Does anything beat the first Sunday in September? Here, we take a look at the five best All-Ireland hurling finals of the modern era, well it’s seven if you include replays.
No final from before 2009 makes this list and it’s hard to make a case for any to be included. The 2001 final between Galway and Tipperary is the closest final to challenge for a spot on this Top Five list.
Since 2009, we have been blessed with drama-filled, action-packed encounters. We have seen three All-Ireland final replays in succession along with some fantastic battles between Tipperary and Kilkenny, none more so than the 2014 battles, which top our list here.
5. Kilkenny 2-22 v Tipperary 0-23, 2009
Heartbreak for Tipperary. The Premier county looked to be on their way to a first All-Ireland victory since 2001. However, Martin Comerford was sprung from the bench to inspire Kilkenny to victory. Cody’s men had PJ Ryan to thank for pulling off some wonderful saves, including a spectacular stop from a Seamus Callanan shot that denied a certain goal. A thrilling contest it was.
4. Galway 2-13 v Kilkenny 0-19, 2012
Joe Canning’s brilliant first-half goal wasn’t enough for the Tribesmen as a Henry Shefflin inspired Kilkenny side pegged back a five point half-time defecit to tie the game with 69 minutes on the clock. Kilkenny were then awarded a penalty which Shefflin decided to knock over to leave the Cats a point ahead. There was still time for Joe Canning to slot over a 73rd-minute equaliser to force a replay. Unfortunately, the Cats superior dominance shone through in the replay and they comfortably ran out 3-22 to 3-11 winners.
3. Tipperary 4-17 v Kilkenny 1-18, 2010
The 5th of September 2010 was the day Kilkenny’s drive for five was dramatically stopped by an inspired young Tipperary side under the management of Liam Sheedy. The Premier county’s determination was evident from the word go as they looked to avenge the previous year’s heartbreaking defeat. Lar Corbett’s hat-trick was the story of the day as Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the Liam McCarthy Cup. 4-17 to 1-18 was the final scoreline.
2. Clare 5-16 v Cork 3-16, 2013
Number two on the list is split in to two as the replay of Clare’s battle with Cork was equally as good as the drawn encounter. Despite being a surprise final pairing, Clare and Cork produced two incredible contests. Cork looked on the verge of stealing an All-Ireland title before corner-back Domhnall O’Donovan stepped up to bring the game to a replay with the last strike of the game. 3-16 to 0-25 is how it finished.
The second game was the first All-Ireland final to be played under floodlights as the Rebels and the Banner served up another thriller. Hat-trick hero Shane O’Donnell and the inspirational Tony Kelly lead the Banner to a dramatic 5-16 to 3-16 victory in what as an incredible contest.
1. Tipperary 1-28 v Kilkenny 3-22, 2014
The drawn game was arguably the best game of the modern era. It will be remembered for Hawk Eye’s call to deny John O’Dwyer and Tipperary a thrilling final win. However, throughout the seventy minutes, the intensity, pace, skill and dedication from both sets of players was the best to be seen in a long time. Seamus Callanan’s two penalty misses were vital as Kilkenny survived to live another day. It truly was a remarkable contest and deserves its place at the top of this list.
The replay wouldn’t necessarily be like the 2013 All-Ireland final in terms of being as good a game but it would definitely make this list somewhere. We have decided to place it alongside the drawn game, although the drawn game was by far the more exciting contest.
Some cracking ties feature above. We hope that this year’s final can be as good as any mentioned.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena