his ability.
11. Centre Forward: Ciaran Killkenny (Dublin GAA)
A star touted from an early age, Kilkenny went on to surpass even those expectations.
Tempted to a career in the AFL during his late teens, the Castleknock GAA man opted to throw his hand in with his native county and how that worked out for all parties!
He has been a mainstay in the all-dominant Dubs’ team for his industry in the half forward line and his scoring ability.
Named Player of the Year in 2021, Kilkenny is still only 28 years-old and has many more years ahead of him.
12. Left Half Forward: Séan Cavanagh (Tyrone GAA)
Although not in his most natural position here, it was impossible to leave out Séan Cavanagh from this team.
A box-to-box midfielder in his early years, before adapting as a deadly full forward, Cavanagh inspired his native Tyrone to three All-Ireland titles.
He also captained Ireland at the International Rules Series, Cavanagh was a stylish attacker who won Player of the Year in 2008.
Full Forward Line
13. Right Corner Forward: Colm Cooper (Kerry GAA)
How ‘The Gooch’ never won a Footballer of the Year award is almost unfathomable.
Maybe he was a victim of his own consistent brilliance, of which is evident in winning a ridiculous eight All Star awards and kicking Kerry to five All-Irelands.
The Dr Crokes GAA clubman hit a massive 23-283 in his 85 senior appearances for Kerry.
14. Full Forward: Michael Murphy (Donegal GAA)
Although deployed all over the field throughout his career with Donegal, Murphy’s best position is on the edge of the square.
Without him, Donegal would not have won the All-Ireland title in 2012 and been as consistently competitive as they have been.
His goal against Mayo in the 2012 All-Ireland final was sensational and he has captained Donegal to five Ulster titles.
Donegal’s best ever.
15. Left Corner Forward: Conor McManus (Monaghan)
The last place on the team was the most difficult to pick.
Close runners include the championship’s all time leading scorer Cillian O’Connor, Bernard Brogan, Peter Canavan and Con O’Callaghan, however, it’s hard to look McManus.
Although he never competed in an All-Ireland Final, McManus was a mesmerising forward on his day and, at times, looked unmarkable.
A three-time All Star, shone bright on a team that has been fighting far above their weight during this era and we just couldn’t leave him out.
We know we’ve left some superstars out of our team and some can feel really hard done by.
But the standard was incredible and there’s certainly an alternative XV that could be picked!
Why not tell us yours?
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