In a year when sport was heavily disrupted, we have still been served some great moments. Recently, Cork’s win over Kerry in the football Championship is a contender for upset of the century. On the other hand, Katie Taylor continues to be one of Ireland’s shining lights by beating Miriam Gutierrez to extend her professional record to 17-0. The remainder of the year still has the potential to throw up more great sporting moments. For example, can Dublin make it six All-Irelands in a row or can Mayo finally get over the line? But, in the meantime here are our top 20 Irish sporting moments since 2000.
20. Ireland 1-0 Italy, Euro 2016.
Our first tournament win in fourteen years. Martin O’Neill’s men never gave Italy a look in during the whole game. But, Ireland were spurning their chances. Wes Hoolahan missed a sitter after just six minutes. However, Hoolahan redeemed himself five minutes from time.
A glorious cross from the hand side sailed over the Italy defenders and Robbie Brady glided in behind them to just knick it around Sirigu in the Italian net. I guarantee you remember it well.
19. All-Ireland Hurling Final decided by hawkeye – 2014.
In 2014, Tipperary and Kilkenny were staunch Hurling rivals. As a result, when the 2014 Championship final threw up these two teams it was scheduled to be one for the ages.
And it didn’t disappoint. Tied 31 apiece with time up, John O’Dwyer had a free for Tipperary 93 metres out. When he hit it, the umpires sent the decision to hawkeye which was being used for the first year ever. The whole country went silent as the shot was replayed in Croke Park and deemed to be wide.
Kilkenny won the replay by three points.
18. Tyrone’s Maiden All-Ireland – 2003.
On 28th September 2003, Mickey Harte took Tyrone to All-Ireland glory for the first time. In the final, Tyrone beat Armagh 0-12 to 0-9 to wash away the pain of final defeats in 1986 and ’95.
Furthermore, Peter Canavan was the man who lifted the Sam Maguire for Tyrone that day. The footballing legend had been a part of the 1995 defeat and was already considered one of the game’s greats. The sight of a red and white sea flooding the field after the game showed just how much it meant to the people from Tyrone.
17. Dublin vs Mayo All-Ireland Final – 2017.
Dublin vs Mayo was the greatest rivalry of the 2010s. In 2015, the Dubs beat Mayo in a semi-final replay on route to their first of 5 in a row. Likewise, the sides met in the 2016 final and needed a replay to be separated. So, when the 2017 final reproduced this fixture, expectations were high.
Thankfully, it turned out to be one of the best football finals in recent memory. With it looking like a draw would be required again, Dean Rock had a free-kick to win it. He made it despite Lee Keegan throwing his GPS tracker in an attempt to throw the Dublin forward off. That was Dublin’s third All-Ireland in a row and fifth in seven years.
16. Leinster’s Heineken Cup Final comeback – 2011.
Another famous Irish Heineken Cup win. Two years after winning the competition in ’09, Leinster failed to show up in the first-half of 2011’s final against Northampton Saints. To illustrate, it was 22-6 at half-time and Leinster looked on course for an embarrassing defeat.
But, a rousing Johnny Sexton team talk spurred Leinster into action. The man himself scored 22 second-half points as they held the English team scoreless to make a famous comeback. It ended 33-22.
15. Darren Clarke wins the British Open – 2011.
42-year-old Darren Clarke shot an even-par 70 in the final round to win his first major championship by three shots in 2011. In a tough week at Royal St. George’s, Clarke kept his head when all about him were losing theirs.
14. Katie Taylor becomes World Champion – 2017.
“It’s by far the biggest night of my career,” were the Bray natives’ words after claiming the WBA Lightweight Title. The unanimous win over Argentina’s Anahi Esther Sánchez just eleven months after turning pro made her the most successful women’s boxer of all time.
13. Conor McGregor knocks out José Aldo – 2015.
McGregor-mania was at its peak in 2015. Therefore, his fight against the undefeated Brazilian José Aldo was coined as ‘the most highly anticipated featherweight fight of all time’.
After 13 seconds it was over. McGregor landed his notorious left hook to knock out Aldo and set the record for the shortest title fight.
12. Dublin make it five-in-a-row – 2019.
After Dublin’s famous battles with Mayo, they coasted to a fourth Championship in succession in 2018. Then, a record five-in-a-row was on the cards in 2019. But, Kerry were the opposition and Dublin had to work for the record. Firstly, the sides played out a thriller that included a red card, a missed penalty, and a Kerry comeback to send the game to a replay. Next, an Eoin Murchan goal separated the sides straight from the throw-in for the second-half in the replay and Dublin won their fifth title in as many years, making history in the process.
11. The O’Donovan’s Olympic Silver Medal – 2016.
At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Irish brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan captured Irish hearts after claiming the silver medal in the lightweight double-skulls.
The Cork brothers’ silver medal was the first rowing medal ever won by Ireland at the Olympics. Two years later, they won gold at the World Rowing Championships. The pairs’ quirky and colloquial interviews are class to listen to.
10. Tiger Roll wins back-to-back Grand Nationals – 2019.
Before 2019, no horse had won back-to-back Grand Nationals since Red Rum in 1973 and ’74. Trained by Gordon Elliott and owned by Michael O’Leary, Tiger Roll won the Aintree Grand National in 2018. Despite no horse winning successive Grand Nationals in 45 years, Tiger Roll took the title of favourite into the 2019 Grand National. Davy Russell was the jockey on both occasions and in 2019 the duo made history by winning again.
