Allianz are entering their 26th year as title sponsor of the National Hurling and Football Leagues. With the condensed format in 2018, it promises to be a more competitive campaign than ever before.
Here, we take a look at some of the greatest games we’ve witnessed in the Leagues down through the years.
Kerry 0-20 Dublin 1-16 (2017)
The most recent Allianz National Football League game was arguably one of the very best. In front of over 53,000 fans in Croker, the two old rivals played out a classic. As the Dubs vied for a fifth consecutive title, not many were giving the Kingdom a chance of scoring an upset.
David Moran put on a masterclass, and when Dean Rock’s late free failed to raise a white flag, it was Kerry celebrating at full-time.
Tyrone 2-15 Kildare 2-11 (2013)
The latter stages of the 2013 Allianz National Football League produced some classics, and feature prominently in this list. Tyrone’s pulsating win over Kildare in the semi-final was right up there.
Mickey Harte’s side trailed by one at the break, but it was the Stephen O’Neill show after that, as the veteran forward scored four points from play, including two crackers from either wing.
The Red Hand qualified for the final where they faced Dublin, who had seen off Mayo as part of a double-header that day.
Dublin 0-18 Tyrone 0-17 (2013)
Tyrone and Dublin returned to HQ two weeks later to lock horns in what transpired to be a classic. It wasn’t just the tight nature of the scoreline which made this a classic – it was the absorbing, attritional manner which which it played out.
It was a young upstart by the name of Dean Rock who came off the bench for the Boys in Blue to raise two white flags and help the men from the capital claim their first League title in 20 years.
Cork 4-08 Kerry 1-09 (2003)
The Rebels endured a torrid 2003 season, which signalled the end of Larry Tompkins’ reign, as they lost to Limerick for the first time since 1965 by a whopping ten points.
However, earlier in the year there were hugely promising signs as they beat Kerry in the first game under lights at the start of the League. In a tie which ebbed and flowed, Cork raised enough green flags to see off their great rivals on a scoreline of 4-08 to 1-09.
Monaghan 1-15 Dublin 2-15 (2017)
Another recent clash finishes off our pick for the big ball. Reigning League and All-Ireland champions Dublin headed for Clones last year as the home side aimed to qualify for their first final since 1986.
Malachy O’Rourke’s side threw the kitchen sink at the Dubs, but Jim Gavin had firepower in the form of three former Footballers of the Year to send off the bench as they won out 2-15 to 1-15.
Kilkenny 5-14 Tipperary 5-13 (2003)
One of the greatest hurling games ever witnessed. Period.
The All-Ireland champions of the two previous years had played out a classic in the summer of 2002. When they met again in May 2003, there were fireworks.
Henry Shefflin, DJ Carey, Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett – four of the greatest players to ever pick up a hurl – were on top scoring form.
The game gathered pace throughout, and crescendoed in the final 15 minutes with 6-06 being scored in that time. Crucially, 4-04 of that tally came from the Cats, who pipped their great rivals to the post.
Clare 2-13 Limerick 4-12 (2011)
Following a player strike in 2010, the Treaty found themselves in Division 2 for 2011. There was a real derby atmosphere at a packed Cusack Park in Ennis for the final, as Clare and Limerick battled it out in an enthralling contest. Kevin Downes headed the scoring for the visitors as they outgunned their hosts.
Of course, the League’s format was changed for 2012, so Limerick found themselves back in the second tier the following year. They haven’t been promoted since.
Cork 2-22 Kilkenny 2-23 (2016)
With the Rebels in free-fall, they were trying to pick themselves up from a drubbing at the hands of Dublin. However, with Kilkenny coming to town on a Saturday night, they were never going to lie down. The evening took on an even greater significance with the traditional blue and gold jerseys being donned by Cork, to mark the 1916 centenary celebrations.
Cork made all the running, but the All-Ireland champions timed their sprint, and won by a nose down the home straight.
Tipperary 4-17 Kilkenny 2-26 (AET) (2009)
This League final was arguably the game which kick-started the famous Kilkenny/Tipp rivalry of recent years. After the Cats powered to the All-Ireland in 2008, it seemed that their dominance wasn’t likely to end any time soon, with no obvious pretenders to the crown.
Earlier in the campaign, Tipp had lost by 17 points in Nowlan Park. However, when May rolled around, Liam Sheedy had created their blueprint for stopping the unstoppable, although it would take another 16 months to successfully execute.
Under unseasonable heat at Semple Stadium, the two behemoths of the small ball went toe-to-toe in an epic, with Brian Cody’s side having the last laugh after extra-time.
Tipperary 3-18 Galway 3-16 (2008)
2008 was a make-or-break year for Ger Loughnane at Galway, as the Clare native was the latest to attempt to unlock the undoubted potential of the Tribesmen. The season got off to a flyer, as they topped their League group and strode past Cork in the semi-final.
They met Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds, who were building under new manager Liam Sheedy. In a truly gripping encounter, it took a Lar Corbett screamer to tip the balance in the Premier’s favour, as they won out by two points.
This article was supported by Allianz, supporting all 32 counties through the Allianz Leagues.
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