12 best moments of the 2015 GAA championships
It’s been a vintage year of GAA action, look back on the best of it with the 12 best moments in the GAA championships 2015
With the Cork ladies making it five in a row last Sunday, they bring down the curtain on a GAA championship that was, as usual, high on drama and quality sporting entertainment with a sprinkling of controversy. There were some unforgettable moment, twists in the plot and sub plots to savour, so let’s have a look at the 12 best moments in the GAA championships 2015.
When looking at any season, it’s hard to cram a whole year’s excitement into a round figure like ten without excluding something that deserves to be here. Instead, I’ve gone for a dozen of 2015 moments that won’t be easily forgotten.
Galway vs Tipperary Semi Final
Just as everyone was bemoaning the lack of great games this year, Galway and Tipp served up a game for the ages. Unquestionably the game of the year, this had it all. Played at that unique tempo which only hurling seems to be able to deliver, it was both a smooth ballet and a slugfest all rolled into one. Brutal, yet beautiful, it gave us the individual performance of the year with Tipp’s Seamus Callinan smashing home 3-9 yet somehow ending up on the losing side.
What’s more, this game delivered a Hollywood ending when substitute Shane Moloney, only on the field for a few moments, got on the end of a fantastic long-range Joe Canning pass and split the posts. A fairy tale ending to a scarcely believable game.
Joe Canning’s goal vs Kilkenny
In a mixed year for the mercurial Joe Canning, it’s easy to forget this moment of individual brilliance that lit up the Tribesmen’s Leinster Final against Kilkenny. Catching a hopeful delivery from Andy Smith on the edge of the square, the big Portumna star somehow managed to turn, shoot and, despite being on the spin and off balance, fire a bullet past Eoin Murphy in the Kilkenny goal.
How he even knew where the goals were is somewhat of a mystery, let alone how he unleashed an unstoppable shot in the circumstances, but in doing so, Canning managed to net what was, unquestionably, the goal of the year.
Kilkenny dominate Galway
Sometimes a highlights don’t need to be spectacular. The way the Kilkenny hurling machine managed to recover from a poor first half to slowly reel in Galway was a triumph of substance over style, yet it epitomised everything that this Kilkenny team stands for: a level of honestly and devotion to the cause that makes them practically unbeatable.
Yes, they are littered with some of this generation’s finest hurlers, but it’s the Herculean work-rate and the almost psychotic will to win that really sets this team apart. In delivering Brain Cody’s eleventh All Ireland, this ominously young team were worthy winners of the 2015 All Ireland title and signalled to the hurling world that, in spite of a slew of retirements, they are going nowhere.
Noel McGrath returns
A highlight which really put the hurling championship into perspective. Noel McGrath’s life, let alone his hurling career, had been thrown into doubt a few short months previously when he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Seeing him return to a standing ovation from both sets of fans during the Tipp Galway semi-final put the icing on the cake on an already amazing day for hurling.
Seeing Galway manager Anthony Cunningham make straight for McGrath after the match to commiserate with him was one of the most touching things ever seen on a hurling field.
Galway Strike Late
Perhaps the most dramatic game of the year, and certainly the one with the most exciting finish, was the Galway-Wexford semi final. Having played against the elements in the first half and still leading by four, Galway looked to be cruising to a comfortable win when, aided by a strong breeze, they lead by five heading into injury time.
However, a massive scoring burst by the Yellow bellies, started by Stacey Kehoe‘s second goal, drew them level. However, in an ending straight out of Hollywood, there was to be one more, decisive twist. In the seventh minute of injury time, Galway sharp shooter Niamh McGrath finally settled things, holding her nerve to convert a late 45’ and secure a final berth against Cork.
Rebelettes secure unlikely All Ireland
If there is a parallel to the Kilkenny hurling team, it must surely be the Cork Camogie team. They entered their All Ireland Final against Galway as underdogs, having already lost twice to the Tribeswomen this year. To boot, they were also missing several from their victorious team of 12 months previously. And yet, Cork Camogie seems to inhabit an area that other counties can’t seem to reach on All Ireland day.
Not surprising, considering this team contains the likes of Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, both winning their 15th All Ireland medals in either Camogie or Ladies Football. Medal collections like that aren’t amassed by players who don’t save their best for the big day, and Cork’s victory was a perfect manifestation of this winning mentality.
With the game on a knife edge heading into the last 5 minutes, the aforementioned Corkery finally broke the game Galway resistance with a 54th minute goal to secured a 1-13 to 0-9 win and an unlikely two-in-a-row on Leeside. It was also good to see more fans out to #supporthersport on the day with attendance up from 12,473 in 2014 to 16,610 this year.
