Best Mayo XV since 2000

Over the last 20 years, we have watched on anxiously at the possibility of bearing witness to a (possibly mythical) curse being broken. We have come so close to seeing it happen that you would have to believe in the strength of said curse.

Own goals are quite possibly the rarest of sights on a Gaelic football field, and in the 2016 final Mayo scored two of them. In 2014, Cormac Reilly used his own brand of refereeing voodoo to make sure the curse was elongated. Countless other small moments in games over the past 20 years, would make even the Pope believe that somebody had used the dark arts on that bus carrying the victorious Mayo team in 1951.

One thing we can be certain about is that they have blessed us with some of the greatest footballers that this generation and the ones before have ever seen. Since the turn of the millennium they have given us moments that have both shocked and excited us. But what is the ‘Best 15’ of this era?

Fortunately, we merely had to mediate while three of Mayo’s finest compiled the team. They are the Belmullet born ex-Mayo footballer and Sky Sports analyst Billy Joe Padden, Aghamore man and Mayo GAA Blog founder, John Gunnigan, and Balla native and writer for the Irish Examiner and Mayo News, Colin Sheridan. Let’s find out who they chose.

Goalkeeper: With a career spanning nearly the entirety of this era, Ballina Stephenites’ net-minder  David Clarke was the obvious choice. The two-time All-Star has a league medal from both ends of the era, winning one in 2001 and again in 2019. His presence between the posts has been somewhat of a visual safe haven for Mayo fans, something that does not appear as solid when he has missed out on selection at certain times in the last 20 years.

Honourable Mention: Peter Burke (Kiltimagh).

Full Back Line: “We’ll start with the obvious one first” explained Billy Joe, “it’s a process of elimination after that!” Unsurprisingly, the triumvirate resoundingly chose Keith Higgins at corner back. The Ballyhaunis dual star has reached legendary status within Mayo, picking up 4 All-Stars during his career, as well as a ‘Young Player of the Year’ award in 2006. Chosen at full back was Kevin Cahill, the Ballaghaderreen man was “massively underrated” according to our selectors. He played a significant role in Mayo’s national league success in 2001. The last position caused much debate, but eventually it went to Aghamore defender Brendan Harrison. His performances in recent years gave him the nod over other worthy nominees, however he held them off like many of the corner forwards he has encountered.

Honourable Mentions: Kenneth Mortimer (Shrule-Glencorrib), Ger Cafferkey (Ballina Stephenites) David Heaney (Swinford).

Half Back Line: Lee Keegan was an automatic choice at number 5, the Westport man is arguably one of the best footballers of his generation, and at 30 years old, still has time to add his reputation, injuries permitting. Colm Boyle took the centre back berth, the Davitts club man embodies what the Mayo team of this era represents. Paradoxically, his tenacity and ferocity is something quite beautiful to watch at times. Completing the half back line is Castlebar Mitchels’ Paddy Durcan, his evolution in to one of the games top players has been a joyous sight. Having given glimpses of his undoubted talent early on in his career, he has lived up to the hype since the middle of the decade.

Honourable Mentions: James Nallen (Crossmolina), Peadar Gardiner (Crossmolina), Chris Barrett (Belmullet).

Midfield: Son of Charlestown Tom Parsons was given the nod at midfield. Despite one of the worst injuries in modern memory, it is a measure of the man that he somehow returned from it. Prior to that injury, Parsons steadily became one of Ireland’s best midfielders due to his phenomenal work-rate and sheer efficiency when in possession of a size 5. Partnering him is Aidan O’Shea, the Breaffy man has taken up numerous positions for Mayo throughout his career, but always seemed to put in his most memorable performances at midfield. He has had to deal with a lot of doubters inside and outside the county, but has proved them wrong more than once, picking up 3 All-Star awards in the process.

Honourable Mentions: Barry Moran (Castlebar Mitchels), Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy), Ronan McGarrity (Ballina Stephenites), David Brady (Ballina Stephenites).

