As 2017 draws to a close and the curtain comes down on another incredible twelve months of sporting action Jordan Norris outlines his top ten sporting moments of the calendar year.
10. Waterford End 58-Year Curse & Dump Kilkenny Out Of The All-Ireland
July 8 was a famous day for Waterford hurling. Having not defeated Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship since their last triumph in 1959, the Déise ran out 4-23 to 2-22 victors after extra-time, with incredible performances coming from Jamie Barron, Tadhg De Burca and Noel Connors.
While it was a significant victory for Waterford, the defeat also marked the first time Kilkenny exited in the qualifiers in the Brian Cody era.
While the Déise eventually fell short in their quest for All-Ireland glory, this game will live long in the memory of many GAA supporters. It was a true standout moment from the sporting year.
9. Anthony Joshua KOs Wladamir Klitschko At Wembley
It was a memorable night for British boxing as ‘AJ’ proved his credentials to the world with 90,000 people watching at Wembley. This fight was an incredible battle, with both men being knocked down before Joshua eventually floored the Russian with a ferocious uppercut in the 11th round, before winning via TKO.
Victory allowed the Watford warrior to extend his perfect record to 18 wins and 18 knockouts, cementing his place as one of the true greats of heavyweight boxing.
8. Chelsea Win The Premier League
Chelsea won their fifth Premier League crown in Antonio Conte’s first season as manager. The Blues went on an impressive 13-game winning run during the season before Michy Batshuayi’s late winner at the Hawthorns secured title victory away to West Brom.
The celebrations will be mostly remembered for the tributes to John Terry, as the talismanic captain departed his boyhood club on a high.
Although the defence of the title hasn’t quite gone to plan, this Chelsea side were a joy to watch in the early stages of 2017 as they clinically saw off competition from Spurs to become deserved champions.
7. Sergio Garcia Wins His First Major Title At The Masters
Sergio Garcia is a golfer who has been around the block for as long as we can remember. Having come so close to winning a major before falling short to Padraig Harrington at the 2007 British Open, Garcia finally picked up his maiden title at the Augusta Masters in April.
The Spaniard defeated Justin Rose on the first play-off hole on what would have been the legendary Seve Ballestero’s 60th birthday. Few can say Garcia did not deserve a major title, with his victory coming at the 74th attempt.
6. James McClean Sends Ireland To The World Cup Play-Offs
A famous night in Cardiff. Having slipped up with defeat to Serbia in Dublin and a picking up disappointing draw with Georgia, the Boys in Green’s World Cup hopes hung by a thread going into a daunting game away to Wales in Cardiff.
Victory would secure Ireland a place in the World-Cup play-offs and, fittingly, up stepped James McClean, who had been the star of the qualification campaign, to drill home Jeff Hendrick’s cross and send Ireland to the play-offs.
While Denmark eventually put Martin O’Neill’s men to the sword, this victory in Cardiff was the standout night for Irish football in 2017. A hard-fought victory that will live long in the memory of many supporters and players alike.
5. Roger Federer Wins Wimbledon For The Eigth Time
Those who had thought that the Swiss king of tennis was past it got a timely reminder of just how good Federer can be. He made it to the final without dropping a single set along the way, before defeating Marin Cilic in straight sets with a commanding performance.
It was his 19th major title and he became the oldest male player to win the tournament in the open era. Victory also meant Federer had won a record-breaking eighth title at Centre Court, cementing his place as the greatest tennis player of all time while doing so.
4. Incredible Comeback Sees New England Patriots Take Home Superbowl LI
This was undeniably the sporting comeback of 2017. The New England Patriots trailed the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter, before somehow managing to overturn the deficit to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Tom Brady gave an inspirational performance from quarterback in the dying embers of the game, with a late touchdown from James White in overtime giving the Patriots a historic 34-28 victory. Tom Brady then set the record for the most Superbowl MVP awards, with the 39-year-old having dragged victory out of nowhere for his team.
3. The Lions Draw The Series With the All Blacks
This exhilarating Test series was one of the highlights of the sporting summer. With the Lions having lost to the Blues and the Highlanders in warm-up games – as well as drawing with the Hurricanes – many questioned whether Warren Gatland’s side were capable of putting up any challenge to the mighty All Blacks.
The New Zealanders took the first Test 30-15, with Rieko Ioane’s two tries proving the difference.
The second Test was undoubtedly the most entertaining and controversial of the series, with Sonny Bill William’s being sent off early on. New Zealand led 18-9 before late tries from Taulupe Faletau and Ireland’s Conor Murray saw the sides locked at 21-21. Owen Farrell then showed nerves of steel to kick the Lions to a 24-21 victory.
The third Test ended 15-15, with Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett going over for the All Blacks in the first half before penalties from Farrell and Elliot Daly were enough to level the tie and the series.
The draw proved just how little there was to separate these incredible rugby teams.
2. Conor McGregor Competes In First Pro Boxing Fight Vs Floyd Mayweather
There had been talk of a potential clash between the two kings of combat sports for months on end, but on August 26 Conor McGregor entered the ring with arguably the greatest boxer of all time for his professional boxing debut.
McGregor showed incredible heart, winning the early rounds and displayed some serious boxing skills, which shocked many fans and experts alike. Although Mayweather grew into his own and eventually took victory in the tenth round, the fight was competitive and a true example of the courage and bravery of the Irishman.
Mayweather extended his unbeaten record to 50-0 in professional boxing, while McGregor walked away with the respect of the fight world and a couple of hundred million dollars in his back pocket. Not a bad debut.
1. Galway Become All-Ireland Senior Hurling Champions
It was a tale of two famines in Croke Park on September 3. Galway were looking to end 29 years of hurt and bring Liam MacCarthy back to the west, while Waterford were looking for their first title since 1959.
What followed was a passionate, heart-on-sleeve game of hurling. Galway ruthlessly broke into an early lead before a goal from Waterford’s Kevin Moran settled the Déise’s nerves. A freak goal from Kieran Bennett then levelled the scores at 0-10 to 2-4. Galway led by a point at half time, but Waterford were growing into the game and had not played their best hurling yet.
The Déise took the lead for the first time in the game in the 43rd minute, but the Tribesmen came back strong and a flurry of late scores from Joe Canning and Jason Flynn was enough to see the Tribesmen lift Liam MacCarthy for the first time in 29 years, winning on a scoreline of 0-26 to 2-17.
While many felt for Waterford, few could deny Galway were deserving of their victory having won the National League, the Leinster Championship and now the All-Ireland title.
This was a monumental achievement for Galway and, for me it goes down as the sporting moment of 2017.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena