AND THEN THERE were 10.
The contenders left in the race for Sam Maguire in 2014 has started to be whittled down as the All-Ireland quarter-finals start this weekend.
Some of the stars of this year’s championship are going to be watching on for August and September with their counties having been knocked out.
Here’s nine players we’ll miss not seeing in action for the rest of the GAA season.
1. Mark Lynch (Derry)
The spring star this season, Lynch was in outstanding form throughout the league as Derry reached April’s decider before losing heavily to Dublin.
Unfortunately the championship brought little joy for Lynch as Derry lost their Ulster opener to Donegal and then bowed out in the qualifiers against Longford at the first hurdle. Lynch fired 1-4 in that game and did his utmost to keep Derry in contention.
2. John O’Loughlin (Laois)
O’Loughlin was to the fore for Laois in Leinster against Dublin, impressing in opposition to a county where he plays his club football for St Brigid’s. The powerful midfielder had earlier sparkled against Wicklow while he caught the eye with his scoring returns in the qualifiers as he knocked over four points against Wexford and put a goal past Tipperary.
3. Benny Coulter (Down)
The Mayobridge veteran made a brilliant impact when sprung from the bench back in May and nearly helped fashion a famous victory for Down in their Ulster opener against Tyrone.
But they lost the replay and then exited the qualifiers at the hands of Kildare in a game where Coulter did shoot 0-3 in that defeat. James McCartan has since stepped down as manager and there’s speculation that Coutler may also bring an end to his tenure.
4. Diarmuid Murtagh (Roscommon)
Murtagh was in electric form for the Roscommon U21′s earlier this year. After they swept to a Connacht title, Murtagh ripped Cork apart by posting 0-10 in the All-Ireland semi-final – including nervelessly landing the winner from a tricky free – and then bagged 2-3 on an otherwise chastening day for Roscommon in the decider against Dublin.
His senior involvement was curtailed this summer but in the offensive flashes he produced from the bench against Mayo and from the start against Cavan and Armagh, Murtagh indicated why he has huge potential.
5. Gary Brennan (Clare)
Clare will have cause for regret at the end of their football summer when they look back on their provincial and national championship exits. They ran Kerry close in Munster before losing by four points and then a six-point lead evaporated in the qualifiers as Kildare hauled them back to win by one.
Throughout it all, their towering midfielder Gary Brennan did a huge amount to keep them in contention with a series of terrific displays. An under-rated player on the national stage, the Clondegad clubman enjoyed an excellent 2014 campaign.
6. Graeme Molloy (Wexford)
Wexford didn’t scale the heights this season as they were rolled over by the Dublin machine in Leinster before losing out on home soil in the qualifiers to Laois. Their full-back and defensive stalwart Molloy was in excellent form though as the captain did his best to lead the way for Wexford.
7. Colin O’Riordan (Tipperary)
The Sunday Game pundits Ciaran Whelan and Tomás Ó Sé were gushing in their praise of Tipperary’s Colin O’Riordan last weekend. The Premier may have bowed out at the last 12 stage but the JK Brackens teenager fought valiantly until the end and bagged 1-2 in defeat to Galway.
An All-Ireland minor winner in 2011 at the age of 16, he has continued to progress and made a superb impact in his debut senior football season. A player coveted by the Tipperary hurlers as well, O’Riordan’s services will be in demand.
8. Sean Cavanagh (Tyrone)
He won his first Allstar award back in 2003 and a decade on Sean Cavanagh was collecting his fifth such accolade last winter. Sean Cavanagh entered 2014 with injury problems behind him but his season has been frustratingly cut short after Tyrone’s July exit.
Still there were additions to the Cavanagh highlights reel this summer, particularly the cojones he displayed to nail that last-gasp free that rescued a draw against Down. The 31 year-old is watching on for the rest of the summer and tomorrow will be working in a punditry role for Newstalk in Croke Park.
9. John Galvin (Limerick)
Another long-serving midfielder, Galvin came back to devote more time to the Limerick football cause in 2014. Their summer featured reversals against Tipperary in Munster and against Sligo in the qualifiers yet in between there was a throwback to Galvin’s form of old as he inpsired them to victory over Antrim. It remains to be seen whether he will return in 2015.