Half Forward Line: With the exception of centre forward, this line caused most debate between the trio. Mayo have produced some great number 10s but after much deliberation Kevin McLoughlin was given the jersey. The Knockmore forward personifies the modern-day wing forward, with the ease at which he floats up and down a football field. Ciaran McDonald was selected on the 40 “because that’s just the way it is” insisted Padden, and few can argue with that statement. There are few who could manipulate an O’Neills football like the Crossmolina man could, at times it seemed like witchcraft, and if this was a Best XV of all of Ireland over the past 20 years, he would probably make it too. At number 12 is one of Mayo’s greatest servants, Alan Dillon. The Ballintubber native made 134 appearances for his county over a 14-year period, racking up an impressive 3-225 during his career and collecting two All-Star awards in the process.

Honourable Mentions: Trevor Mortimer (Shrule-Glencorrib), Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber), Jason Doherty (Burrishoole).

Full Forward Line: At the time of writing, the 3 inside men have a combined scoring total of 50 goals and 787 points. Astonishing numbers for a county that has been accused of lacking scoring forwards. Our selectors chose Conor Mortimer at 13, “ You would literally have to drag him in from the training pitch to stop him shooting” mentioned Colin Sheridan, the Shrule-Glencorrib club man was scarily accurate and a migraine for any defender on his day. At full forward is the top scorer in All-Ireland Championship history. Cillian O’Connor was an automatic choice for the 3 men, racking up 25-298 in 55 games. All before the Ballintubber man had reached his 28th birthday. The last man to make Mayo’s Best XV of the last 20 years was Andy Moran. The Ballaghaderreen forward oozed class when he put on the green and red jersey, and like a fine Merlot, seemed to be getting better with age. He held the respect of every GAA person across the country, which was duly given to him when he announced his retirement.

Honourable Mentions: Kevin O’Neill (Knockmore), Alan Freeman (Aghamore).

So, that was the team the lads chose, in their view the best Mayo XV since 2000. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

The Best Mayo XV since 2000 was an initiative put together by ClubSpot, the club management software company whose online platform and associated mobile phone app brings club membership onto the palm of your hand. This article, by ClubSpot’s Podge Gill, also appears on the ClubSpot website – here.

52 thoughts on “Best Mayo XV since 2000

  1. Good selection but I’d have Brady instead of Parsons and Kenneth Mortimer instead of Harrison. Honourable mention to Noel Connelly at 7. I’d have to get Kevin O Neill into that team somehow maybe instead of Conor Mortimer

  2. Not a bad effort at all.

    For me, I think I would need to have James Nallen in at centre-back. So I would probably push Boyler back into the corner at the expense of Harry. Nallen was exceptional at his peak and added exceptional athleticism. One of our best players for the best part of a decade.

    I’d also get Kevin O’Neill into the full-forward line at the expense of Conor Mortimer. I don’t think we ever got enough out of O’Neill. He was out of the picture for a few years but when he was on the pitch he rarely let us down.

  3. Yep for me Kenny Mortimer was in another class as was James Nallen our very own Mr consistent for a decade, Harry has a bit to go yet I think

  4. Good team, personally would have gone with Heaney at 3 as Cahill’s best years were in the 90s, Brady rather than Parsons in Midfield and Diarmuid O’Connor over McLoughlin at 10, but that’s a very tight call to be fair.

    Very few complaints with the team picked though.

  5. Cant argue with that team, the curse would be def broken if they all played together!.

    As with the previous comments id have K Mortimer instead of Harrisson imo.

  6. I’d have to have Kenneth and Kevin o Neill in my team . But my God , asking me to choose between James and Colm at 6 , is like asking me who’s my favourite child. I love both dearly for different reasons.
    Amazing to think, only two, ( by my reckoning ) Kevin Cahill and Ciaran are the only ones not to play under James Horan.

  7. Excellent selection and hard to argue with any of it.
    Think I’d agree with you Rock on including Nallen, with Harry just losing out. It would mean shifting the positions but Boyler has to be in there, no question, so I’d second that.

  8. An excellent selection. Of course there are valid arguments for Barrett, Nallen, Brady, Kevin O’Neill and Diarmuid O’Connor in particular but this is a very balanced team. Mortimer was an excellent corner back but he won his All Stars in 1996 and 1997. Those were his best years.

