After coming so close to dethroning Dublin in last year’s Championship, Kerry were heavily backed to do so again in 2020. In fact, the shortened Championship went further in Kerry’s favour as the draw would have seen them avoid Dublin until the final. The first round pitted them against old rivals Cork. However, Cork hadn’t beaten the Kingdom since 2012 and despite topping Division 3 easily they were never expected to challenge Peter Keane’s team. As a result, Mark Keane’s 91st minute goal to eliminate Kerry made this one of the biggest upsets in modern times. With that in mind, here are the 5 biggest GAA upsets of the 21st century (excluding Cork vs Kerry last Sunday).
1. 2002, Dublin 2-11 vs 0-10 Meath – Leinster Semi-Final.
It seems like a distant memory now, but Dublin were not always the juggernaut they are now. Meath were very much the county on top of Leinster at the turn of the century. In 2002, Dublin were entering their seventh season without a Leinster title.
In addition, there was not exactly huge expectations from the capital. A mediocre League campaign was followed by a victory over Wexford in the Championship before the Meath fixture.
Previously, Meath had taken apart a Kerry team in 2001 that had beaten Dublin. While it had been 3 years since the Royals won the Sam Maguire, there was still a huge gap between them and Dublin.
But, once the ball was thrown in this Leinster semi-final the Dubs came out firing. Manager Tommy Lyons worked the magic that saw him bring Kilmacud Crokes to Club glory in 1995. It was Ray Cosgrove who led the charge with two goals to sink Meath.
Since then Meath have only won one Leinster final. In contrast, Dublin have only improved. That game very much marked a power shift in Leinster.
2. 2007, Sligo 1-10 vs 0-12 Galway – Connacht Final.
For the longest time Connacht has been dominated by Galway and Mayo with Roscommon joining them in recent years. Hence, when Sligo upset Galway in 2007 it was a huge upset.
The semi-final was a shock in itself. After being six points down in the second half in Dr Hyde Park, the Yeats County won the final twenty minutes by eight to beat Roscommon.
The final went to a fro in the first half. Then, in the 24th minute Eamonn O’Hara found the net for Sligo and by half-time they were two up. In the final 20 minutes Sligo only scored one point but their defence held strong.
The win was their first Connacht title since 1975 and it ruptured the Galway/Mayo trend that had developed in Connacht.
3. 2010, Down 1-16 vs 1-10 Kerry – All-Ireland Quarter-Final.
When Down knocked reigning Champions Kerry out of the Championship at the quarter-final stage in 2010, it was the first time the Kingdom weren’t playing football in September since 2003.
Mark Poland scored the crucial goal for Down as the Ulster side raced into a 1-4 to 0-0 lead. Likewise, Marty Clarke was doing serious damage. Kerry came back somewhat but never really managed to get a foothold in the game. Hence, the upset was more than just Down defeating Kerry. It was the comfort with which they did it.
4. 2011, Tipperary 3-09 vs 1-14 Dublin – All-Ireland Minor Final.
Before Dessie Farrell took charge of the Dublin Seniors this year, he had already been successful with the county at minor and u-21 level. However, the 2011 Minor Final is absent from his CV. In Farrell’s first year in charge of the Dublin minors, they were dramatically beaten in the final by Tipperary.
The Tipperary manager that day was David Power who himself took charge of the seniors this year. Goals from Liam McGrath, Michael Quinlivan, and Colman Kennedy saw the Premier County’s first title in 77 years.
Dublin controlled the final and had a two-point lead going into the final 5 minutes. Then, a quick 1-1 from Tipperary stunned the blues and they couldn’t undo the damage in time. That Dublin team contained Ciarán Kilkenny, John Small, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello.
Likewise, many of the Tipperary players that day continued to have successful careers. For example, Michael Quinlivan was influential again in 2017 when Tipperary pulled off another upset against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
5. 2018, Kildare 0-21 vs 0-19 Mayo – Round 3 Qualifier.
Mayo were the real threat to Dublin’s dominance in the 2010s. The Dubs beat the westerners in the 2011, ’13, ’16, and ’17 finals with 2016 requiring a replay. Furthermore, the sides met in the 2015 semi-final and had to replay that game too. So, when Mayo were knocked out of the 2018 Championship in the third qualifying round, it was huge news and Dublin walked to a fourth All-Ireland on the trot.
‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ was the rally call before this game. The Lilywhites refused to sacrifice their home draw for a Croke Park double-header and the performance justified their fight.
Kildare went toe-toe with Mayo. At the time, Mayo had proven themselves as one of the best teams in the country consistently. However, Kildare’s home advantage helped them rattle off six of the last nine scores to knock Mayo out.
Kildare couldn’t replicate the form in the Super 8s but the absence of Mayo sent shockwaves through the Championship.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) November 8, 2020