Irish sport has had many great moments over the years and as it’s St. Patrick’s Day, we take a look back at some of the best of them.
Eamonn Coghlan wins gold at 1983 World Championships
We all remember that little look to the left. As Coughlan and the Soviet runner, Dmitry Dmitriyev, turned on to the final straight of the 5,000 metre event at the inaugural World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, the Drimnagh man looked his compatriot in the eye before storming ahead to win the race in fantastic fashion. Despite many admirable moments in the career of Sonia O’ Sullivan, it is this achievement on the world stage which warrants the inclusion of Senator Coghlan as the athletics representative in this montage. He remains to this day, the only Irish person to win a 5,000m event at the World Championships, which in itself marked the highlight of a great career for Coghlan. It is the style in which he won the race however, which truly adds to the greatness of the moment, as a nation could not help but smile as the Dubliner peaked at the very right time, leaving it until the very end to assert his brilliance.
Paul McGinley’s Putt wins the 2002 Ryder Cup
Although it was not a solely Irish victory, it was again a moment that made the whole nation proud, as our very own McGinley took the limelight at the Belfry back in 2002. Recently named as Europe’s captain for this year’s Ryder Cup thanks to his appearance in three Ryder Cups including vice-captaincies in the wins of 2010 and 2012, there is no denying that McGinley has had a great run in one of golf’s biggest tournaments.
It was this one putt however, that will surely go down in Paul’s memory as his proudest moment. After the shocking Twin Towers attack the previous year, the event was delayed until 2002, with the trauma still fresh in the minds of all concerned. The quality of golf on show quickly diverted the attention however, and fans were treated to some great ties with some nerve-wracking moments. It all came down to the last putt, and our very own Paul McGinley was left with the task of sinking a ten-footer. The silence as the ball made its way towards the hole was soon followed by sheer jubilation all round. With Sam Torrance in tears, and McGinley in the lake with an Irish flag wrapped around him, there wasn’t a face that day without a smile on it. The American team also famously warranted this tournament on both sides, due to the sheer positive atmosphere on the welcoming Irish course.
Ireland v Italy in USA ‘94
In another American-linked event, the Irish win over Italy in the 1994 World Cup in the Giants Stadium made every single one of us proud to be Irish. Coming in to the game, Jack Charlton’s side were undeniably the underdogs. Despite having arguably the best squad to ever wear the green jersey at his disposal, Jack Charlton’s men were inferior on paper at least, to a star-studded Italian side made up of Maldini, Costacurta, Donadoni and the Baggio brothers to name a few.
The absolutely fantastic crowd in the Giants stadium, which was awash with the green and gold of Ireland, did not have to wait long to erupt however, as Ray Houghton slotted the ball past Pagliuca in clinical fashion. Virtually every spectator in the stadium jumped with excitement, and the atmosphere for the remainder of the 90 minutes was simply electrifying. Thanks to a flawless performance by Paul McGrath in particular, the Irish held out for an historic 1 – 0 win, and undying memories of a thrilling game.
Ireland 43 – England 13
The heading of this event alone, would almost be enough to instil Irish pride without me having to write another word. We can all still picture the scoreboard of the Croke Park showing this iconic score over our oldest rivals, in every sense of the word. Although Irish rugby has seen some massive achievements, with Six Nations victories and the Grand Slam of 2009 giving fans some priceless memories, it is this win which will go down in the history books as one of the most iconic victories ever.
In what was noted to be a riotous collision of emotions and traditions, O’ Driscoll, O’ Gara and the rest of the Irish squad displayed a performance nothing short of superb, utterly dominating a defensively-lacking English team. The Irish scrum was flawless, overpowering the English pack almost every time. The highlight of the match came however, when O’ Gara kicked the ball elegantly into the hands of Shane Horgan who topped off a glorious run of play with a stunning try. Isaac Boss scored the final try to rub salt in the wounds of the English 15, and on the blow of the final whistle, an entire nation clenched their fists in jubilation and pride.
Katie Taylor wins Olympic Gold
While Katie’s win was not against any traditional rival, and did not involve great controversy, it remains a victory on the biggest stage imaginable, the Olympic games. Completing a lifelong dream, Ireland’s hard-hitting sweetheart secured Olympic gold by defeating Russia’s Sofya Ochigava 10-8 in the women’s lightweight final. The crowd in London’s ExCel arena were treated to a confident display by the young lady from Bray, and supported Katie with an atmosphere that must have taken the acoustics of the arena to its very limits.
Having previously been defeated by the Russian champion, Taylor had to dig deep to overcome an old foe. Although both fighters approached the ring with cool confidence, it was Katie who commanded the tempo of the fight, affirming her role as the aggressor from early on. The wait at the end of the fourth round was almost painful as we all waited for the judge’s decisions. Thankfully though, it was Taylor’s hand that was raised in victory, and again, the entire nation of Ireland knew that this was a moment to remember. There wasn’t a dry eye in my house either when she shared an embrace with her father, Pete, who never looked so proud in his entire life.
Pundit Arena, Eoin Lyons.
Featured Image By cormac70 from London (The support was incredible) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.