    Nallen in his prime may just sneak in at the exclusion of Harrison with Boyle going to the corner. Can’t exclude Boyle and Nallen would have flourished under Horan and Rochford.

  9. I too would find it hard to omit Nallen and if you are confined to years since 2000 then I would have to put either Heaney or Caff in at No 3. Heaney was a class player but a bit too much of a pure footballer for full back. I still dream of seeing David Brady on Donaghy early on in 2006 final.
    I think Kevin O’Neill has to get the nod over Conor Mort in the forwards. Mort, unfortunately, never really delivered in finals and his petulant walkout in 2012 did his standing no favours at all.

  10. I’d agree with the comments. Really hard in defence with Nallen not making it .
    Only one for sure I’d disagree with is Conor Mort . Kevin O Neill would be my pick .Played against both and really Conor was good but Kevin was just brilliant . He wasn’t afraid to track back either , great skills and work rate.

  11. K Mortimer and nallen hav to be put in that back line. The rest of the team is to tight to call

  12. If it was best team since 1995 I would have Kenny mort and james nallen , but it’s not, it’s from 2000 so they lose out!
    The two DOC’s unlucky to lose out. Maybe diarmuid in midfield.

  13. Agree with 14/15. The absence of Ger Cafferkey is a glaring omission. All Ireland U-21, 6 x Connacht SFC titles and All-Star. Kevin Cahill was a great player but Caff in the last eight to ten years was at his best in a time when the game of football was played at the highest standard, professional in all but the name.

  14. Unsurprisingly its the backs and midfield where the tough choices are! Would put Cafferkey in at 3 personally, from 2011-2013 he was the top full back in Ireland along with Rory O’Carroll and McGee. Think his poor later years go against him in these things

    Probably won’t be popular but I’d actually put Gardiner in at 7 for now, but would be basing this a lot on club level also. In the 00s he was ahead of his time in terms of attacking play and piped up with crucial scores and forward runs when matches were in the balance. I think he would have been a multiple All Star if he hit his prime in the last decade, he was part of a poorer Mayo side.

    The midfield position beside O’Shea is a pick’em really. I’d be half tempted to put David Brady in there, its easy to forget just how effective he was even if he was never the most naturally gifted.

    The forwards are absolutely spot on imo. The Mort will always divide opinion, but he walks into this side every day of the week in my view, such a crucial player in the 2004-2006 era. And quite frankly there just ain’t a whole lot of competition up front 🙁

  15. A formidable team.

    I don’t think it could be too much stronger.
    James Nallen would have played a big part in the 2001 league winning campaign and also bringing a first ever All Ireland club title to Mayo with Crossmolina in the same year. He must be right up there with most appearances for the County as well.

    I think Connor Mort fully deserved his inclusion. He had a great scoring record for us.

    WJ. Can you just change Ronan Mcgaritys club to Ballina.

  16. Wouldn’t agree on Gardiner. He’s Well behind the current half back line in the pecking order. Keegan Boyle and durcan already amongst the best Mayo players of all time in my view. I’d put Barrett in ahead of harrison, I think he’s been slightly more impressive in the period in question. The reality is that players from pre 2010 need to be pretty exceptional to make this selection.
    Excited to see what Oisin mullin and Ryan o donoghue can do in the next decade.

  17. Don’t agree with moving Boyle to corner back to fit in Nallen. Boyle is nothing special as a corner back. Could potentially move him to 7 and leave out Paddy but I wouldn’t.

    I’d put Diarmuid in midfield instead of Tom Parsons. The 3 national titles we won in the last decade (minor, u21 and league) were in a large part down to Diarmuid.

  18. I’m amazed that Liam McHale hasn’t had a mention in all of this. Like Aiden O’Shea he attracted criticism because “with his height he should have been better” from people who wouldn’t be fit to lace his boots. I’m not saying he should be in the team but surely he has a case to be considered.
    Re Kenneth Mortimer his career at the top was very short and that has to be a major consideration. Contrast him with Dermot Flanagan, less talented at his best but overall I would put Flanagan’s contribution to Mayo ahead of Mortimer. I’m not too happy at Conor Mort’s inclusion either. His contribution in finals was limited when it should matter most and as I said before his petulant walkout in 2012 diminished his contribution. I think he now admits as much himself.

