Sean Cremin is back with part two of our countdown of the Top 25 Footballers in Ireland. Here we countdown numbers 15-5.
15. Michael Daragh MacAuley (Dublin)
MDMA still remains a very effective footballer. He is the prime example of a manufactured player, i.e an incredible athlete turned into a footballer.
His skill levels are still questionable but he has improved his kicking 200% over the last few years. He is strong, wins a lot of ball and has blistering pace. A real handful for any opponent and is a valuable part of Dublin’s side.
14. Lee Keegan (Mayo)
The Mayo man had a slightly quiet 2014 but his overall performances in the last three seasons have been very good. He seemed to almost build the template of a modern day wing-back.
He has lots of energy and provides an excellent attacking platform while not failing in his defensive duties. His scoring record is also impressive. His sending off in the All Ireland semi-final divided opinion.
13. Jamie Clarke (Armagh)
The Armagh man was a victim of his team’s poor run of form over the last few seasons but still managed to showcase his class with his club, Crossmaglen Rangers. He has previously threatened to take a break from intercounty football on many occasions but is now the main man in an improving Armagh team.
Clarke is an excellent forward who has great instinct in front of goal and big thing swill be expected of him in 2015.
12. Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone)
Tyrone may have had a quiet season this year but the quality of Sean Cavanagh continues to be shown to GAA fans throughout the country. His performance in the recent International Rules game between Ireland and Australia also showed that he is still up there with the best.
At midfield or as a forward, Cavanagh is a huge threat and that trademark sidestep still deceives most players.
He can also take a hit, as seen below:
11. Cian O’Sullivan (Dublin)
Cian O’Sullivan is another excellent player who has great versatility and can play a variety of positions to a high standard. He has won All-Ireland medals at corner-back and midfield and also curtailed a certain Colm Copper when repositioned to centre back in 2013.
He is a great athlete with a high skill level and would be an ideal player for any side in the country.
10. Colm Boyle (Mayo)
The Mayo half-back really pushed on another level in 2014. He was an All Star in 2013 and was more than deserving of consecutive honours after 2014.
His performance in the second-half of the drawn game with Kerry was a sign of what he is all about. He was inspirational in attack and defence and showed that he can mix it with the best on his day.
9. Keith Higgins (Mayo)
Keith Higgins has been around for a good while and he has been a very consistent performer for Mayo. He has been a great player over the years and like others on this selection he has shown his class in a number of positions.
His one-on-one battle with Kerry’s James O’Donoghue was one of the highlights of the championship and he has also shown his ability to play as a half-forward. He is an excellent player.
8. Brian Hurley (Cork)
The Cork man is as good a forward as there is playing the game at the moment. Cork had a poor 2014 but Hurley still managed to show a lot of quality and has done so over the last two years since getting into the senior ranks.
He has that ability to take on defenders and can also win his own possession. He has been a victim of Cork’s lack of consistency over the last two seasons and deserves a lot of credit for some excellent performances.
7. Cillian O’Connor (Mayo)
This writer was not the biggest fan of O’Connor for a long time. He was seen as a player who was not the superstar that a back-to-back Young Footballer of the Year should be. His scoring record was also heavily influenced by frees and scoring hat-tricks against the likes of London and New York.
But his two performances against Kerry were excellent this year and showed that maybe the hype has been justified. He is a good finisher and has improved his ball winning and taking on of defenders. His challenge now is to kick on but at the moment most counties would have him in their team, putting him high up on the list.
6. Neil McGee (Donegal)
The second of the McGees featured in our PA Rankings.The fact that Donegal play such a defensive system means that all defenders are ably supported by almost two or three others but Neil McGee always stands out.
The fact that he outscored the 2014 Footballer of the Year, James O’Donoghue, in the 2014 All-Ireland final, is testimony to his quality. He is hard as nails and is an old fashioned, no nonsense defender. He pushes the boundaries to the limit and tackles very hard. In the context of modern day football, he is one of the best defenders.
5. Aidan O’Shea (Mayo)
If it wasn’t for Aidan O’Shea this year, Mayo could have been beaten by Cork and had their ‘bottlers’ tag associated to them again for the full winter.
If it wasn’t for O’Shea Mayo would not have gotten anywhere near a draw against Kerry in Croke Park.
And finally, if Aidan O’Shea had not received a concussion in the replay with Kerry, they may have won the game, qualified for the final and finally ended years of heartbreak.
Aidan O’Shea is a class act. His performance against Donegal in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final was one of the best individual performances ever seen. Consistency has been a bit of a problem but a move to centre-forward this year saw O’Shea look right at home. He is great physical player and a very skilful footballer.
He may be the spearhead of the Mayo attack going forward.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.