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16th Jun 2017

The Toughest: Who would be the most valuable player if a transfer system existed in the GAA?

We are adopting the Pickford scale

Mikey Stafford

Sunny June weekend, the qualifiers kicking off… it feels like the perfect moment to resurrect a classic, old bar-stool argument.

If the GAA went professional and transfers were in operation, a la the Premier League, who would be the most valuable player?

To put value on our top 10 Gaelic footballers. we are imposing the Pickford Scale. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford left Sunderland for Everton this week for a cool £30million.

That is a very good goalkeeper, with a season’s top flight experience, costing €34.2m. Allowing for population and market size, we equate that to Monaghan’s Rory Beggan costing €3.4m (Population of UK is 65m, versus 6.4 for island of Ireland).

Now that we have explained the science behind the Pickford Scale, let’s get to the totally unscientific Top 10 most expensive Gaelic footballers of 2017.

Judged on their ability, their match-winning ability, how vital they are to their own county and how valuable they would be to potential buyer.

10. Graham Reilly (Meath) – Valuation €11.5million

Unnaturally fast, unerringly accurate and devastatingly effective – the Meath wing-forward is a throwback to an age when half-forwards played in the forwards and occupied themselves with scoring. That traditional approach would make him unattractive to many Ulster counties and lower division sides looking to splash the cash, but Mayo, Galway, Cork and even Dublin would be very interested.

9. Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary) – €12million

A wonderful full-forward who possesses the ability to win his own ball, score from distance, drive for goal and play his team-mates into the game. Only 24-years-old and absolutely central to what Tipperary do, the Premier County would be loathed to lose him but there is not a county in Ireland that would not have a use for him. Tyrone are doing a deal with Russian Oligarchs to finance the move.

8. Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone) – €14million

Mobile midfielders are all the rage and this fellow is more mobile than most. That touch of snarl and ability to run at opposition adds significantly to his value, as does his importance to Tyrone’s counter-attacking game. Losing Donnelly would rip the guts out of this team and Club Tyrone have deep pockets.

7. Peter Harte (Tyrone) – €15million

Ditto for above but add in the fact the Ginger Pele is a stylist, an absolute joy to watch in action. As well as knitting everything together for Tyrone he would be welcomed with open arms by every county with notions of entertaining and playing attractive football. If Kerry, Mayo, Dublin and Galway get into a bidding war, this could rise.

6. Philly McMahon (Dublin) – €16million

Man-marker from hell, tough as old boots, inspirational, experienced and a proven winner. Corner-back from heaven, before you even throw in the fact he has the capability to break forward and possesses the scoring ability of a corner-forward. Tyrone and Donegal would go to war for this man, but Dublin’s commercial might means they could drive a hard bargain.

5. Lee Keegan (Mayo) – €17million

Highly valued by gift of being the reigning footballer of the year alone. Attacking half-backs are key to every game plan and the Westport clubman is arguably the best in the game. Despite an abundance of candidates for that line, Mayo would be slow to let Keegan go but, being played in the more defensive central role this year, would he welcome a bid from Kerry?

4. Conor McManus (Monaghan) – €17.5million

Monaghan would wave their All-Ireland aspirations goodbye if the Clontibret man was to leave but they would find the advances of suitors keen on their heavy-scoring inside forward hard to ignore. Dublin would benefit from McManus’ finishing prowess, Mayo would certainly sacrifice Keegan for the elusive “marquee forward” and Tyrone would just love to relieve Monaghan of the jewel in their crown.

3. David Moran (Kerry) – €18million

Kerry, like Dublin, are most likely to be buying counties rather than selling in this hypothetical world, but a midfielder like Moran would be a popular acquisition. Great in the air, Moran is built to maximise the mark, a useful defender, mobile and threatening going forward. Kerry would hate to lose him, any other county could find room for him.

2. Brian Fenton (Dublin) – €20million

Once more, all of the above, with the added value of being an asset of the wealthiest county – a county that has not always been able to find the right blend in the middle of the park. Young, athletic and absolutely central to Jim Gavin’s gameplan, the midfielder would not come cheap.

1. Michael Murphy (Donegal) – €22million

At 27 his age is a little against him but then you think about everything else. His adaptability (midfield, half-forward, full-forward), his free-taking prowess (anything inside 60 yards is a chance), his experience (an All-Ireland winnning captain, lest we forget), his power (the man is a beast) and his all-round ability (shooting, catching, passing, tackling, rugby). Rory Gallagher is more likely to go camping on Tory Island with Jim McGuinness in a two-man tent than sell Murphy to the 31 counties that would be mad to have him.

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