One of the most controversial rankings in Irish sport easily beating 50th in the world in Soccer or 2nd in Rugby Union is the ranking of Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes maintained by TV and Podcast show Second Captains. Never could they have envisioned it would become such a hot topic of debate. So with great trepidation, below from 10th to 1st is how the wall should read.
10th Paul O’ Connell
An inspiring character on the pitch and the embodiment of Munster Rugby spirit for over a decade, Paul O’Connell will be severely missed by Munster in the coming season. His trophy haul includes 2 Heineken Cups, 3 Celtic League and 3 Six Nations. He was also a member of the Lions Squad on three occasions captaining the tourists in 2009.
O’Connell will no doubt add to his impressive haul with Toulon next season, and dare we dream with Ireland next month.
9th Jimmy Barry-Murphy
Not Henry I hear you say, the man has ten All-Irelands! Shefflin has an impressive trophy cabinet no doubt, but Barry-Murphy has arguably the most impressive honours list in Gaelic Games.
He has 12 Munster titles (10 hurling, 2 football) 6 All-Ireland (5 Hurling, 1 football) and 7 All Stars (5 Hurling, 2 Football).
In club the tally gets even more impressive with 5 Munster titles (3 hurling, 2 football) and 4 All Ireland (2 each). When you add to this his further All Ireland and 3 Munster titles as a manager it becomes clear that he deserves his place on this list. It’s worth noting that he also played for Cork Celtic in the LOI.
8th Páidi Ó Se
The inclusion on the wall of Colm Cooper ahead of Ó Se is a bit baffling really and is probably a product of bias to more recent sports stars which is prevalent.
Ó Se had an incredibly successful career even by Kerry standards, followed this up with a successful spell in management which won him All-Irelands with his native Kerry but perhaps more impressively a Leinster title with perennial also-rans Westmeath. His playing career yielded 8 All-Irelands 11 Munster Titles and 5 All-Stars while his spell in management added a further 2 All Ireland, 6 Munster titles and a Leinster title to boot.
His influence on the Kerry team can still be felt from beyond the grave through the presence of his nephews Darragh, Tomás and Marc throughout the years.
7th Robbie Keane
One of the most glaring omissions from the wall is Ireland’s most under-appreciated sports star. His goalscoring exploits have got Ireland out of many a tough spot and who doesn’t remember where they were when he put the ball in the German net in 2002. His record of 65 goals for Ireland will never be beaten and compares favourably with any of the top strikers in Europe. Detractors will supply you with poorly researched “facts” such as the majority of his goals coming against smaller opposition or in friendlies.
When Keane does eventually retire he will be sorely missed by the regulars in the Aviva and previously Landsdowne Road who see the man for what he is. Simply a legend.
6th Padraig Harrington
It is likely that Harrington will one day have to give up his place on this list to make way for Hollywood sensation Rory McIlroy, but for now, his position is deserved.
The three time major winner has always proven popular with golf fans but many underestimate how much he really achieved. He has won 14 times on the European Tour as well as 6 times on the PGA and was player of the year on both tours in 2008, his second in a row in Europe. Having recently rediscovered some of his old form Irish golf fans can hope that Harrington is not finished just yet and may even have a fourth major in him.
5th Jimmy Mc Larnin
The two time welterweight world champion known by some as the “Dublin Destroyer” is arguably Ireland’s greatest ever boxer. He managed 54 victories in his long career, is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and is rated by BoxRec as the 11th best pound for pound fighter of all time and the No. 1 welterweight of All Time.
Take that, Mayweather!
4th Liam Brady
Liam Brady was undoubtedly the most technically skilled footballer to ever play for Ireland. He was renowned throughout the world for his skill on the ball and top class passing ability. The fact that he is to this day still revered at huge clubs like Arsenal and Juventus shows just how talented a player he really was.
He won two Serie A titles at a time when it was the best league in the world. Italian clubs were limited to two foreign players during this time and Liam Brady eventually made way for Michel Platini. Famously in his last game for Juventus he stepped up to take a penalty to win Serie A knowing he would not be playing with Juventus the following season. Brady scored the penalty and won back to back titles for the club.
Unfortunately he retired in the run up to Italia 90 after it became apparent that he was not a Jack Charlton type of player, but the reverence in which he is held at two of the World’s biggest clubs is testament to the stature of this great player.
3rd Ronnie Delaney
Delaney is the most high profile omission from the Good Wall on Second Captains. Olympic Champion in the 1500m in the 1956 Olympics, his victory was the beginning of a long barren patch for Ireland in the Olympics which lasted until Michael Caruth’s gold in boxing in 1992.
Delaney went on to compete in America where he won four successive AAU titles in the mile, adding to his total of four Irish national titles and three NCAA titles. He was the top athlete over this distance at the time going unbeaten for 40 successive races.
2nd AP McCoy
Listing all of AP McCoy’s achievements would take a book as opposed to a short paragraph, but to put it in as straight forward a manner as possible, he was champion jockey in every year he was a professional.
Professional horse racing, or any sport for that matter, rarely sees that level of consistency. He was champion jockey for 19 years in a row beating the previous record of 7 held by Peter Scudamore. Included in his 4,348 jumps victories are nearly all the biggest honours in the sport including the Grand National, Gold Cup, Champion Chase, and Champion Hurdle.
The level of consistency displayed by Mc Coy throughout his racing career has never been seen before in Irish sport.
1st Brian O’Driscoll
I must admit to being tempted to remove O’Driscoll from his lofty position atop the wall, if only to cause a bit of controversy, but for now the perch is his. His honours list is unmatched in Irish rugby and includes 3 Heineken Cups, 2 Six Nations and 4 Celtic Leagues. He is also the top try scorer in 6 nations history and has been a member of the Lions tour on four occasions captaining the side in 2005.
It is no coincidence that his career coincided with a surge in the popularity of rugby in this country and the legacy of that success should not be underestimated. O’Driscoll played a vital part is changing rugby from a minority game played by the upper classes to the mainstream sport that packs out the Aviva and pubs throughout the country today.