Is Brian Fenton Better Than Jack O’Shea?


He may not be yet but Brian Fenton is fast tracking himself as one of the greatest midfielders in the game

Brian Fenton

From 1976 through to the early 90’s Jack O’Shea tore shreds through opposing teams for Kerry. His sheer presence was enough to strike fear into a marker. He had power, skill and talent beyond his years even at the beginning of his sixteen year run.

In his time O’Shea picked up three National Football League titles, ten Munster Championship and seven All Ireland medals. The green and gold legend was named Footballer Of The Year as many as four times.

Mikey Sheehy, another Kerry great is adamant that Jack O’Shea was the greatest in the game. Not surprising as Sheehy spent years being fed ball from midfield by the Cahersiveen native. But Sheehy himself is beginning to wonder if O’Shea crown in midfield can be surpassed. And even as soon as this weekend.

Dublin‘s Brian Fenton has become a household name quicker than most young footballers. In five season’s the Raheny club man has risen to unbelievable heights. And there’s no sign of that slowing down.

Way above any other midfielder in the country

“Until Brian finishes his career – I’m sure that’s a long way down the road – you will never be able to say who was the better of the two. But your man is way above any other midfielder in the country at the moment.” Sheehy told the Independent.

“Obviously there will be comparisons with himself and Jack O’Shea. I’ve always said Jack O’Shea was the best footballer I ever saw, but Brian Fenton is certainly up there.”

“He is the stand-out midfielder and has been for the last number of years. Sure, he has never lost a championship game with Dublin, which is some record.”

There are comparisons a plenty, and then some

That’s where we can look at the similarities. Let’s walk through Fenton’s career to date, over five season. And for pig iron sake, take Jack O’Shea as a 25 year old back in 1982.

Fenton is the current reigning PwC GAA/GPA Footballer Of The Year. Add to that the three All Stars he’s taken in the five year period. Jack O’Shea had won his second consecutive Texaco alternate in ’81, and had bagged two. it’s worth mentioning that O’Shea continued through to ’85 winning six All Star equivalents on the bounce. If anything it displays the consistency of both players.

From comparisons, we look at differences.

Brian is the taller of the two at 6′ 4″, if you take that from his player profile in last year’s All Ireland Final programme. In the 1986 All Ireland programme Jack O’Shea was standing at 6′ 1.5″

For his scoring prowess, Jack O’Shea ended his career scoring 11 goals and 55 points across 53 Championship games. In League competitions he registered 16 goals and 102 points. But up to the 1982 Final, O’Shea wasn’t as prolific. His tally stood at 1-12 from 21 championship games.

Now you look at Fenton. In his first three seasons, Brian bagged 11 points from 20 games. So not too disimilar to O’Shea. However, in the last two seasons, his game has definitely transitioned and he’s developed an eye for the target. In last year’s championship he finished up with 1-13. And this year he’s already tagged on another 3-08. That leaves his total at 4-32 in 33 games.

In Conclusion, of sorts

What the above shows is Fenton’s ability to go beyond to usual traits of a midfielder and push frighteningly into scoring position with ease. He may still have a way to go to match O’Shea’s seven All Ireland’s and four Footballer Of The Year awards. But he’s only 26.

We’ll give the last word to the great Jack O’Shea himself…

“He’s got everything really – he’s very mobile, very agile, he has great balance, he has two good feet,” he admits.

“He has grown into being the leader and an established player, and he’s not afraid to take things on. He doesn’t take any wild shots; he’s always very controlled in what he does.”

“He’s a fabulous athlete, he’s very hard to contain throughout a whole match”.

“Then again, he’s playing with a team that are winning all the time and that makes it easier as well. He’s poetry in motion, I suppose.”