The profile of intercounty retirements has been far higher in hurling that it has been in gaelic football so far this winter but nonetheless, a lot of class acts and great servants will not be seen on football fields around the country anymore.
Here is a football XV to follow up on the recent hurling selection.
1. Brendan McVeigh – Down
The most high-profile goalkeeping departure from football was probably the Second Captains’ cult-hero, Shane Curran. Seen as he hasn’t played intercounty in a number of years and had only come back from retirement, we will give the mention to Down’s Brendan McVeigh.
McVeigh was a long servant to Down football and was a fine goalkeeper. He was an All-Star at number one in 2010. He had a fine season between the sticks that year when he was close to winning an All-Ireland medal. He announced his retirement at the end of the season.
2. Eoghan Harrington – Meath
Harrington was one of a number of Meath players to depart the senior football panel after a disappointing season. He enjoyed a number of seasons in the Royal jersey and was a starting corner-back up to last year. He finished his career with a Leinster medal in 2010.
3. Barry Owens – Fermanagh
The Fermanagh man finished his career in 2014 and boasts an impressive two All-Star awards at full-back, which is a fine achievement for a player from a smaller county.
He was a driving force of their run to the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final. His second all-star arrived in 2006 and he hangs up his boots after 14 years of service.
4. Tommy McElroy – Fermanagh
The retirement of Barry Owens for Fermanagh led to the floodgates opening as more players left the Fermanagh panel for many reasons.
Tommy McElroy was one of the players who retired from the panel. Injury problems and work commitments were factors in influencing his decision as many more players opted to retire from the Fermanagh set-up.
5. Aaron Kernan – Armagh
Aaron Kernan was one of the more high profile retirees this winter. The Armagh man was one the best wing-backs in the game for many years and will have to be regarded as one of the best players not to win an All-Ireland medal.
He was part of an Armagh side that many would say underachieved by only winning one All-Ireland. He arrived on the panel after 2002. He was an ever present at number five for many years and was a very good attacking wing-back. The one consolation may be the astonishing amount of medals he holds with his club, Crossmaglen Rangers.
6. Damien Cahalane – Cork
The Corkman has decided to give full attention to the Cork hurlers this year. His two years as a footballer have not been helped by injury, dual commitments and the fact that he was part of a declining Cork side. He has shown at club level that he is one of the best hurlers and footballers in the county. He will only play hurling for 2015, putting his intercounty football career at a stop.
7. Seamus Kenny – Meath
This is the second Meath player as the long serving Seamus Kenny retired after 15 years in the green and gold jersey. He was captain of the Royal side in 2011 and 2012 having made his debut all the way back in 2001. He finishes with two Leinster medals and was a good servant to Meath.
8. Aidan Walsh – Cork
Similar to Cahalane, Aidan Walsh has decided to throw his lot in with the Cork hurlers for 2015. He was very quick to point out that being a dual player did not work out in 2014 as the business end of the season drew in. He said himself that preparation was hindered while tiredness and sharpness were lost in both codes.
He had developed a high profile as a footballer. In the space of five years in football he had won an All-Ireland medal, Young Footballer of the Year and two all-stars. He will probably go back to football at some stage in his career. But as of now, he will not play football for Cork in 2015.
9. Paddy Keenan – Louth
The Louth man was from a lesser county but this did not prevent him from building a reputation as a very good midfielder. People look back at 2010 and while there is huge sympathy for Louth as a whole, a lot of that sympathy gets tipped in Paddy Keenan’s direction.
He received an All-Star that year, but it would have been little consolation for the Leinster medal that Louth were robbed of in that Leinster final. He brings 12 years of service to an end and will go down as one the Wee County’s finest players.
10. James Kavanagh – Kildare/Galway
Players often do well to get the chance to wear one intercounty jersey. But James Kavanagh represented both Kildare and Galway.
After a good spell with the Lillywhites, he quit the Kildare set-up in 2013 and this led to speculation of a move to Galway. He did not line-out for Galway until 2014 and after one season in the maroon and white, he has decided to retire.
11. Declan O’Sullivan – Kerry
One of Kerry’s finest footballers has retired, having gone out on a high with another All-Ireland medal in 2014. O’Sullivan was an exceptional player and one of the best the Kingdom has seen. Despite taking a while to make a position his own, he was only behind Colm Copper as their best player when at his peak.
He played his best football at centre-forward where he was a playmaker, a link man and a clinical finisher. He started and finished attacks for fun and his achievements reflect how good he was. He captained Kerry to two All-Ireland titles. This year, his knee problems were obvious as both were heavily strapped but he still played a significant role to allow himself to go out on a positive note.
12. Benny Coulter – Down
Like Aaron Kernan, Coulter is a player who will be regarded as one of the best players not to win an All-Ireland medal. Coulter was a top class forward for many years but struggled to receive the plaudits as he played with an underachieving county.
His performances in Compromise Rules games against Australia were where he really used to flourish and showcase his talent to the whole country.
He came close to winning an All-Ireland in 2010 as Down fell at the final hurdle to Cork. He can still look back on a great career and Down are lucky that they have Marty Clarke back to compensate for Coulter’s loss.
13. Sean Armstrong – Galway
Armstrong was the most recent player to announce his retirement in what must be said was an underachieving career. Michael Meehan and Himself were dubbed as ‘the terrible twins’ as they led Galway to an under-21 All-Ireland in 2005 and looked ready to take the rest of Ireland by storm. But it is fair to say that he did not bring as much as he promised to the senior ranks.
14. Stephen O’Neill – Tyrone
Stephen O’Neill is like Declan O’Sullivan in that he has the records and medals to completely collaborate his greatness as a footballer. He was a class-act and there were very few more effective full-forwards than O’Neill over the last 15 years or so.
His best year of all was 2005 when he was Footballer of the Year and was the focal point of the Tyrone attack. His form continued for long periods and while he had retirements and comebacks at different stages, he remained a key member of the Tyrone side for years. They will find it hard to replace him.
15. Paddy Brophy – Kildare
The final player in the side is a young player who has left Ireland to pursue a career in Australian Rules.
Kildare’s Paddy Brophy will not be available to the Lillywhites for the foreseeable future. He has signed a two-year deal with West Coast Eagles. He will be a loss to Kildare as he had two good seasons in his short career so far.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.