9. Ireland’s Cricketers beat England – 2011.
Many wouldn’t have even known Ireland were facing England in the Cricket World Cup on the 2nd of March in 2011. The Irish weren’t given a chance of winning and the first half of the match didn’t suggest it being any different. By that stage, they had 111 runs, and had lost five wickets. England had posted a huge total of 328.
That’s when former electrician Kevin O’Brien came in and played out of his skin. 113 from 63 balls dragged Ireland back into it leaving them needing just 11 from 11 by the time he was done.
8. Ireland beat the All-Blacks at Soldier Field – 2016.
After coming close to beating the All-Blacks in Dublin in 2013, there had been a lingering feeling that had Ireland had the potential to defeat the prestigious rugby giants going to Chicago in 2016.
That’s exactly what happened. Ireland went up by 30-8 early and despite a second-half fightback from New Zealand, Ireland finished stronger. A 40-29 victory was Ireland’s first over the all-blacks.
7. Dublin’s All-Ireland Win – 2011.
The Dubs hadn’t won an All-Ireland since 1995. In the 2011 final they were up against an incredible Kerry team and it was 1-11 each as the game went into stoppage time. Then, Kevin McManamon won a free 40 yards out.
Up came Stephen Cluxton. It was into the hill, it was for the win, and it went over. Love them or hate them it was an incredible win. That began their dominance of the football Championship.
6. Padraig Harrington British Open Win – 2007.
Harrington had a two-shot lead standing on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie. But, a double-bogey suggested he had blown his chances of a first major. However, Sergio Garcia couldn’t capitalise on Harrington’s mistake and the pair went to a four hole play-off.
That’s when Harrington came to life and when he had a two-shot lead on the 18th again, he kept his cool and won the Claret Jug.
5. Munster Heineken Cup win vs Biarritz – 2006.
After losing Heineken Cup Finals in 2000 and 2002, the pressure on Munster in the 2006 decider was huge. Then, after just three minutes, Biarritz scored the first try and it looked like Munster might fall short again. However, two first-half tries flipped the scoreboard in the Irish province’s favour. Famously, Peter Stringer scored off the back of a scrum to give Munster a lead that they would hold onto.
Likewise, Ronan O’Gara was flawless off the tee to banish the demons of two lost finals. Just look at the scenes in Limerick when Munster get over the line.
4. Ireland host England in Croke Park – 2007.
For the first time ever, Croke Park played host to Ireland’s rugby team in 2007 as Landsdowne Road was being transformed into the Aviva.
For context, this was Ireland vs England, playing an English sport, in the headquarters of Ireland’s National game, after all of the history between the two countries. Hearing ‘God Save the Queen’ in Croke Park was spine-tingling stuff. But, when it was time for ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ and ‘Ireland’s Call’, you could tell it was fifteen England players against a whole country.
A 43-13 win for the Irish makes this one of the most memorable days in recent Irish history.
3. Katie Taylor wins gold at the Olympics – 2012.
By the time of the 2012 Olympics, it was well-known that Katie Taylor had shaped much of her life around the Olympics. Hence, when she beat Russia’s Sofya Ochigava in the lightweight boxing final it was celebrated by all of Ireland. The Bray native “lifted the spirits of a nation” according to Michael D. Higgins. The fight made Taylor one of Ireland’s most prominent sports stars and she has only gone from strength to strength since, proving herself in the ring professionally.
2. Connacht win the Pro12 – 2016.
In 2016, Pat Lam oversaw Connacht to their first ever major trophy as they won the Pro12 in a historic season for the western province. A successful league campaign that included a win over Leinster and a double over Munster qualified them for the League semi-finals where they faced holders Glasgow. Led by John Muldoon, Connacht won to set up a final with a star-studded Leinster team.
In the final, Connacht executed their game plan perfectly and showed no sign of nerves in their first ever final. Connacht won 20-10 thanks to three tries by a terrific back three of Tiernan O’Halloran, Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun.
1. Ireland’s Grand Slam – 2009.
Here’s the scene: Wales 15-14 Ireland, 77 minutes gone, Ireland going for the first Grand Slam. Up steps Ronan O’Gara and slots a drop goal.
However, it’s easy to forget that Stephen Jones had a long-range penalty just after to flip the score again. Thankfully, he missed that kick and Ireland won their first Grand Slam of the 6 Nations era.
Sonia O’Sullivan 2000 Olympic Silver Medal.
Brian O’Driscoll’s hat-trick vs France – 2000.
Ireland 1-0 Germany 2015.
Ireland’s cricketers beating Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup.
2010 All-Ireland Hurling Final: Tipperary stopping Kilkenny’s five-in-a-row.
2010 Leinster Final: Louth vs Meath.
Clare’s 2013 All-Ireland Hurling win.
Rory McIlroy’s British Open – 2014.
Galway vs Kilkenny All-Ireland Hurling Final – 2015.
Ireland beat the All-Blacks in Dublin – 2018.
Ireland Grand Slam – 2018.
Shane Lowry wins the British Open – 2019.