  19. Liam McHale didn’t play in the 2000s. I think everyone would have him in a team of the last 30 years

  20. 11…out of the 15, I went for …. Very pleased that two without All Star Award’s have been included… Kevin Cahill would have had compete with probably in my opinion the best full back of all time, Meaths Darren Day, Cahill’s intercountry career coinsided with an era of great full back’s, eg, Dublin’s Paddy Christy, and at times Séamus Moynihan of Kerry, Darren …It was an era of great full back’s…I can’t for the life of me, think of anyone in the half forward line who has been consistently better than Kevin McLoughlin, who incidentally started off as a half back in his Mayo Career, so did Andy Moran, when he came on the scene in the Naughties, more often than not as a substitute!

  21. I am absolutely delighted ye selected ‘OUR CONOR’ on the team .i would say it was a difficult decision but the right decision .CONOR has contributed an awful lot to mayo football and i for one will never forget conor breaking ‘JOE CORCORAN’ scoring record in mchale park in the rout of the dubs in 2012.I want to let the past rest in peace but only TWO people know exactly what happened to give MAYO football its very own SAIPAN affair.i think history will be kind to both CONOR and JAMES and i will go to my grave thinking we would defnitely have won sam in 2012 and maybe a few more all-irelands in the decade if CONOR was part of the team.

  22. Yeah I’d agree that there shouldn’t even be any debate about Kevin McLoughlin. For me he ‘is’ this team in so many ways and has been incredibly consistent for nearly 10 years now scarcely ever missing a match. Always the first name on my teamsheet.

  23. Very hard to pick a team from 1 – 15, tactics have changed dramatically since 2000, Tyrone manufactured the “defensive and put them under pressure tactics” in the 2000’s, and Donegal and the DUBS added their touches to further improve the defensive and the slow motion handballing that effectively ruined Gaelic football. Yes the Dubs are much to blame for this also.
    In 2004 and 2006 Mayo just couldn’t live with the power and pace of a very traditional Kerry style in both finals, a big contrast from the Tyrone style, I ask myself this, surely Mayo management would have seen how Tyrone dealt with Kerry in 03 semi final and 05 final, why wasn’t the Mayo style adapted to copy the Tyrone model, under Rochford and Co the style was altered to counteract the Dubs and it almost worked, just a little bit more firepower and pacier inside forwards would have swung the balance.
    While a good performance from a player is admirable in an All Ireland, but for a player to consistently deliver over a number of years is probably a fairer assessment. Very hard to argue with the team chosen.

  24. Mayo 36 this is a harsh thing to say maybe but in my humble opinion and i don’t mean to be disrespectful to anyone that ever played for Mayo or anyone on this blog but the best Mayo 15 of all time is the 50/51 team who won back to back all Ireland’s. We have had brilliant players since it but no Celtic crosses to show for it not for want of effort or dedication from any Mayo footballer that played in a final but unfortunately that’s the way it has planned out. I know people will say that Ciaran Mc D or Lee Keegan would walk onto any Mayo team of any era but for me the men that won the medals deserve to be called the greatest until their feat is matched or bettered

  25. Anyone have an update on Colm Boyle’s injury?
    Was it ever properly confirmed as an ACL after that?
    The iso lockdown might actually be a good this for a few lads with longer term niggles

  26. Hopefully Boyle got whatever surgery he required done before the lockdown because I don’t think any of those procedures have been carried out since.

  27. It’s a fascinating discussion but i would agree with k. O Neill ahead of C. Mort. Also make a case for Barret in FB line..always our problems line so not surprising its debated!
    Just an interesting stat if AL final performances are key indicator to go by our top scorers from play are Andy Moran 1-9 in 7 finals.J. Horan 0-10 3 finals Leeroy 2-3 5 finals. Cillian 0-6 5 finals.
    A question for you WJ please can you confirm Leeroy is the highest scoring defender in history of AL championship. Serious contender for our greatest ever player.

