It was a summer filled with shocks, drama and unrivalled skill and as the year draws to a close, we look back at some of the highlights of the GAA season 2018.
With new systems in place in both hurling and Gaelic Football, we were treated to one of the best GAA seasons in recent times as Limerick and Dublin took home the coveted titles of All Ireland champions. After much debate and discussion, we have selected our top five GAA games of the summer.
1. Clare v Galway (All Ireland semi-final)
Clare 1-30 Galway 1-30
After 100 minutes and 62 scores, there was no separating Clare and Galway in the first of the All Ireland hurling semi-finals at Croke Park.
It was substitute, Jason McCarthy, who grabbed the crucial equaliser for the Banner to send the game to a replay the following week, just as Johnny Coen looked to have scored the winner for the 2017 champions.
Galway flew into a nine point in the first half, helped along by a Conor Cooney goal as they looked destined to blow their neighbours out of the water but they were also their own biggest enemies, amassing 12 wides before half-time, by which stage Clare had brought it back to a four-point game.
Clare soon obliterated Galway’s lead through the efforts of John Conlon and Peter Duggan, the former drawing the sides level in the 53rd minute. However, the Tribesmen showed their steel and pulled three ahead in the closing minutes.
Tony Kelly, Conlon and Duggan sent the game to extra-time, during which Galway widened the gap once again. However, Clare were far from beaten and introduced Aron Shanagher on his return from a lengthy injury and he grabbed a crucial goal for the Banner. The two side traded scores and just when it seemed like Coen had booked his side a place in the All Ireland final, McCarthy popped up.
It was a game for the ages, as was the replay when Clare fell agonisingly short by one point.
it has ended all square between Clare and Galway after extra-time.Check out the full-time highlights here on GAANOW !!! pic.twitter.com/q5itDngrK6
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 28, 2018
2. Limerick v Cork (All Ireland semi-final)
Limerick 3-32 Cork 2-31
Hurling fans thought they would never see two epic semi-finals in a row but they were wrong as Limerick and Cork served up another absolute cracker just a day after the battle between Clare and Galway.
Much to the relief of the GAA calendar, this encounter was decided after extra-time, thanks to the efforts of the Limerick bench.
It is a game that will surely haunt Cork for much of the winter given the fact that they were six points up with six minutes remaining in normal time. However, all credit must go to Limerick who scored seven points without reply and were leading by one, only for a Patrick Horgan free to send the game to extra-time.
A Cian Lynch goal just before half-time ensured Limerick were well in the game but Cork surged ahead in the second period thanks to the efforts of Seamus Harnedy, Horgan and Darragh Fitzgibbon before Conor Lehane struck the back of the net.
Even when Limerick fought back, Cork had the chance to win the game only for a sublime interception from Nickie Quaid which was one of the GAA moments of the year.
Goals from Shane Dowling and Pat Ryan sealed the win in the extra period for the Tribesmen as they marched on to the All Ireland final and their first title in 45 years.
Limerick are heading to the All-Ireland Hurling Final after an unbelievable win over Cork after extra-time in Croke Park! Check out the full-time highlights here on GAANOW! pic.twitter.com/Hpssrtzo1h
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 29, 2018
3. Monaghan v Kerry (Super 8s)
Monaghan 1-17 Kerry 1-17
The newly-installed Super 8s competition didn’t exactly set the championship alight the way many would have hoped with the first few games proving underwhelming. However, the dramatic encounter between Kerry and Monaghan in St Tiernach’s Park changed all that.
It took a snatched goal from youngster, David Clifford, to rescue the game for Kerry and ensure they lived to see another week of competitive action.
Conor McManus finished that game with 1-9 to his name, having scored his goal just two minutes into the game. From that point onwards, Kerry were playing catch-up though Monaghan were never able to shake off their opponents, though they led by four at half-time.
Kerry rallied early in the second half and scored three points without response, having emerged a livelier team thanks to the introduction of Micheál Burns. Monaghan soon snapped back into action and rushed into a five point lead thanks to McManus, Rory Beggan and Karl O’Connell.
Anthony Maher helped to reduce the gap but it was Young Footballer of the Year, David Clifford, who saved the day for the Kingdom, scoring 1-1 in the closing stages, including the goal which proved to be another GAA highlight of the year.
Monaghan v Kerry Full-time highlights pic.twitter.com/LEUPXktJcs
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 22, 2018
5. Cork v Limerick (Munster round-robin)
Cork 1-25 Limerick 0-28
The All Ireland semi-final wasn’t the only thriller played out between the two proud counties of Munster as Limerick and Cork treated hurling fans to an epic battle back in June during the round-robin series.
Once again, it was a game that Cork let slip through their fingers as Kyle Hayes notched over a last minute point to rescue a draw for 14-man Limerick.
It never looked to be Limerick’s day after free-taker, Aaron Gillane, was red-carded for an incident with Sean O’Donoghue. Twenty minutes later, Patrick Horgan drilled a ball past Nickie Quaid after being brilliantly supplied by Seamus Harnedy but Limerick showed great determination to turn the game around.
The superb Seamus Flanagan, together with Darragh O’Donovan, notched up four points in a row and following further scores from Tom Morrissey, who took over free-taking duties, and Cian Lynch, they found themselves three points ahead.
Cork were undeterred however, and four points from Conor Lehane, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Horgan saw them recover the lead. The sides traded frees before 19-year-old Hayes stepped up with the point to level the game.
The Rebels had one more opportunity to snatch the victory but Harnedy saw his effort on goal brilliantly blocked down by Sean Finn to ensure the fairest result.
Cork v Limerick Full-Time highlights pic.twitter.com/6xRQQi5Z5F
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 2, 2018
5. Kildare v Mayo (qualifiers)
Kildare 0-21 Mayo 0-19
In one of the biggest stories of the summer, Kildare took on the big boys of the GAA for the right to play their qualifying match against Mayo in St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge after being drawn first out of the bowl.
After much attention and to-ing and fro-ing, they sensationally won their case but after causing so much drama off the pitch, they had to ensure they proved their worth on it. And they delivered, sending one of the leading counties in Gaelic Football to an early championship exit.
The sides could not be separated for the majority of the game, they were level at half-time and again in the 50th minute at 0-14 apiece, largely thanks to the respective free-taking abilities of Cillian O’Connor and Neil Flynn.
Jason Doherty put Mayo into the lead minutes later, but it proved to be the last time that would happen.
The referee played seven minutes of additional time, during which Mayo looked for a way back into the game, Aidan O’Shea receiving a second yellow in the process. The inspirational Durcan reduced the gap to just one but Kildare were not going to be beaten.
Flynn and Eamonn Callaghan added late scores to ensure Kildare progressed to the Super 8s while Mayo faced their earliest championship exit since 2010.
Mayo beat Kildare in the Allianz Football League. Watch the Full-Time Highlights here on GAANOW! pic.twitter.com/R2gU8AoI9H
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 11, 2018