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‘It was very surreal how it all panned out’ - Raymond Galligan on the sporting moment of 2021

Magic Moment of the Year


Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan with his Irish Indpendent sports award. Photo: Mark Condren

Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan with his Irish Indpendent sports award. Photo: Mark Condren

Cavan goalkeeper Raymond Galligan with his Irish Indpendent sports award. Photo: Mark Condren

The script might have been too much for Hollywood.

A forward turned goalkeeper kicking the winning point in a classic Ulster championship prize fight. And that kick in turn leading to an unprecedented Ulster championship success. Only a handful of teams had won the Ulster title from the preliminary round. No one ever dreamt it could be done in four successive weekends. But that was the season Cavan had and captain Raymond Galligan’s kick set it all in motion.

Reflecting on it now still brings a smile to Galligan’s face. The kick that readers of the Irish Independent and Independent.ie voted as their Magic Moment of the Sporting Year of 2020. For much of that game, Cavan looked like they were spooning water out of their boat. They were doing just enough against Monaghan to survive, but it only felt like a matter of time before they’d sink.

They hung on grimly however and when Galligan’s opposite number Rory Beggan drilled over a free despite the stiff breeze, he knew they had one more chance to settle the tie.

“Thomas (Galligan, his cousin) was standing on the line with me for Beggan’s free,” Galligan remembered.

“It was very surreal how it all panned out. The minute it left Beggan’s boot I told Thomas to go. I knew by how he had hit it that it was going over the bar so I told Thomas this kick out is coming on top of you.

“It was a case that we had to get it out, there was no time to go short and I suppose we are thankful to Thomas he held on to it and won the free because there was no game plan - it was just get it out and try and retain possession as far up the field as we could.”

Thomas won possession and Cavan were awarded a free. Galligan’s Cavan career had started as a forward and in a blaze of glory. Ten years earlier in the opening round of the NFL, Galligan kicked 0-10 on his debut, including six frees and a sideline to help Tommy Carr’s side to a win over Roscommon. Galligan fell away in the years that followed but was soon reborn as a goalkeeper.

And in Clones that day, Cavan’s free taking duties had been split between Gearoid McKiernan and Chris Conway, who had landed a crucial 45 not long before. However, in the conditions Conway let Galligan’s longer boot have a go.

“It happened so quick it was a case of sticking to your usual routine. Clones is a fantastic surface so I knew if I got a good strike I wouldn’t be far away and thankfully it went over the bar. It is a great surface compared to other places at that time of the year where you mightn’t be able to get such a good strike at it and a good run up. It just all kind of came together in that split second.”

Galligan’s kick left no doubt and sparked a flood of emotion. Cavan had seen off their neighbours after a game that looked like it would get away from them on a number of occasions.

It was also the first weekend of championship and the drama of the day helped settle any nerves about what a championship with no crowds would look and feel like and whether players and people at home would still care. That question was answered emphatically. That kick set Cavan off on an adventure through Ulster. A few short weeks later they beat Donegal for a first Ulster title since 1997.


“It really was a momentous occasion and it was only really when we got home and when people were contacting us through social media that we realised the impact it had. Cavan had such a tough time like most counties with Covid it really was such a positive story for people. And it did bring some sort of structure and routine and normality for people to be able to watch games. To cap it off with an Ulster it really was brilliant. It meant the world to every one of us.”

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