Friday 22 March 2019

Was final the best game of hurling ever to be played?

Kilkenny's Walter Walsh attempts to get through the Tipperary wall of Paddy Stapleton, Cathal Barrett and Pádraic Maher during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny's Walter Walsh attempts to get through the Tipperary wall of Paddy Stapleton, Cathal Barrett and Pádraic Maher during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny's Paul Murphy gets away from the grasp of Patrick Maher of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Tipperary's John O'Dwyer takes a late free with a chance to win the All-Ireland final at Croke Park, only to see it hit the post. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Padraic Maher, Tipperary, in action against Aidan Fogarty, Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final
Cork and Clare players attempt to gain possession during the 2013 All-Ireland Senior Championship final replay
Eoin McGrath, Waterford, in action against Declan Prendergast, Cork during the 2004 Munster Hurling Championship final
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Yes, says Colm Keys, who lists his top ten games of the modern era.

1.  2014 All-Ireland final Tipperary: 1-28, Kilkenny 3-22

A match that produces 54 scores and only 10 wides, none in the last 27 minutes until John O'Dwyer's near-100-metre free drifted off target, deserves its place at head of any list.

To maintain such standards of attacking play in a shootout like it, underpinned by so much pressure and drama, is testament to its quality.

Tipperary had just one wide in the first half, Kilkenny had none after the break.

What's more, it was played in the perfect spirit.

2. 2009 All-Ireland final: Kilkenny 2-22, Tipperary 0-23

A primal affair perhaps best crystallised by Jackie Tyrrell's thundering early challenge on Tipperary's Seamus Callanan.

In the first half alone they were level seven times. Kilkenny came from two points down to lead by four in a stunning 40-second turnaround, precipitated by referee Diarmuid Kirwan's controversial decision to award them a penalty which Henry Shefflin duly stuck away.

Kilkenny goalkeeper PJ Ryan pulled off a string of great saves, similar to Eoin Murphy on Sunday, to thwart Tipperary's forwards.

3. 2013 All-Ireland final replay: Clare 5-16, Cork 3-16

Big question marks over the quality of defending but not the quality of entertainment. In the dying light of a crisp autumn evening, Croke Park rarely witnessed an occasion like it.

Replays were never supposed to be as good as this. You can be critical of the touch of some but not the character displayed by both teams or the chronology of the scores culminating in Darach Honan's wonderful solo effort to finally kill off Cork after just over 140 minutes.

Shane O'Donnell left an indelible imprint with a hat-trick in the opening 20 minutes.

4. 2004 Munster final: Waterford 3-16, Cork 1-21

Outside Croke Park this may just have been hurling's greatest game of the modern era underpinned by Waterford's John Mullane's sending-off just three minutes into the second half.

What unfolded after that was a game of the ages with the 14 men, inspired by centre-back Ken McGrath, coming from three points down against the wind.

Paul Flynn's goal from a close-range free was ultimately the catalyst for a Waterford victory.

5. 2002 All-Ireland semi-final: Kilkenny 1-20, Tipperary 1-16

This was just Kilkenny's second championship win over Tipperary in 80 years and their first since 1967.

DJ Carey had sat out the provincial campaign but returned to leave an indelible mark against the reigning champions. The sides were level nine times including half-time (0-10 each) and John Carroll's goal appeared to put Tipp in the driving seat.

But Carey's classic intervention for Jimmy Coogan's goal settled it.

6. 1991 Munster final replay: Tipperary 4-19, Cork 4-15

The day the Tipperary crowd, led by a man in a wheelchair at the Killinan End, invaded the pitch when Pat Fox's goal, to cut the deficit to just two points, hit the net.

When Aidan Ryan scored an insurance goal late on, after twice blocking down Cork clearances in the same passage of play for one of the iconic Munster Championship scores, the number of invaders swelled to hundreds.

Tipperary had found themselves nine points down at one stage early in the second half but John Leahy inspired them.

7. 2005 All-Ireland semi-final: Galway 5-18, Kilkenny 4-18

The defending was sometimes suspect but the drama was incessant as Galway's Niall Healy picked holes in a Kilkenny defence missing the enforcement of Noel Hickey to bag a hat-trick.

Galway led by 5-17 to 3-12 after 44 minutes but Kilkenny's character to be just one score adrift at the end was telling for what was to follow in the next four years.

8. 1997 All-Ireland final: Clare 0-20, Tipperary 2-13

The first all-Munster All-Ireland final ended dramatically with Tipperary's John Leahy facing down Clare goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald as he had done at the end of the Munster final two months earlier.

Once again, Fitzgerald pulled off a remarkable save and Clare's grasp on a second All-Ireland title was retained. Jamesie O'Connor had fired over the winning point just seconds earlier with Clare manager Ger Loughnane famously raising his fist to acclaim it from behind the goals.

9 1996 Munster semi-final: Limerick 1-13, Clare 0-15

Undoubtedly the game that provided the greatest matchwinner of modern times.

Ciaran Carey's catch from a puck-out and thundering run in injury time remains one of the great moments of Munster Championship history. Clare, the reigning All-Ireland champions, led by three points going down the home straight at the Gaelic Grounds but Limerick caught them with four unanswered points of their own.

10. 1990 All-Ireland final: Cork 5-15, Galway 2-21

Croke Park sizzled with the temperature of the hurling as much as baking sunshine above as the mercury soared into the mid 20s.

Cork goalkeeper Ger Cunningham's save from Martin Naughton was critical 13 minutes into the second half after Galway, inspired by the magnificent display of Joe Cooney, led by 1-13 to 1-8 at the interval.

Two John Fitzgibbon goals within 60 seconds pushed the momentum Cork's way.

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