Mayo and Kerry is one of the newer rivalries in the GAA, but it is a fixture that never fails to disappoint and there have been some exceptional footballers playing with these counties over the last 15 years.
Between them, they have contested a combined 15 All-Ireland finals in this time (including two between the pair in 2004 and 2006) with Kerry winning five. Only twice since 2002 has either of these failed to reach a September decider – a run that will continue after today.
So we’ve decided to name what we consider to be the best combined Kerry/Mayo XV of the past fifteen years.
David Clarke – Mayo
A solid pair of hands, extremely athletic and one of the best shot-stoppers in the game. The Ballina club man has been a key figure the last line of Mayo’s defence over the past 15 years.
Unfortunately, he will be remembered for his duel with his rival for the Mayo number one shirt, Rob Hennelly, particularly for the 2016 All-Ireland final. This game saw Hennelly start and subsequently, he was black carded and was replaced by Clarke who put in a magnificent shift which was not enough to win the title.
Marc O’Se, Aidan O’Mahony (both Kerry), Keith Higgins (Mayo)
O’Se has won pretty much everything there is to win in the game performed at the highest level possible consistently for over a decade so he was always guaranteed a spot on this team.
O’Mahony had a glittering career winning five All-Ireland titles, two All-Stars and a host of Munster titles. Upon his retirement, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice paid him a glowing tribute by saying:
“He was the ultimate pro in terms of the way he prepared himself for training and matches on and off the field.
“He led by example and was a driving force in the gym and on the pitch. He took pride in excelling at any physical work.
“He pushed himself to the limit and beyond to get back as quickly as possible. For the medical team trying to hold him back as he fought to return to play was like trying to keep the tide out.”
Higgins is one of the best all-rounders of the modern game, he is usually tasked with marking the opposition’s best forward and is no stranger to a marauding run into the other half.
Lee Keegan, James Nallen (both Mayo), Tomas O’Se (Kerry)
Keegan is arguably the best footballer in the country. He is Mayo’s best back, forward and midfielder at the same time.
Nallen is considered to be the best player to ever to don the Green and Red of Mayo, with the aforementioned Keegan as his closest competition. His career extended for 15 years (132 games), during which he played in five All-Ireland finals, four of which were lost and one was drawn. A superb centre-back, he also enjoyed roaming forward.
O’Se for his part, took part in a remarkable eight All-Ireland finals, winning five. He also claimed eight Munster titles and five All-Stars over a fifteen-year career.
Darragh O Se (Kerry), David Moran (Kerry)
Moran is probably the best midfielder in the country today. His raw power, beautiful fetching abilities, defensive work and his playmaking skills set him apart from every other player in his position at the moment.
O’Se is one of the most decorated players of all time with six All-Ireland medals, nine provincial crowns and four All-Stars to his name.
Paul Galvin (Kerry), Ciaran McDonald (Mayo), Declan O’Sullivan (Kerry, captain)
Galvin won four All-Ireland titles in his first stint as a player (he also won the 2009 Player of the Year) before stepping away in early 2014. He then performed a remarkable U-turn by re-joining the panel in 2015 and even made a substitute appearance in Kerry’s 2015 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, before retiring for good in January 2015.
Ciaran McDonald is the most flamboyant player in recent memory. His long-range kick passing and point scoring is the stuff of legend and he is widely considered to be one of the best players not to win an All-Ireland.
O’Sullivan captained Kerry in defeat in the 2005 All-Ireland final against Tyrone, before subsequently raising Sam as captain the following year after Kerry steamrolled Mayo. He retired in 2014 due to injury at the relatively young age of 31, after winning his fifth All-Ireland title.
Colm Cooper, Kieran Donaghy (both Kerry) and Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)
Colm Cooper, in my opinion, was the epitome of natural talent. In an era of packed defences where speed and strength considered more important than skill, he was able to pull off some of the best pieces of skill seen in the televised era.
His haul of five All-Ireland medals, while incredible, could be twice what it is as he was also on the losing side a further five times (which Kerry lost by an average of 2.4 points per final) .
If the Gooch was the Messi of the GAA, Donaghy would, in my opinion, be considered more like Lampard as he is able to provide assists while also having an impeccable scoring record. On his day he is virtually unmarkable as his sheer size and his ability to use that size to create space is unlike anybody playing the game today.
Aidan O’Shea has been Mayo’s target man for the best part of a decade. While he has yet to get his hands on the elusive All-Ireland medal it will perhaps be a source of comfort (albeit minuscule in comparison to the pain of defeat) that over the past five years the team that has beaten his Mayo side has gone onto claim Sam.
O’Shea has been ever-present in this Mayo side as they continue their remarkable journey to claim their county’s first All-Ireland in 66 years.
Also an incredible midfielder, we decided to put him up front alongside Donaghy and Cooper in this team.
His individual statistics, according to the “Mayo News” are phenomenal. Over the course of his seven championship games to date, he has had 156 possessions, won 27 frees, provided 18 scoring assists.
It remains to be seen whether he will land the biggest prize in Gaelic football, but he is without a doubt one of the best footballers of his generation.
Michael Keaveny, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we looked ahead to the clash of Kerry and Mayo.