Friday’s Four: Four Magic Moments (2011)
In the third of the ‘Magic Moments’ series, we look at the highlights from the world of GAA in 2011.
While Bryan Cullen was the man to lift the Sam Maguire on the steps of the Hogan Stand, it was Cluxton who propelled Dublin to victory. His free-taking throughout 2011 was exemplary, and indeed was the main reason why they finished the year as champions. Aside from contributions in the Leinster championship, Cluxton scored two points in both the quarter-final, and semi-final of the 2011 season. However, the kick that everyone will remember is the winning score in the decider. Seventy minutes gone, scores were level. Kerry concede a free-kick just inside their own 45’. Cluxton runs up and strokes the ball over the bar without fuss. Game over, and Dublin are champions. Cluxton made the kick look like a training ground routine, disguising the reality that he was taking the most important kick of his career. The vital part he played in Dublin’s matches, ensured a first All-Ireland win for the Capital since 1995.
We all hear it asked in any code; how much influence can one man exert on his team? There have been times when we have seen the sheer talent and skill of individual players pulling teams over the line. However, there exists a type of manager who has an exceptional knowledge of the game, an understanding of man-management, and a method by which to combine these two. But while many managers may have the aforementioned skills, one still needs charisma. And, Jim McGuinness had that in spades when he took over as Donegal senior manager in 2011. The Northerners had become the whipping boys in Ulster, and had not built on their 1992 All-Ireland success. Within one season, McGuinness had guided his charges to an Ulster title win and All-Ireland semi-final appearance with an unmatched work rate and tactical awareness.
The Treaty County’s path in 2011 had been laid out from a long way off; wait for Kerry to beat Tipperary in the Munster quarter-final, battle as well as possible against the Kingdom, and then navigate through the qualifiers. Yes, Kerry did leave the Gaelic Grounds in June with a win, but not before Limerick put 3-9 past them—a tally that was the highest the Kingdom conceded in any game during the 2011 championship. Limerick entered the qualifiers in the second round, and breezed past the challenge of Offaly. Next up were Waterford; Limerick prevailed by five points. With a place in the last eight on offer, Limerick took on Wexford in round four—and what a game it was. With minutes remaining, Wexford looked to have both feet in the quarter-final draw as they led by three points as the game ticked into injury time. The Treaty men had other ideas. A goal and a point in the added minutes turned the game on its head and propelled Limerick to their first ever quarter-final appearance. Unluckily for them, the draw pitted them against Kerry for the second time that year, and that spelled the end of their charge.
Ward V Louth
A repeat of the previous year’s Leinster final pairing failed to live up to billing, as Meath and Louth clashed in the first round of the qualifiers. But, one man in particular decided to entertain the crowd in Breffni Park that summer’s day, and that man was Cian Ward. Despite missing a few early chances, Ward benefitted from Meath’s dominance to score his hat-trick by the 53rd minute, and finish the game with a total of 4-3. The sheer brilliance of his performance, in scoring terms, went unmatched for the season. Unfortunately, for Ward and Meath, they exited the championship in round 3 of the qualifiers.
Pundit Arena, Eamonn Hickson