  28. Interesting stat there Lahanman about scores from play in finals. Nothing great in those figures and it highlights again our problems with scoring forwards. Even Cillian who a lot of us would regard as one of our top forwards is only averaging just over one point from play per game.

  29. South. Mayo in 3 of his finals Cillian didn’t score from play at all. Getting 0-3 in each of the other two including 3 monster points. However he has hit 0-36 in AL finals in totally possibly making him the highest scorer in Al final history… So its not a criticism..!

  30. I’m afraid I’m not able to confirm that stat, Lahanman, as I don’t have access to the required figures. It deserves to be true, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

  31. I really disagree with the huge emphasis that is put in the statistic “points scored from play”. Pat Spillane in particular loves trotting that stat out. It’s such a simplistic way of looking at things. Mayo’s style of football has been all about running at defences and taking players on in attack. This draws a lot of fouls and frees. It’s no coincidence Cillian is the record scorer as he nearly always gets 10 kickable frees a game. In addition, dublin were expert tactical foulers in those finals and well able to prevent goal chances by cynical fouling, thereby inflating the number of frees conceded to Mayo.
    The last time I checked, a point kicked from a free on the 21 yard line is worth the same as a spectacular shot from play.

  32. K Mortimer in for Harrison , Diarmuid o Connor in for Alan Dillon for me . Diarmuid is a massive player for us , one of the most vital cogs of this team . Some of his performances have been the greatest I’ve ever seen , v Kildare been one of them , league final v Kerry . Still 4-6 years left in him , really believe some underestimate his contribution.

  33. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://m.soundcloud.com/rtesport/rte-gaa-podcast-highest-scoring-defender-in-football-retires&ved=2ahUKEwi5h9iM5djpAhXDZxUIHditAO4QjjgwEXoECAcQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1rrbMxvD6tEyH7LfzeI2F8

    I’m not sure if I’m pasting this link correctly. It’s a sound cloud podcast from Rte. A discussion with a retiring Kildare defender. The highest scoring defender at the time of the interview, 1 point ahead of our own Lee Keegan. This is for Lahanman and WJ.

  34. In telation to Lahanmans query on where does Lee Keegan rank in terms of scoring defenders.

    If you just type in to Google.

    top scoring defenders gaelic football

    This will bring you to a page and if you scroll down there is a sound cloud rte interview with a retiring kildare footballer. At the time of the podcast, the kildare footballer was the top scoring defender all time in football, just 1 point ahead of Lee Keegan.

  35. Larry Duff, I would agree with you there, to much emphasis put on “points from play” almost used as an excuse to down play Cillians influence when in fact he is one of our all time great forwards. Also from reading posts some people are judging players simply on Final performance which I think is really unfair. A players contribution to Mayo should be judged as a whole over a career and not one particular game where the team performance as a whole dictates how the game goes. Plenty players contributed greatly who never played in a final. Did KMc have a standout All Ireland final? I don’t think so but is rightly regarded as one of the greats. Finally a lot of people criticise the inclusion of Conor Mort, weather you like him or not, up to recently he was Mayos all time top scorer (a tally he reached at a relatively young age) so I think he well deserves a place.

  36. @Sean Burke., I’d safely say Diarmuid O’Connor has more than 4-6 year’s of top quality football left in him, Didn’t he win the Young Footballer of the Year in 2016, his second, after a successful All Ireland U21 Campaign, .. Could easily have 8-10 year’s of an intercountry career left..I went for Diarmuid as well in place of Alan Dillon, it was touch and go between Diarmuid and Jason Doc…my tightest call was David Brady and Tom Parsons…In the end I went with Brady, given his heroic performance in the 2005 All Ireland Club Final’s…All Ireland performance’s concidering that Mayo played in 7 All Ireland Senior Intercountry deciders, including one replay gave us a good idea of who could perform on the biggest day of all..Mayo Club’s, and underage County team’s also contested All Ireland Final’s during that time,.I had Kevin O Neil ahead of Conor Mortimer, and Chris Barrett just ahead of Brendan Harrison… All very tight call’s!