Westmeath finally beat Meath
If Galway vs Tipp was the hurling game of the year, then Westmeath’s victory over their near neighbours was certainly the football equivalent. While the match itself wasn’t that significant in the context of the overall championship, Westmeath’s first ever victory over the Royals won’t be soon forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.
Meath, leading by 8 points at half time, looked to be cruising to yet another victory over their neighbours, but the Lakesiders, thanks to the scoring exploits of John Heslin and Kieran Martin, roared back to claim an unlikely but historic victory. Trailing by 9 with 20 minutes to go, they outscored Meath by 2-08 to 1 point in a pulsating finish, hitting their highest ever championship total in the process.
Fionn Fitzgerald ties up the Munster final
Seems like a lifetime ago now, but it’s easy to forget, given the respective trajectories of both Cork and Kerry’s championship since, but the Kingdom actually needed a last gasp point in order to save their Munster final from a spirited Rebel assault. Trailing by one, and deep into injury time, Kerry looked to be heading for the qualifiers until they were rescued by a most unlikely saviour.
Corner back Fionn Fitzgerald wouldn’t be noted as a prolific point scorer but, in the way he confidently converted a very difficult chance right at the death, he encapsulated everything that is good about Kerry football. Were another county’s corner back in a similar position he would, no doubt, have looked to feed a forward the ball. Instead, however, Fitzgerald displayed that innate confidence and borderline arrogance that marks Kerry players apart from the rest by backing himself and kicking an equaliser in incredibly difficult circumstances. It had the bonus effect of demoralising the Cork team, as they bowed out meekly in the replay and exited the championship to Kildare the following week.
Mayo roar back
While the game as a whole was quite poor, Mayo’s late comeback against the Dubs in the drawn semi-final certainly provided us with the most exciting finish of the championship. Dublin, having scored 2 second half goals, looked to be cruising to relatively comfortable finish when they lead by 6 with 7 minutes remaining. However, inspired by substitute Andy Moran, Mayo rallied and a quick-fire scoring blitz of 1-3, including a Cillian O’Connor penalty, ensured that they got another shot at the Dubs after a thrilling finish.
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton had a last gasp effort to win the match but he pushed his long-range free well wide. Alas for the Westerners, their spirited finish counted for nothing as Dublin would win the replay with their own late urge of scores and consign Mayo to yet another dose of Croke Park heartache.
Dublin outwork Kerry
Played in heavy, consistent rain, this year’s All Ireland will not go down as one of the classic Kerry-Dublin encounters. However, it would be unfair not to list Dublin’s winning performance here as they displayed, once again, why they are the best team of the current era. Kerry’s lauded midfield and it’s star-studded forward line were totally shut down by a Dublin team full of boundless energy.
Every contest, every 50/50 ball seemed to always end with a Dub emerging on top. They were faster, harder and hungrier than their Kerry counterparts and totally snuffed out any game plan Kerry attempted by constantly keeping them on the back foot. It’s rare to see a Kerry team so thoroughly out-played but, in spite of the closeness of the scoreboard, Dublin left no doubt who the better team was and could have, and should have, won by a wider margin.
Armagh edge out Donegal
While Donegal will almost certainly view the 2015 season as a hugely memorable one, they might well be keen to forget the part the ladies from Armagh played in it. Buoyed on by their historic first ever Ulster title, Donegal must surely have fancied their chances of avenging their Division 2 final defeat to the Orchard County earlier this year.
Leading by a goal with 15 minutes remaining in this All Ireland quarter final, that optimism looked to be justified. However, this Armagh team, coming off of a strong qualifier run which had seen their momentum snowball, have made a habit of summoning late scores, yet again found the perfect reply. A Caroline O’Hanlon goal levelled matters and, even though Donegal briefly retook the lead, there was little doubt Armagh were the team on the front foot.
They managed to hold Donegal scoreless from there until the finish, a crucial 14 minute period where they themselves hit the final 3 points and secure their place in the last 4.
Cork Ladies make it Ten out of Eleven
Cork ladies rounded off a spectacular year for women’s GAA on Leeside by completing yet another double after a hard-fought win over Dublin. While the match itself did not live up to the meteoric standards set during the meeting of the same sides in last year’s decider, this victory was all about the numbers for the Rebelette’s.
Arguably the most successful GAA side of any code in recent years, they captured their tenth All Ireland in eleven years, completing their second five-in-a-row during this remarkable spell of dominance.
Amazingly, midfield dual stars Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley both collected their 16th All Ireland medals for Cork, making them both the most decorated GAA players of all time. Perhaps the most impressive number of the day, however, is 31,083, for that is the number of people who paid into Croke Park to see this final, a record for a women‘s sporting event in Europe this year and a fantastic achievement for all involved in Ladies Football #supporthersport.
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