Five Gaelic Footballers Who Could Have Walked Onto Any County Team

When discussing the greats of Gaelic football, our opinions often boil down to who won the most. 

It’s easy to name drop greats such as Colm Cooper or Peter Canavan given all they achieved in the game and how their careers were spent dining at the top table. But what about the so-called weaker counties?

There are a plethora of Gaelic football greats whose talents weren’t always reflected in the medals they won or All-Ireland finals they played in. For these men, they were as proud as any individual to be representing their county. Unfortunately, their efforts would never have been enough to yield an All-Ireland.

They would, however, have played on any county team in their prime, no questions asked.

Here are five footballers who would’ve walked onto any inter-county team.

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Paul Barden

Widely regarded as one of the finest footballers ever produced in Longford. Paul Barden retired in 2015 having made his debut as far back as 1998. Steeped in GAA royalty, Barden’s uncle Brendan captained Longford’s National Football League-winning side of 1966 and won a Leinster Championship medal in 1968, Longford’s only provincial title win.

Unfortunately, for the younger Barden, provincial success eluded him throughout his career, however, he did manage to win two Allianz League titles and was twice a Railway Cup winner with Leinster. Barden also excelled for the Irish international rules side in 2002 and 2006.

Equally adept playing anywhere around the middle-third, Barden was Longford’s lynchpin for over a decade and a half and following his retirement, the late, great Eugene McGee described him as “a GAA hero and a great.” Now those are fitting words.

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Leighton Glynn

The Garden county’s key forward for over a decade, Leighton Glynn actually made his first steps in the inter-county game playing hurling. He won an All-Ireland ‘B’ Championship with Wicklow in 2003 and was also part of the squad that reached the Division two League final in 2007.

However, despite his dual status, it was football where Glynn became a household name. He captured a Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008 under the tutelage of Mick O’Dwyer, scoring 1-4 against Antrim in the final and was named Vodafone Player of the Month in 2008 after Wiklow sensationally defeated Kildare in the Leinster Championship.

Glynn excelled while playing for Ireland and showed the nation that he was fit to compete with the best during his stint with the International Rules side. Glynn was part of three sides in 2008, 2010 and 2011, winning the Cormac McAnallen Cup twice. Glynn was also nominated for an All-Star in 2009 and to date, has won over 20 county titles between football and hurling.

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Barry Owens

Recognised in Ulster as one of the finest full-backs to play the game, Barry Owens was pivotal to what was the greatest era in the history of Fermanagh football. Owens was a fine athlete who could mix it with the best and kept some of the deadliest forwards in the game at their quietest.

Fermanagh’s only two-time All-Star recipient, Owens was instrumental to their greatest season in 2004. The Erne county defeated Meath, Cork, Donegal and Armagh in the Championship en route to the All-Ireland semi-final where they fell to an agonising two-point defeat to Mayo following a replay. Owens was awarded a second All-Star at full-back in 2006 despite the fact that Fermanagh exited the Championship in round four of the qualifiers.

The Teemore man sensationally returned following open-heart surgery to inspire Fermanagh to an Ulster final in 2008. Owens was sprung from the bench and thrown into the full-forward line against Derry in the semi-final before scoring the all-important goal that sealed their final berth. A true icon.

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Declan Browne

Plenty of Tipperary footballers have become well-known figures following their All-Ireland semi-final run in 2016, however, there was a time Declan Browne’s name was out on its own. An All-Ireland minor hurling medalist and two-time Fitzgibbon Cup winner, Browne soldiered with Tipp’s footballers for 11 years where he won two All-Star awards.

Browne was named the Premier county’s first-ever football All-Star in 1998, two years after his debut as he guided Tipperary to the Munster final. In 2003, Browne won his second All-Star award despite the fact Tipperary where eliminated in round three of the All-Ireland qualifiers. The Moyle Rovers man scored 2-34 of Tipperary’s total of 2-47 in their four Championship games against Waterford, Kerry, Carlow and Donegal.

At the beginning of 2005, Browne was awarded man of the match following the All-Stars exhibition game in Hong Kong, a feat that showcases just why he is on this list. Later that season, Browne would captain Tipperary to Croke Park triumph in the Tommy Murphy Cup, two years prior to his inter-county retirement.

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Eamon O’Hara

A footballer who could play virtually any position, O’Hara represented Sligo with distinction between 1994 and 2013. O’Hara toured with an Irish side to Australia as part of the International Rules Series in 2001 and in 2002, he was awarded an All-Star at centre-forward following Sligo’s run to an All-Ireland quarter-final.

O’Hara was Sligo’s talisman throughout his 19-year career achieving success later in his tenure with Division three and four titles in the Allianz Leagues in 2009 and 2010.

The Tourlestrane player’s finest hour, however, came in 2007 when he scored a famous goal against Galway to inspire Sligo to a first Connacht title since 1975. Like a gazelle, O’Hara burst through the centre of the Galway defence before firing a rocket to the roof of the net.

One of Sligo’s greatest ever players who would have walked onto any team in the country.

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Check out some of our other GAA lists including, cult heroes, five All-Ireland winners who never won All-Stars, the five best hurlers from outside the top-tier counties & five more players who could have walked onto any county team

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