  37. Some great debate going on over who was ahead of who else for a particular spot on this greatest 15 team. Can anyone name a single better all around footballer, ever, than Keegan? And I don’t mean in just Mayo, I mean nationally. Seamus Moynihan and Brian Dooher were good but don’t make the cut, can anyone name another??

  38. A good selection there but I would go with Kenneth Mortimer all day long. Noel Connelly was a great wing back and captain who I am sure would push Paddy Durcan hard and I would give D Brady the nod over Tom Parsons Anyway great players all who did their county some serious service.

  39. Going back to the debate on Leeroy scoring prowess I did some research Revellino. Kieran Bolton a fine Kildare defender scored 5-33 in his careers. Lee according to the Wikipedia page attributed to him has scored 6-40 but imake it 7-42 frim going through the archives here WJ. His majors are 3 against Dublin 1 against Galway Roscommon Donegal and Sligo. I think its fairly certain he has the honour of being the highest scoring defender in championship history.. Take a bow lee..

  40. Good selection, I would go with Nallen at centre back, so stylish, also Heaney was a class footballer, and would probably at FB. Chris or Harry at corner back, tough to call?

    Would also go with Brady in midfield, brought an edge of steel to any team and had leadership qualities about him. Hard to fault the fowards selected but O’Neill was definitely a stylish corner forward.

  41. Agree it’s hard not to see James Nallen on that team but the lads in the half back line are fantastic players.
    While Conor was a great free taker and super footballer, he was nowhere near the quality of Kevin O Neill . O’Neill had so much more than Conor ( I marked both of them ) . Kevin was soo clever , physically strong and deadly accurate.
    I will always remember my coach telling me when marking Conor to plough forward at every opportunity as Mort wont bother to chase back !
    That was a huge flaw in his game unfortunately.

  42. @my Ball. you have hit the nail on the head. CONOR’S skillset did not include chasing back.he was a scorer .In the 2012 final james horan had all the forwards chasing back .hence we did not take our opportunity to win the all-ireland final,

  43. Jimbo, Horans main weapon from 2011 to 2014 was the attacking half back line this worked quite well BUT left a huge open space in front of the Mayo full back line, when possession was lost, this was exposed early in the 2012 All Ireland final, in the semi final v Tyrone in 2013, in All Ireland final of 2013 and against Cork in the 2014 Quarter final. Too much space in front of the 3 full backline guys.
    The Dubs learned a lesson v Donegal in semi final of 2014, the rest is history.

  44. Lahaman, I think you referring to Emmet Bolton, lived in Kildare for a while , dont think he was was in that category of scoring backs, good player though.

  45. They had shorter careers, a few footballers I was interested in opinion on.
    Fintan Ruddy – Booking kickout, I don’t recall him making any mistakes. Moved away I believe. I just never recall him having errors.
    Ray Connelly – An underrated corner back in my view.
    Tom Nallen – Short career, I believe injuries an issue. For me he was one of our best full backs after 2000.

  46. Hard to argue with the team listed…

    3 changes i would argue for are Heaney at FB instead of Cahill (just)
    Ken Mortimer instead of Harrison
    Ronan McGarrity instead of Parsons

  47. for Lahanman and Willie Joe – Cillian’s record in Finals is as follows:
    He’s featured in 5 finals which includes 1 replay, 4 of those games against Dublin.
    He’s scored 36 Points in those games.
    Date Opposition Scored Scores from Play Placed Ball
    23/9/2012 Donegal 5 0 5
    22/9/2013 Dublin 8 0 8
    18/9/2016 Dublin 7 3 4
    2/10/2016 Dublin 9 0 9
    17/9/2017 Dublin 7 3 4
    Totals 36 6 30

  48. Southmayo Exile – Cillian’s average score from Play in Championship football is 2.07 per game, from placed ball it’s 4.69.
    He’s been scoreless from play in 17 out of 55 championship games he’s featured in, and in only one single game has he not scored at all, vs London in 2016 when he was black carded after about 5 minutes or so.

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