spillane's all-star xv | 

Here's my All-Ireland dream team to bash Dessie Farrell's Dubs

This all-star outfit bankrolled by some billionaire benefactor could reel in Farrell juggernaut
Kerry’s David Clifford is the best forward in the country. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Kerry’s David Clifford is the best forward in the country. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Pat Spillane

These are dark days in every sense. Everyone is stuck in lockdown and the weather is dank.

I spend my time binge-watching sport on TV in between gazing at the four walls and trying to find a chink of positivity somewhere.

Clutching at straws, they'll tell you down here in Kerry that the days are getting longer.

That is true, but there is still too much time for brooding and reflecting on events which should have been consigned to the memory bank.

I'm still mourning Kerry's championship loss to Cork. It hurts, yet all I can think of is the Dublin football juggernaut.

That chimp in my head keeps telling me the GAA must do something about them.

So, what's the answer? Split them in two or divide them by four. My guess is this wouldn't work - it would multiply the problem.

Gavin White of Kerry and Ian Maguire of Cork both have what it takes. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Gavin White of Kerry and Ian Maguire of Cork both have what it takes. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cut off their Croke Park grant? Another non-starter. Money is not what motivates these guys. Anyway none of their special grant is spent on supporting Dublin's inter-county teams.

What about forcing them to play their matches outside Croke Park?

This wouldn't work either as Dublin are now capable of beating anybody, anywhere.

Then I had a light-bulb moment. The answer was staring back at me from the TV every day of the week.

In the 21st century, sport is dominated by teams bankrolled by either ultra-wealthy individuals or corporations.

Just think about it.

In horse racing it is the Sheiks and Coolmore Stud, Mercedes Benz and Ferrari are the big players in F1, while US and Arab-based billionaires finance many of the big soccer clubs in Europe and the UK.

So, the best way to beat the Dubs is for a very wealthy benefactor to assemble the best GAA players in the country and get them to play for one county.

I believe the GAA version of the 'Dream Team' would beat the supposedly invincible 'Boys in Blue'.

So, where do I begin? Well, I need a wealthy benefactor to bankroll the project

According to Forbes magazine the wealthiest sports owner in the world is former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. His net worth is estimated at €42.8 billion.

Michael Murphy and Odhrán McNiallais of Donegal both make the cut. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Murphy and Odhrán McNiallais of Donegal both make the cut. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Next comes the owner of the Mumbai Indians cricket team - Mukesh Ambani - whose net value is €29.6 billion.

Closer to home the company that owns the Brittany-based soccer club Stade Rennais, Artemis, is worth a mere €22.2 billion and comes in third on the list.

I'm not so sure any of them would be interested in my GAA project.

What about two of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich (Chelsea FC) and Dmitry Rybolovlev (Monaco FC) who are seventh and 16th respectively on the Forbes list of wealthiest sports owners?

Unfortunately, these Russian oligarchs have shown little interest in investing in Ireland and prefer Belgravia Square to Liberty Square.

Then there is Austrian entrepreneur, Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of the Red Bull franchise.

Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where there isn't a major Red Bull sponsored team.

Maybe he could be persuaded to back a GAA side?

Perhaps, I should look to cross-channel soccer to see whether I could inveigle some of the Premier club owners - such as the Glazers (Manchester United), John Henry and Tom Werner (Liverpool) or Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour - to invest in my idea.

Failing that there is always the 'sports washing' option - under which authoritative or oppressive regimes in the Middle East such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar use sport to improve their image.

Maybe I could target one of the giant tech companies such as Google, Facebook or Apple who are based in Ireland and have benefited hugely from our tax system.

Of course, many wealthy individuals invest in horse racing in Ireland.

Perhaps the Godolphin outfit, or the Aga Khan family, or the owners of the Moyglare Stud, might tire of equestrian sports and look for a new venture.

But I fear they don't really get what the GAA is about.

What about the Irish wealthy? This doesn't look too promising either.

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan is a top stopper. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan is a top stopper. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Indian-born reclusive steel magnate Pallonji Mistry (€16.1b), the Weston family (€11.8 b) and American-born John Dorrance (€2.6b) are among Ireland's richest passport holders. But I don't have any of them down as being 'part of the soil'.

But there is no shortage of Irish-born multi-millionaires who might be tempted to throw a million or ten in our direction.

Take your pick from Larry Goodman, Dermot Desmond, Denis O'Brien, JP McManus, the Collison brothers of Stripe fame, the Comer siblings from Galway, Michael O'Leary, the Murtagh family from Cavan or Sean Mulryan, whose company Ballymore Homes sponsor Roscommon.

