WHAT A SUMMER.
A summer packed with highs and lows, cheers and tears and everything in between.
In the end, Sam went back to Dublin for the first time in 16 years, but there was a whole lot of football to be played before we could even contemplate yesterday’s decider.
With apologies for the ones that we missed, here are our five favourite moments from the 2011 Football Championship.
5. London take Mayo to extra-time in Ruislip
Ruislip is one of the more unlikely venues for a fix of Championship magic, but it had by the bucket-load when Mayo opened their Connacht campaign against the Exiles. Only late points from Trevor Mortimer and Kevin McLoughlin denied London a famous victory at the death. But even then, the underdogs refused to give up on their dreams in extra time, clawing their way back into the game with a crucial goal. There would be no fairytale ending, but boy did it set us up for a summer chock-full of entertainment.
4. Mayo shock the champions
After about 15 minutes of the All-Ireland quarter-final between Mayo and Cork, there were a lot of knowing smiles. Before throw-in, few gave James Horan’s men a chance and as Cork raced into a 1-04 to 0-01 lead, even fewer were surprised. Mayo dug deep, though, showing the hunger and appetite that only 60 years in the All-Ireland wilderness can bring. After the break, they outscored Cork by 0-07 to 0-01, holding the defending champions at arm’s length to claim a massively popular Championship scalp.
3. Darran O’Sullivan’s wonder goal
O’Sullivan’s cheeky back-heel against Limerick in the quarter-finals was the moment of individual brilliance from the 2011 Championship. As Bryan Sheehan’s pass drifted just behind the Glenbeigh man, he had the shortest of split seconds to plot his move, twist his body, and execute the moment of audacity. Nobody, not even the most ardent men in the anti-Kerry camp, could fail to smile at O’Sullivan’s class.
2. Kevin Cassidy sends Kildare packing
Until yesterday’s thrilling finale raised the bar to a different level entirely, Donegal’s victory over Kildare in the quarter-finals was the standout contest of this year’s Championship. In terms of drama, nothing matched the nail-biting intensity of a gripping 20 minutes of extra-time. It was a game that neither side deserved to lose, but the score that clinched it for Donegal was a point worthy of winning any contest. As the clock ticked down, half-back Kevin Cassidy set himself and fired a point that seemed to hang and hang and hang before eventually dropping over the bar, sending the Donegal fans into dreamland.
1. The coolest man in Croke Park
What more is there to say that hasn’t been said about Stephen Cluxton in the past 24 hours? In yesterday’s liveblog, Adrian said Cluxton could’ve been “out in Parnell Park on a Tuesday night” such was his poise in the clutch situation. In front of a Hill 16 thronged with true blues who have lived through every second of Dublin’s 16 year famine, the keeper was nerveless. Not even Kieran Donaghy’s attempt to eyeball him into a mistake could break his concentration. The capital held its breath… and Dublin were champions once again.
What have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.