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The five best All-Ireland football final comebacks

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David Beggy of Meath, left, in action against Barry Breen of Down during the 1991 All-Ireland SFC final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

David Beggy of Meath, left, in action against Barry Breen of Down during the 1991 All-Ireland SFC final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

David Beggy of Meath, left, in action against Barry Breen of Down during the 1991 All-Ireland SFC final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

1986: Kerry 2-15 Tyrone 1-10

Tyrone were bitterly disappointed when Kevin McCabe’s penalty kick flew over the bar early in the second half, but it still left them leading by 1-8 to 0-4. On all the evidence up to then, Kerry’s bid for a second three-in-a-row in six years was set to fail, but suddenly all changed. A Pat Spillane goal ignited a comeback which saw Kerry win the rest of the game by 2-11 to 0-2. Tyrone were unlucky to lose John Lynch and the even more influential Eugene McKenna to injury, as Kerry whipped up a storm.

1991: Down 1-16 Meath 1-14

It wasn’t enough to rescue Meath but the sheer force of their recovery deserves recognition. Trailing by 1-14 to 0-6 after 50 minutes, their case looked hopeless. However, in a typical display of defiance, they outscored Down by 1-8 to 0-2 from there on and would, in all probability, have completed the recovery if they had another two minutes. Meath’s final-quarter surge only increased their frustration, leaving them wondering why they were so effective then and so sluggish earlier on.

1982: Offaly 1-15 Kerry 0-17

Trailing by four points after 65 minutes, it looked beyond Offaly’s capabilities to rein in a Kerry team bidding for five in a row. Experienced and omni-talented, the odds were stacked in favour of Kerry seeing the game out to a successful conclusion.

Even when Offaly pared two points off the lead, few thought they would win. It all changed with the most talked-about goal in history from Séamus Darby. Having kicked six points between the 47th and 64th minutes, Kerry failed to score from there on.

2011: Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

Without a championship win over Kerry since 1977, Dublin’s case looked tried when they were outscored by 0-8 to 0-3 in the second half and trailed by four points just past the hour mark. Surprisingly, Kerry tried to defend the lead rather than continue with their regular game-plan. It was a fatal miscalculation.

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Dublin’s response was quick and effective. Kevin McManamon’s 63rd-minute goal was the catalyst for a major swing, which was completed with the winning point from Stephen Cluxton’s free.

2002: Armagh 1-12 Kerry 0-14

A four-point deficit at half-time may not look especially daunting in ordinary circumstances, but when it’s faced by a county that has never previously won the All-Ireland and the opposition are the highest all-time achievers, it’s quite a challenge.

Armagh worked their way through it with compelling authority. They restricted Kerry to 0-3 in the second half, while scoring 1-5. It was another second-half implosion by Kerry, who scored only two points in the same period against Meath in the 2001 semi-final.


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