Anyway, enough of my daydreaming. Now for the serious business of assembling a panel of 28 players to take on the mighty Dubs.

This is a short-term project. So I'm going for form players who will produce in 2021, rather than guys who might deliver in five years' time.

Thus current form is top of my wish list. Furthermore, I want players who are versatile enough to comfortably slot into a variety of positions.

Needless to say, I desire players with leadership qualities. But most of all, I would look for guys who can match their Dublin counterparts for athleticism, physicality and, most crucial of all, pace.

I opted against selecting traditionally physically-imposing players in the central-defensive positions, because they wouldn't be suited to the job of marking Ciaran Kilkenny or Con O'Callaghan.

Instead, I opted for fast players who are comfortable going forward, though I did include a specialist man-marker.

My dream squad


Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

Morgan is not just an established shot stopper, he has an excellent kick-out, is an accurate long-range free-taker and can operate as a goalkeeper-cum-sweeper.

Reserve goalkeeper

Shaun Patton (Donegal)

Though not the finished article, his Exocet-like kick-outs earn him a place on the bench.


Oisin Mullin (Mayo)

Blessed with blistering pace, he has a huge engine and can also man-mark.

Paddy Durcan (Mayo)

An experienced, versatile, defender who is comfortable doing a specific man-marking job or operating as an attacking wing-back with an eye for a score.

Eoghan ban Fallagher (Donegal)

A physically powerful unit who is at his best when breaking at speed from defence and linking up with the forwards - and he can notch crucial goals.

Eoghan McLaughlin (Mayo)

Granted, the All-Ireland final passed him by, but he is a very powerful ball carrier and has an excellent engine.

Donal Keogan (Meath)

He may never win an All-Ireland medal, but Donal has been one of the most consistent defenders in the game and is a proven man-marker.

Gavin White (Kerry)

Kerry's player of the league last season, he has blistering pace when he attacks along the flanks.

Reserve defenders

Donegal's Peadar Mogan and Cork's Sean Powter get the nod for their blistering pace, while I have included Tiernan McCann (Tyrone) and Karl O'Connell (Monaghan) for their counter-attacking abilities.

Donegal's Ryan McHugh makes the cut too for his ball-carrying ability and intelligent link play, while Cavan's Padraig Faulkner gets the nod because of his versatility. He can play in either of the central defensive positions and at midfield and - as he proved against Michael Murphy in the Ulster final - is a first-rate man-marker as well.


Ian Maguire (Cork)

I love this long-striding athletic player who has been Cork's consistent footballer in recent years.

Odhran McNiallais (Donegal)

Yes, this would be a risky selection, but I'm delighted he is returning to the Donegal squad in 2021. Has all the qualities a midfielder needs and is an excellent foot passer as well.

Reserve midfielder

Thomas Galligan (Cavan)

For his warrior-like never-say-die qualities and leadership.


Shane Walsh (Galway)

A pacy attacker, he is brilliant at carrying the ball and can score with both feet from play and placed ball. My kind of wing forward.

Conor McKenna (Tyrone)

His experience of being a professional sportsman gives him extra kudos. He's a physically-imposing player who is well capable of winning dirty ball. Conor can score and operate as a target man as well.

Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)

Gets my nod due to his versatility. Can operate as an orthodox forward, a link man, a sweeper or a third midfielder and has buckets of experience.

Paddy NcBrearty (Donegal)

Wasn't at his best in the 2021 and is most effective when playing off Michael Murphy. Very strong on the ball, he is blessed as one of the best ciotógs in the game.

Michael Murphy (Donegal)

Football intelligence, leadership, composure, and experience, sure the Donegal skipper ticks all the boxes. He is also a proven free-taker who can operate as a target-man on the edge of the square or play a deeper role.

David Clifford (Kerry)

Despite his 'game horribilis' in the Munster semi-final, he is still the best and most skilful forward in the game

Reserve forwards

Cillian O'Connor (Mayo), a marquee forward who was the leading scorer in the 2020 championship. I don't think he is a 75-minute player, however. He would be my first forward replacement.

Despite his advancing years Conor McManus (Monaghan) still knows where the posts are.

Michael Langan (Donegal) is a rangy, athletic player who eats up the ground on the run and can score.

Assuming Cathal McShane (Tyrone) makes a full recovery from his knee injury he has proved his ability as an excellent target man and free-taker, while Kerry's Sean O'Shea is a very intelligent link player and a most consistent free-taker.

Management Team

I'm willing to come out of retirement and manage this squad with a bit of help from my mentor Mick O'Dwyer. I'd guarantee my benefactor that I would deliver an All-Ireland quickly.

So, my message to the country's wealthiest individuals today is ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your county.

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