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The Best Kerry Football XV Of The Last 50 Years

The Best Kerry Football XV Of The Last 50 Years
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By Balls Team
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To celebrate their recent return to winning ways in the All-Ireland football championship, we've taken a look back at the greatest Kerry players of the past fifth years, in order to compile the greatest XV of that era. This list was originally compiled by Conor Neville in 2019.

Kerry GAA: The greatest football XV of the past 50 years

1975 is a good starting point for this team, kickstarting, as it did, a glorious time for Kerry football. Inevitably, some true greats were going to be sat on the bench here.

1. Charlie Nelligan


Inherited the jersey from Paudie O'Mahony from 1976 onwards. He won seven All-Irelands, eventually retiring after the 1991 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Down.

2. Marc Ó Sé


The Footballer of the Year in 2007 and the first Ó Sé family member in the team, he won five All-Irelands between 2004 and 2014.


Eeks out the grizzled veterans of the 70s and 80s, Jimmy Deenihan and Mick Spillane to the corner back slot.

3. John O'Keeffe



To accommodate Tim Kennelly, we briefly considered moving Seamus Moynihan into the full back slot at John O's expense.

O'Keeffe predated the bulk of the golden era players, having been around for the 1970 All-Ireland victory, when O'Dwyer was still a player.

4. Tom O'Sullivan



Jack O'Connor's portrayal of Tom O'Sullivan as a laid-back messer gave us one of the more entertaining elements of the Keys to the Kingdom.

Won five All-Irelands with Kerry during the noughties. He overcame the natural disability of his position to win the Man of the Match award for the 2009 All-Ireland final.


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5. Tomás Ó Sé

tomas o se kerry mayo


Another Ó Sé you couldn't leave out. Undoubtedly, one of the finest wing backs of all time. Footballer of the Year winner in 2004. Nailed on selection.

6. Seamus Moynihan



As noted above, we toyed with shifting Moynihan back to the full back line and sticking Tim Kennelly in at No. 6. Moynihan's inclusion on this team, however, was non-negotiable. One of the most admired footballers in Kerry football history. Won Footballer of the Year in 2000.

7. Paidí Ó 


Like Maurice Fitz, Páidí is a great romantic hero of Kerry football. Won eight titles and kept playing until 1989. On his death, the phrase 'larger than life' was used in spades.

8. Darragh Ó Sé


The most decorated Kerry footballer since the end of the O'Dwyer era. The only man to rack up six, a tally built up between the years 1997 and 2009. As Fitzgerald said on the Irish Times, Ó Sé liked nothing better than when the ball came screaming out in the sky. Particularly effective at plucking balls from under the crossbar

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9. Jack O'Shea



The late Weeshie Fogarty preferred Sean Walsh to Jacko in his very 1950s-heavy 'classiest, stylish Kerry XV'. We don't argue with Weeshie at all but we bow to O'Shea's reputation and place in this company. Regarded by so many people as one of the greatest footballers of all.

10. Declan O'Sullivan

declan o'sullivan kerry captain

Typically a centre forward, we have shifted him out to wing forward. Jack O'Connor was especially fond of O'Sullivan. That they were clubmates is only part of the story. O'Sullivan was patently one of the most gifted Kerry forwards of the noughties. He pips Ger Power and Paul Galvin for a place in the team.

11. Colm Cooper 

colm cooper dublin kerry

Denis Ogie Moran may have scored a point from a 50 into the wind for the Kerry minors. And won eight All-Irelands too.

But we liked what we saw from Cooper in the centre forward spot in the 2013 season. He dazzled and delighted in the first half of that glorious semi-final against Dublin.

Plus the competition in the inside forwards is intense.

12. Pat Spillane


Another player whose place is assured. A fixture on all such 'best of' teams including the Team of the Millennium, Spillane has a good claim to being the most influential player on the  golden era team.

He was Man of the Match in both the 1984 and 1986 All-Ireland finals.

Even in his twilight years, when he took the field sporting a rather oppressive looking knee bandage, he was still usually the best player on the team.

Even in his last ever championship match in the 1991 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Down, he still stands out as one of the best Kerry player on show.

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13. Mikey Sheehy


Competition in the full forward line is ferocious. Necessarily, some all-time greats have to be left out. There's no spot for John Egan.

We have to find room for one of the most stylish, elegant, unhurried players of the 80s. In an era when football often looked agricultural, Sheehy looks like a modern ball player.

You only need watch Sheehy play for five seconds to know this was a player who knew what he was doing.

14. David Clifford


David Clifford Kerry footballer

24 July 2022; David Clifford of Kerry celebrates after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Kerry and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The most recent addition to this list, Clifford has more than earned his place.

Burst onto the scene as the standout member of Kerry's new golden generation at the end of the 2010s, and was talismanic in 2022's league final and All-Ireland final victories. Has the potential to be remembered as one of the true greats of Gaelic football by his retirement.

Frighteningly, he is already being discussed as such at the age of just 23. One of the most gifted players of the modern age.

15. Maurice Fitzgerald

maurice kerry
In our Kerry: the lost years article, we suggested that entering the Kerry setup in 1988 was like arriving at a house party when the other guests were either conked out on the sofa or staggering into taxis outside.

That was Maurice's lot. But he stuck around to win titles in 1997 and 2000. If anything, his misfortune in this regard has increased his legend. The 1997 final is now effectively named after him (the game was so dreary otherwise, in truth). None of the golden era have a final named after them.

Now, few bother with the number of medals he won. All they talk about is the moments.

Subs: Declan O'Keeffe, Mike McCarthy, Tom Spillane, Tim Kennelly, Sean Walsh, Paul Galvin, John Egan, Kieran Donaghy, Denis Ogie Moran, Eoin Liston

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