1. Séamus Darby (Offaly v Kerry 1982)
“All I could do was hang in around the 13-metre line and hope we’d manage to create something in the time left. While part of me panicked that there might not be an opportunity, an echo deep inside the chambers of my mind whispered that was not lost” – Séamus Darby.
He was right. A cross-kick, a fetch, a shot, a goal. Offaly 1-15 Kerry 0-17. Darby’s goal is arguably the most famous in championship history, having wrecked Kerry’s five-in-a-row ambitions. Darby was on the pitch only a few minutes when he struck.
2. Kevin McManamon
(Dublin v Kerry 2011)
The goal that launched an empire. McManamon’s strike in the 64th minute ignited a Dublin revival – they were four points down at the time – which steered them to the title. Apart from scoring that priceless goal, McManamon, who came on in the 46th minute, was central to Dublin’s rally as his strong running presented Kerry with a problem they hadn’t encountered earlier. He played the ‘super sub’ role brilliantly on several other occasions, too. That was down to his ability to switch on to the game instantly, a quality not all players possess.
3. Peter Canavan
(2003 v Armagh and 2005 v Kerry)
Mickey Harte brought a new approach to the use of subs and it worked, largely because the man involved was Peter Canavan. An ankle injury left him in doubt for the 2003 final, but he was deemed so important to the Tyrone cause that Harte opted to start him knowing he wouldn’t last the full 70 minutes.
He was replaced at half-time but returned in the 65th minute to steady his colleagues as Tyrone closed out the game. It was the same in 2005. He played the first half, during which he scored a goal, went off at half-time and returned after 55 minutes. It worked well then, too.
4. Kevin Walsh
(Galway v Kerry 2000 draw)
Brought on for Joe Bergin after 19 minutes, his mission was to restore stability to Galway’s midfield which was being overrun by Darragh Ó Sé and Donal Daly. With the early flow so strong in Kerry’s direction, they led by seven points after 25 minutes, but once Walsh began to exert his influence, the pattern changed.
He was the dominant midfielder from there on and drew a powerful response from his colleagues.
Galway out-scored Kerry 0-13 to 0-6 in the final 45 minutes and were unlucky not to snatch a late winner. It was a missed opportunity that proved crucial as they lost the replay.
5. Nicholas Murphy
(Cork v Down 2010)
The script was reading all wrong for Cork. Having lost the 2007 and 2009 All-Ireland finals to Kerry, it was felt their experience would be too much for Down, all of whose players were All-Ireland final novices.
The Ulster side didn’t play like that in the opening 27 minutes, during which they raced into a five-point lead. They were still three ahead at half-time when manager Conor Counihan decided it was time to despatch Murphy into action.
He replaced Alan O’Connor and, almost immediately, the balance of power shifted. Murphy played superbly until forced off injured in the 65th minute, by which stage Cork were leading and on their way to a one-point win.