There may have been no victors on the pitch last Sunday at 3.30 pm in Fitzgerald Stadium, but off it patrons and officials were celebrating.
The stadiums namesake, Fionn, slotted over a last ditch point to send the 126th Munster Final to a replay. While both sets of player would have preferred the win, the viewing public, GAA officials and Killarney locals owe a lot to Dr.Crokes man for splitting the posts. Another spectacle is expected in less than two weeks while financial gains will be expected by officials in Croke Park along with the locals in the Kerry town.
The frenetic battle between the age old rivals has captured the imagination of the public and the last-gasp score served to underline the potential the All-Ireland championships have to create incredible battles with tight and tense finishes.
Great comebacks such as these live long in the memory. The very essence and passion of the summer is expressed through teams battling to the bitter end.
Last gasp scores create defining images and one of the most momentous memories of GAA history is Seamus Darby’s last minute goal to win the 1982 All-Ireland title for Offaly and deny Kerry the five-in-a-row.
This maybe a memory the older generations cherish but last minute winners and equalisers have been a trait of recent hurling and football championships. Just last year Kerry’s Kieran O’Leary broke Mayo hearts when he ensured their Semi-Final ended all-square, leading to an incredible replay in Limerick.
Kerry rolled the dice last Sunday and came up lucky but in the 2011 All-Ireland final they were out of fortune as Stephen Cluxton slotted over an injury time free to ensure his side came from 4 points down with 7 minutes to go win a first Sam Maguire in 16 years. Kerry appear to be perennially involved in cliff hangers. If we go back 14 years to the 2001 All-Ireland Quarter-Finals they were pitted against their great rivals from the capital once again.
As the game edged into stoppage time the reigning All-Ireland champions trailed by a point to Tommy Carr’s men. After winning a sideline on the right hand side on the 45 metre line, Maurice Fitzgerald stood up. With the breeze behind him, he elegantly swung his right leg, striking the ball on the outside of his boot to send the enthralling encounter to a replay.
Westmeath produced an incredible comeback this year to defeat their rivals across the border in Meath for the first time ever in the Championship but that elusive victory should have arrived back in 2001. Back then The Royals were a dominant force that Westmeath couldn’t beat in 3 championship games in one season.
The most painful game for the Lake County men came in that year’s Quarter-Final as they led by a goal in injury time only for Meath’s Ollie Murphy to smash a bullet into the top corner to force a replay in which Westmeath again failed to get over their neighbours.
Another memorable last minute score was a Peter Canavan free which sent Tyrone into the 2005 All-Ireland-Final. With the clock ticking down in injury time, Canavan grabbed the ball from teammate Eoin Mulligan to sail over a pressurised kick from the Hogan Stand side of the pitch to send Tyrone on their way to a second Sam Maguire in 3 years after a mammoth run of 10 Championship games.
Desperate last attempts to salvage a victory or a draw are not only exclusive to football. In hurling the last three All-Ireland finals have been phenomenal confrontations.
Hurling’s renaissance over the past few seasons has gone hand-in-hand with some magnificently nail-biting fixtures that have involved last minute drama.
Last year’s All-Ireland final didn’t witness a last gasp equaliser or winner but it was one of the most sensational finishes ever witnessed on hurling’s biggest day. John O’ Dwyer had the chance to win Liam McCarthy for Tipperary with a free from his own 65 metre line.
The sliotar appeared to sail just inside the right hand-post but with the result inconclusive technology was called upon. It was Hawk-eye’s decision. The crowd waited in anticipation for the call on the big screen. Miss.
It was a bitter disappointment for the Premier men who lost to Kilkenny in the replay after they thought they had clinched it with O’ Dwyer’s free.
In the 2013 showpiece Cork and Clare served up 2 magnificent ties. The drawn game can be considered one of the games of the decade as Cork appeared to have snatched an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat as Patrick Horgan’s shot just about made it over the Hill 16 end crossbar.
But The Banner found the resolve to snatch a draw deep into injury time as corner-back Domhnall O’Donovan raided down the Cusack Stand perimeter of Croke Park to somehow score off his left hand side. Davy Fitzgerald’s men went on to win a memorable replay by 5-16 to 3-16. The 2012 decider also took a similar path to the 2 finals that followed it in which Galway were attempting to win their first title since 1988 against Kilkenny.
Brian Cody’s Cats appeared to have won the title though after Joe Canning missed a 69th minute free to level the game. But the Portumna sharpshooter got a reprieve as he slotted over a free with the last puck of the game to send the final to a replay for the first time since 1959.
Cork and Kerry have set the standard for the rest of the country to play-out tense and thrilling battles for the remainder of the summer. If recent history is anything to go by, we can expect nothing else.