Sunday 18 August 2019

WATCH: How does Aaron Gillane's classy flick compare with five of the greatest hurling goals ever?

Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates scoring his side's first goal
Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates scoring his side's first goal

Dermot Crowe

When Aaron Gillane, with one deft flick and an assassin’s instinct, scored the only goal of the hurling league final in Croke Park last Sunday he invariably stoked memories of other celebrated green flags from the past. In an otherwise underwhelming match, Gillane’s improvised moment of magic captured the thrill of hurling and showed that there is still room for spontaneity and the conjuror’s trick. 

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to classifying hurling goals - they come in all forms. Some result from a split-second reflex, relying on wondrous hand-to-eye co-ordination, like Gillane’s beauty, and others are more elaborate designs. But here are some worth recalling.

Austin Gleeson, Waterford v Cork, Munster SHC Quarter Final, Thurles,  2014

Gleeson celebrated his senior championship debut with a stunning solo goal. And All-Ireland minor winner the year before, he made a swift graduation and was responsible for the game’s stand-out moment nine minutes into the second half. It started with a disputed Cork lineball which Aidan Walsh underhit, allowing Gleeson to intercept. With quick control he took the ball in hand on the Cork 65.

From there he rode a hard challenge first from Walsh, then put the ball on his stick and weaved his way towards the enemy goal, shimmying past two more players before space opened, showing them a clean pair of heels. Another Cork player tried to get across to block but Gleeson fired off the stick from his left side across Anthony Nash’s goal, avoiding the hook, showing incredible nerve.

The goal put Waterford nine points clear but Cork fought back to draw and won the replay. Gleeson produced something similar against Cork in the 2017 Al-Ireland semi final with a brilliant solo goal approaching the hour mark to turn the match firmly in his team’s favour. 

What they said at the time: ‘One of the best goals you will ever see in Semple Stadium’ (Michael Duignan)

John Fenton, Cork v Limerick, Munster Championship semi final replay, Thurles, 1987

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A late June wonder and no surprise to see this one listed. Fenton was a beautifully clean and pure striker of the ball and at a time when ground hurling did not warrant a jail sentence, he produced the signature ground stroke of that era. On fast summer ground, he whipped the ball to the bet from 45m, with Limerick goalkeeper Tommy Quaid unable to stop it and possibly even see it.

Nearing half time a long Ger Cunningham puckout broke in the Limerick half back line. Fenton moved on to it, flicking the ball forward and then winding up his wrists for an explosive shot off his right side. The ball hopped just as he was about to make contact but it was a perfect execution of the stroke, the textbook follow through and shifting of his body weight to produce the power. It flew into the top corner in seconds two minutes before half time to put Cork well in control and on the way to the final. Breathtaking. 

What they said at the time: ‘His goal had to be seen to be believed’ (Cork coach Johnny Clifford)

Jimmy Barry Murphy, Cork v Galway, All-Ireland semi final, Croke Park, 1983

Another of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety and his most famous goal. A 58th minute stroke of genius that made all the more noteworthy because it arrived in a match that did not inspire much poetry. Sadly, only 22,700 were in attendance to see this piece of hurling artistry unfold. 

The goal started with a John Fenton delivery from the middle of the field, the ball sent in at speed around a metre above the heads of Barry Murphy and his marker, Conor Hayes. The Corkman doubled on it mid-air, making a sweet connection, and the sliotar rocketed into top corner from around 20m to seal Galway’s fate, Cork winning 5-14 to 1-16. Captained by Barry Murphy, they would lose the final to Kilkenny, his second to lose as captain in as many years. 

What they said at the time: 'This is one we're going to see in slow motion but the slow motion won't even slow it down' (Michael O'Hehir)

DJ Carey, Kilkenny v Antrim, All-Ireland semi final, Croke Park, 1993

Kilkenny scored four goals in a facile win over Antrim but Carey’s was the pick of the bunch, showing lightning reflexes to finish first time after his initial effort came off the cross bar, following a cross ball from PJ Delaney. Carey had started the move, finding Delaney on the left before following in for the return which Delaney duly delivered. The score summed up Kilkenny’s superiority, quicker in mind and limb. Two years earlier Antrim were within two points of Kilkenny when the teams met at the same stage of the competition; this time they lost by 18.

Kilkenny went on to win the All-Ireland, retaining the title, and Carey was declared Hurler of the Year at 22.

What they said at the time: ‘The ball came back off the crossbar very fast as I was coming in. The hurl saw it. I didn’t. It just went in.’ (DJC Carey)

Joe Canning, Galway v Kilkenny, Leinster final, Croke Park, 2015

Nearing half time Andy Smith’s long high ball from his own half had Canning running towards the Kilkenny goal to contest, then having to spin back to catch when he realised he had overshot the runway slightly. Once he had ball in hand, without pausing, he completed the arc, turning goalwards and shooting early and powerfully past Eoin Murphy for an outstanding goal. The time it took from his catch, the catch being a wonder in itself, to the ball hitting the net was less than a second. Brilliant innovation and hurling intelligence, as well as nimble feet - almost balletic. But Kilkenny recovered to win the provincial title and also deny Galway in the September All-Ireland final.   

What they said at the time: ‘Joe’s an outstanding hurler, he got a great goal.’ (Brian Cody)

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