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Footballers Who Have Lost The Most All-Ireland Finals Without Winning One

Footballers Who Have Lost The Most All-Ireland Finals Without Winning One
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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Players who have repeatedly made All-Ireland football finals only for them all to end the same way.

Since 1970, four counties have lost 4 or more All-Ireland finals in a row. Galway lost four on the spin between 1971 and 1983. The Dubs lost the same amount in a row between 1984 and 1994, while Cork lost four in a row between 1993 and 2009.

Mayo, meanwhile, have now lost seven in a row between 1989 and 2013.

Very few of the Dublin players who lost finals in '84 and '85 were still there in '92 and '94. Seeing as the Dubs won in '83 and '95 you would need to have been chronically unlucky to lose four without winning one. Charlie Redmond played in three of those losses but he hung around to win in '95. Tommy Carr, meanwhile, only played in two finals, '85 and '92.

Of the Cork players, Anthony Lynch, one of the their finest figures of the noughties,  played and lost three All-Irelands. But although he didn't play a second of the 2010 championship, he was part of the squad and did win an All-Ireland medal.

Therefore, that leaves only two counties here among the crop of players who have lost three or four All-Irelands without winning one.

No All-Ireland senior titles below but some great names and bucket loads of All-Stars. Pre-1970 names, we are open to suggestions.

Players who have lost 4 All-Ireland finals without winning one

Alan Dillon

2004, 2006, 2012, 2013

Started all four All-Irelands Mayo played in between 2004 and 2013. Pushing 34 he has battled his way back into the team under Rochford. His start against Tyrone in the quarter-final is his first championship match for Mayo since the Limerick semi-final replay.

Dillon's All-Ireland final record started so promisingly. Four minutes into his first one, he rounded the keeper and passed the ball into the net.


Of the four final defeats, the Donegal one was presumably the most bearable.

James Nallen



1996, 1997, 2004, 2006

Like Dillon, Nallen played in four All-Ireland finals but he had minimal impact in the final one of those, receiving the curly finger from the panicked Mayo management after the early carnage. His four All-Ireland appearances ran from 1996 to 2006.

As such it is often claimed, for added dramatic effect, that he played in five All-Ireland finals and lost all of them. This is obviously incorrect. He either played in four All-Ireland finals and lost all of them or he played in five All-Ireland finals, lost four and drew one.


David Brady was introduced for Nallen early in the 2006 game or as he vividly put it himself, he 'was sent out to look for bodies'.

Andy Moran


2004, 2006, 2012, 2013

Like Dillon, lost four All-Ireland's in the past 12 years. And like Dillon, has a chance to either remove himself from the list altogether in 2016 or break new ground and amass five September losses with no win. He did miss the 2012 final through injury though.


Tommy Joe Gilmore (one as sub)

1971, 1973, 1974, 1983

While the Galway hurlers get more grief for throwing away All-Ireland finals, the Galway footballers, prior to the John O'Mahony era, rivalled them in this department. They lost three All-Ireland finals in four years between 1971 and 1974. No one ever felt too much sympathy for the county of Galway as the three-in-a-row team of the 60s were still fresh in the memory.


One of the most important players was their powerful centre back Tommy Joe Gilmore. He played in all three of those game, scoring one memorable point in the defeat to Cork in 1973. In the following year's final  he was to mark the Dubs centre forward Tony Hanahoe, a duty which entailed running around the pitch and avoiding the ball. Heffo had instructed Hanahoe to leave his mark and open up space. This would open up space for the Dublin midfielders to power through and also take Gilmore out of the game.

Nine years later, Gilmore was a sub on the Galway team which couldn't reel in a depleted Dublin team in the second half of a sour and violent All-Ireland final.

Billy Joyce  (one as sub)

1971, 1973, 1974, 1983

The same career span as the above TJ Gilmore, Joyce featured more prominently in the 1983 season, which was also for him the final year of his inter-county career.

Joyce is the uncle of a couple of future Galway All-Ireland winners, one of whom ranks as possibly their finest forward of all time.

Players who have lost 3 All-Ireland finals without winning one


David Brady: Lost three finals in '96, 2004, '2006. Didn't play at all during the 1997 season.

Ciaran McDonald: Began his Mayo career in 1994 and was dropped for 2007. This period encompassed four Mayo All-Ireland final appearances but McDonald was out of action for the 1996 season.

Dermot Flanagan & Liam McHale: Lost three All-Ireland finals beginning with Mayo's first final appearance in decades back in 89. They hung around to feature in the two John Maughan finals in the 1990s 

Keith Higgins: Lost three All-Ireland finals between 2006 and 2013.


Johnny Hughes: Two time All-Star in the 70s, Hughes lost finals in 73, 74, and 83. Unlike the other survivors from the early 70s, Hughes started the 1983 All-Ireland final even though he was unfit.

Gay Mitchell, Joe Waldron, Liam O'Neill, Tom Naughton, Brendan Colleran: All lost three All-Irelands with Galway between 1971 and 1974

Read more: From Coghlan To Annalise - Ireland Glorious History With The Worst Position In The Olympics


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