More time for reflection on 2014. To follow on from our ‘Top 10 Gaelic football moments of 2014’, here we look at what we classify as the Top 10 hurling moments of the year. It was a good year of hurling with plenty of highlights. These were our favourites.
10. Clare win their third consecutive under-21 title
It was a feat achieved by Limerick a few years ago and the Clare under-21 side completed an incredible journey by securing their third consecutive All-Ireland at this grade. They have had an excellent side for the last three years and were fully deserving winners in each year.
Their Munster success was a real milestone as it was this group’s fifth Munster title in a row, including minor titles. They put in an exceptional hour of hurling against Cork and also won a classic encounter with Tipperary after extra time.
Their All-Ireland series saw victories over Antrim and Wexford as they finished their journey as underage hurlers. Tony Kelly, Colm Galvin and more were members of all three winning teams. Kelly’s performance in the final was a real highlight. Some of these players already have a senior medal in their pockets and now the goal is to add more. This achievement was a great moment.
9. Wexford beat Waterford
Wexford were definitely one of the stories of the 2014 championship and contributed a lot of many great moments. Both of their games with Clare threw up plenty of points worthy of mention but the one occasion that stood out more than any other was their victory over Waterford.
Like the 2013 championship, Nolan Park was the venue for one of the year’s greatest occasions. A packed crowd arrived long before throw in as the atmosphere grew and all the qualities of championship hurling were in sight for everyone to see.
Both teams gave it their all and provided a great spectacle. The game ebbed and flowed and Wexford just did enough to come out on the right side of the scoreline. The final whistle was a great moment. The roar of the Purple and Gold was back and the players deservedly celebrated as Wexford showed that great strides are being made.
8. Joe Canning vs Henry Shefflin – anything you can do, I can do better
It was a fine hurling game in Tullamore where Kilkenny had looked to have seen off a stern test from Galway. It was nip and tuck for long periods but Kilkenny began to pull away and led 3-20 to 2-13 with six minutes of normal time remaining. Then the real drama began to unfold.
Galway scored three late goals to level the game. A Joe Canning penalty levelled proceedings one minute into injury time. Was there time for more drama? Yes there was. Cue Henry Shefflin. From the puck out, the ball finally fell to one of the greatest hurlers of all time on the left hand touchline. From a tight angle, Shefflin showed his clas to put Kilkenny in front.
Time for more? Hardly? Wait. Galway are given one last attack. The ball falls to Joe Canning. In an almost identical position to Shefflin only moments previously, Canning strikes the ball off his left over the bar from an acute angle and the teams must meet again. It was the first great moment of the championship, and one of the best as Joe Canning threatened to dethrone King Henry.
7. Austin Gleeson’s goal
It was voted as the goal of the year on gaa.ie and was one of the year’s real highlights. It was one of the opening games of the year and Austin Gleeson of Waterford announced himself to the world of senior hurling. He scored an excellent sideline cut in the first half and then went one better in the second half.
Aidan Walsh mishit a sideline cut and the ball fell to Gleeson on the 65 metre line. He went off on a solo-run and showed great pace and balance to leave a number of Cork defenders chasing back. He was pushed away from goal and then unleashed a cracking shot straight from his hurley past Anthony Nash.
It was a great goal. It was great to see a young player go out and express himself on the big stage. There was no fear as Gleeson took on a number of defenders. The skill level required for the finish should not go unnoticed either. It was definitely one of the moments of the year.
6. Cork say their last goodbye to Páirc Uí Chaoímh
There may be a bit of Cork bias in this one, but it was great occasion and a fitting end to one of Ireland’s most iconic GAA stadiums. Not everybody is a huge fan of the ‘Park’ but the quality of the playing surface and the atmosphere the stadium generates is hard to be replicated anywhere else.
The Munster final took place there this year, despite calls for it to be moved to Thurles. But the game went ahead – in Cork as planned – as a great day unfolded. The weather was great and it was a great Munster final day. The game was tight and this added to the occasion.
Cork won the game in the end, much to the delight of the players and the home crowd. It was their first Munster title since 2005 and it was the best way possible for Cork to say goodbye to the stadium in its current capacity. Fans took the field to get one last photo after the game and it was one of the best days in the hurling year for 2014.
5. The monsoon in Croke Park
Never has the course of a game changed as much as it did in the All-Ireland semi-final between Kilkenny and Limerick. As the game entered the final quarter, the tie was finely poised. Limerick were competing very well as the underdog with the game entering the winning phase, then nature took over.
To say the heavens opened would fail to do justice to the amount of rain that fell that day. It was like a monsoon. The game totally changed as conditions became very difficult. Many people would say that the rain cost Limerick as they could not capitalise on the chances they created as conditions took their toll.
The main reason why this was such a memorable moment is down the quality that both teams maintained despite playing in almost impossible conditions. The way in which they dealt with the torrential rain was highly admirable. Both teams deserved huge credit.
4. Stephen O’Keefe charges down Anthony Nash
The start of the hurling year was covered in debate over penalties and 21-yard frees. The ‘Anthony Nash rule’ was a real bone of contention. By bending the rules, people felt Nash was gaining too much of an advantage by bring the ball so close to goal. There was also a safety concern for the players on the goal line.
The motion to alter the rule went to congress but failed to be altered. The championship began with the rule staying as normal. Nash continued to score with two goals in a challenge game with Limerick and in the league against Tipperary. When the championship came in we awaited Cork getting a penalty.
It happened in the replay with Waterford. Nash charged up the field. Everyone waited in anticipation. Nobody predicted what would happen. Waterford’s goalkeeper Stephen O’Keefe sprinted out and charged-down Nash’s penalty.
It caused a scuffle, confusion and a rule change. It was a funny moment and one that changed the championship as the GAA altered the rule and penalties became more advantageous to defenders, as many teams found out the hard way.
3. JJ Delaney hook
This was definitely one of the real highlights of the year as one of the greatest defenders, if not the greatest defender of all time showed why he is held in such high regard. It was textbook defending on the biggest occasion of the year that contributed to Kilkenny’s eventual victory.
It has been replayed so many times that there is no real need to go into detail. It is probably best just to allow the video to do the moments justice. As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.
But it was an exquisite art of defending. JJ Delaney did not dive in once as Seamus Callanan bared down on goal. Delaney timed the hook to perfection and it was a massive moment in the game for both sides.
The GAA introduced technology for the first time in Croke Park in 2013 and while there was a major moment of controversy in the All-Ireland minor semi-final between Galway and Limerick when a clear point was chalked-off. 2014 saw Hawkeye make the headlines for the right reasons.
In the end, it was Hawkeye that decided the outcome of the first All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer stood over a free, back on his own 45-metre line. He struck it sweetly as Tipp fans roared in anticipation of taking a late one point lead.
The umpire made his move. People waited for a white flag or a wave of the hands. Instead, he called for Hawkeye. Attention turned to the screen where Hawkeye revealed that the ball had gone millimetres wide. It was a great moment for everybody, except Tipperary fans.
1. The drawn All-Ireland final
People might think it’s cheating to call this a moment. It was a long one that lasted over seventy minutes but there is no question that the highlight moment of the 2014 hurling year was the drawn All-Ireland final.
It simply summed-up everything that is good about the game. The standard of everything was just of the highest order. The scores, the one-on-one battles and the game went right down to the last ball. Like JJ Delaney’s hook, the less words the better. Just sit back and watch the best hurling game ever.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena