As we enter into 2015, Sean Cremin looks back at the top 10 football moments of the year.
Outside of the All-Ireland semi-finals there was not a whole lot to write home about in the football championship. But, here are Pundit Arena’s Top 10 Football Moments.
10. Tom Flynn goal
The Galway midfielder scored one of the goals of the championship with a great solo effort in their All-Ireland quarter-final with Kerry. Kerry had started the better of the two sides and Galway needed something to rebuild their challenge as the underdog.
Tom Flynn was their go-to guy as he gained possession around the middle of the field and took off on a solo-run. The Kerry defending may have been questionable as they allowed Flynn to take off on a long run through the middle of the Kerry defence but credit should also be given to the attacker.
Flynn travelled in excess of fifty metres with the ball before showing good composure in front of goal to finish off his run. It was one the highlight scores of the year.
9. Shane Walsh point
Another Galway score makes it into the selection. This time it was one of the points of the championship. Galway faced Tipperary in the qualifiers at Pierce Stadium in an eagerly anticipated clash.
Tipperary were leading by a point after 29 minutes of play and then Walsh provided probably the most skilful moment of the year.
Galway had a 45, which was hit very poorly. The ball dropped on the 20 metre line and Walsh instinctively soccer-like or Simon Zebo-like controlled the ball with his foot before gathering possession. He finished it off with a very composed finish with his left leg.
It was a real moment of class and was definitely one of the more memorable moments of the 2014 championship.
8. Mayo fan attacks the referee
This may have hit headlines for the wrong reasons but definitely is a moment that most people will remember. Kerry and Mayo faced-off in a replay of the All-Ireland semi-final in a game that went to extra-time. Tempers started to rise as the game edged towards its conclusion.
The game was in the last minute of extra-time with Kerry leading by three points. Mayo were on the attack as they looked desperately for an equalising goal. Mayo were awarded a late free and as Kerry tried to slow the play down, a shemozzle broke out. There was pushing and shoving between players but that was not the end of it.
Much to the shock of everybody, a Mayo supporter entered the field to confront the referee. It was a very serious and ironically a very funny moment. Serious in that a fan was able to get onto the field so close to players and officials. Funny in that a “big man” made an absolute fool of himself and had what appeared to be his daughter helping five stewards in trying to get him off the field.
7. Mayo’s fight-back
The two best games of the football championship were both games between Mayo and Kerry. The first game was a great game and the fight back that Mayo gave in the second-half was one of the real highlights for a number of reasons.
Mayo were down to 14 men after Lee Keegan’s red card just before half-time and trailed by four points. The men with the ‘bottlers’ tag faced an uphill task and came very close to defying all the odds. They showed tremendous passion and character and nearly pulled off a victory.
Colm Boyle was one of the real driving forces behind their revival as he attacked and took on the Kerry side. As was Aidan O’Shea who was all over the field. Cillian O’Connor also showed there is more to his game then free-taking. It was a great performance and great fight back. Mayo proved critics wrong and contributed a lot to one of the year’s best games.
6. Kieran Donaghy catch
This was a moment that had a huge bearing on the football season. Kerry were in trouble following the great Mayo fight back that we mentioned in the previous moment. There were four points between the sides, Mayo leading 1-16 to 0-15, and then Donaghy put himself back in the spotlight.
He had featured very little for Kerry so far in the championship. With time running out they needed something special. They went back to what they knew and put Donaghy at the edge of the square. The ball was with David Moran who played a long ball into Donaghy, and the rest is history.
Like an episode of Reeling in the Years, Donaght rose above Ger Cafferkey and caught the ball before laying it off to James O’Donoghue who supplied the finish. Kerry got another point to level the game. Donaghy’s moment was instrumental in winning Kerry the All-Ireland and had a huge impact on the season.
5. Donegal upset the Dubs
Dublin were overwhelming favourites for the All-Ireland title. This meant they were also massive favourites to account for Donegal in the semi-final. Dublin had beaten every team in Ireland with ease all year. Nobody really came close to Dublin in any game and this was seen by a lot of people as another win for the Dubs.
But Jim McGuinness and Donegal had certainly not read the same script. They were 6/1 outsiders with the bookmakers. Not everybody wrote them off, but not many people anticpated what was going to unfold.
The first 20 minutes were dominated by Dublin who beat the Donegal blanket with some exceptional long-range shooting. They had goal chances and failed to take them. Then Donegal came into the game. A goal before half-time put them back in contention before a tactical masterclass from Donegal saw them shock everybody.
They invited Dublin onto them in the second-half and played a counter-attacking game. They caught them on the break on numerous occasions, forcing the Dubs to hit the panic button. They saw-out the game and provided the shock of the year. It was a big moment.
4. Semi-final moves to Limerick
It was a controversial decision and one that the GAA received a lot of deserved criticism for. The GAA’s greed and quest for money saw them allow a college American football game to be held in Croke Park a day before an All-Ireland football semi-final and a week before an All-Ireland hurling final.
Their actions were still unacceptable as they moved the replay between Kerry and Mayo to Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds. Despite the fact that it never should have happened in the first place, it was still a great occasion and definitely one of the moments of the year.
The change of having such a big game take place at an alternative venue added to the day. It’s not often that big football games are played in Limerick, not to mind an All-Ireland semi-final. The quality of the game was also top class making it one of 2014’s best moments.
3. James O’Donoghue vs Keith Higgins
The 2014 Footballer of the Year provided numerous moments of class this year. He scored ten points in the Munster final, including eight efforts from play. he backed this up with 1-5 from play against Galway. But his battles with Keith Higgins in both games with Mayo provided some outstanding moments.
It was a simple case of two players playing right at the top of their games with both players dominating the battle at different stages. Higgins looked like he was doing a great job on the Kerry danger man. He was given a man-marking task and beat O’Donoghue to many balls and curved his influence as well as he could.
But then we have look at O’Donoghue’s scoring tally in the two games. O’Donoghue finished the first game with 1-3 from play. Then in the replay, he scored 2-6 with four points coming from play and two penalties which he won himself. Again, this was two fine footballers playing to the best of their ability and they provided excellent viewing for fans.
2. Diarmuid Connelly masterclass
We are going to vacate the intercounty scene for this one. We go back to the All-Ireland club football final. Dublin’s St. Vincent’s took on Castlebar Mitchells of Mayo. It was an entertaining game but one thing stood out more than anything else, the performance of Diarmuid Connelly.
The sides were level at half-time. Things were finely poised going into the second-half. While people expected St. Vincent’s to win, the game was firmly in the balance.
Then in the second-half Connelly took over and gave an absolute masterclass of how to perform on the big stage in Croke Park. He scored 2-5 from play and led Vinnies to the All-Ireland title. He carried this form into the championship and now has a status as one of the county’s best footballers.
1. Well Joe Brolly, What Do You Think of That?
The best moment of the year took place after the conclusion of the All-Ireland final. Kerry had just defeated Donegal to prove their critics wrong. Many felt that they were in transition, that this was a poor Kerry side and that they would fail to cope with the loss of Colm Cooper.
Look at how wrong everybody was. Kerry won the All-Ireland title and joyous celebrations commenced. We previously spoke about Kieran Donaghy. His catch in the semi-final helped to earn Kerry a draw. He then caused huge damage in the semi-final replay and scored the crucial goal in the All-Ireland final. He resurrected his career as was interviewed pitch-side after the game.
He was asked about Kerry and their so called transition. He spoke about the outspoken pundit Joe Brolly, who had written Kerry off, and finished with a good parting shot at the Derry man. It was emphatic, witty, entertaining and justified and for us, it was the best moment of the year.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena