Over the last 40 years, The Sunday Game has brought the GAA football and hurling championships into your homes.
And now, we want you to help us choose the best XV in each code of the TV era – picking the best XV from All-Star winners of the Sunday Game era (1979-present)
Cast one vote for your All-Star football goalkeeper of choice below or email email@example.com to make any more considered contributions. We will be debating these teams across our platforms in the coming weeks.
He is still the last line of defence, can often be the hero or villain, and across the span of this quest the goalkeeper’s role has certainly evolved.
In 1979, Paddy Cullen played his last game for a Dublin team that were on the wane. That said, the Dubs reached a sixth All-Ireland final on the spin and while Kerry had it all too easy in the decider, Cullen had a solid season between the posts and picked up a fourth Al-Star.
After winning successive All-Ireland’s with Offaly in 1971 and ’72, Martin Furlong was still on the scene as Eugene McGee was reviving the Faithful in the late seventies. Furlong was Mr Dependable between the posts and his shot-stopping ability was evident when getting down well to keep out a Mikey Sheehy penalty in that famous ’82 All-Ireland final. The Tullamore native won the last of his four All-Stars in 1983, aged 37.
On the Kerry team that won seven All-Irelands in the period from 1978-86, Charlie Nelligan was the constant presence between the posts, with many lauding him as the best the Kingdom have had in that position.
For 17 seasons, John O’Leary was a key member of the Dublin squad. When he made his debut for Dublin in the 1980 Leinster final, manager Kevin Heffernan said to the then 19-year-old: “Stop the shots, drive your kick-outs as far as you can and keep talking to the backs”. In an era, when defences weren’t as tightly packed, O’Leary, certainly had a lot more saves to make against forwards who certainly had more freedom and space to execute goal chances.
The O’Dwyer’s clubman has two All-Irelands and five All-Stars to his name and lifted Sam Maguire in 1995 – in a campaign where he kept a clean sheet in the All-Ireland semi-final and final.
The late 80s saw an intriguing Cork-Meath rivalry emerge, with John Kerins and Michael McQuillan coolness personified between the sticks. Ulster’s emergence in the 1990s saw Donegal’s Gary Walsh and Tyrone’s Finbar McConnell rewarded with All Stars, while on the cusp of a new millennium Declan O’Keeffe offered a commanding presence on a Kerry side managed by Páidí Ó Sé.
And so the 2000s and the goalkeeper was becoming a more influential presence in setting up attacks from deep or the man to call on to nail that free from distance. In 2005, the kicking tee was brought in; the goalkeeper had to change his boots. No more ankle-high, steel-toecap rugby boots. The goalkeeping evolution was just part of how Gaelic football was changing – coaches with different approaches to how the traditional game should be played.
Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton has been key in bringing a new dimension to the number one jersey, to the point that you also view him as him an outfield player. His early promise was identified with his first All Star in 2002. And he’s still at the top of his game, chief orchestrator in much of what Dublin do well, while also their saviour when things get nervy.
Other’s central to this goalkeeping revolution are Laois’ Fergal Byron – an excellent shot-stopper, who played his part in the county’s memorable Leinster championship win in 2003 and Diarmuid Murphy from Kerry.
Westmeath’s Garry Connaughton was an authoritative presence and his prowess as a soccer goalkeeper stood to him as the Lake County enjoyed a golden period in the noughties. Connaughton got his All Star in 2008.
Brendan McVeigh, Paul Durcan, David Clarke and Rory Beggan also come into the reckoning as keepers who excel in both their distribution and shot-stopping.