by Jack Maguire
I hold some very fond sporting memories of the past few years. For every brilliant moment though, there have been several nightmares. Of course in this quiet and difficult time we must dwell on the good times and the sporting events that stood out for good reasons. For me, with soccer being like a religion, it is no surprise that my favourite sporting memories are from the field of play. I have decided to go with 2 occasions, for club and for country. These are moments that are in my top played highlight videos on YouTube, and may or may not bring a tear to my eye.
Firstly for country. Irish football, what can I say. It has broken my heart and made me injure myself in celebration, it has made me cry tears of joy and of despair, but at the end of it all, I could not live without it. There are several contenders for the top spot, and it is very hard to pick a standout one.
Jonathan Walters brace against Bosnia and Herzegovina to send us through to our second consecutive European Championship, James McClean’s winner against Wales in the play-offs (which I cried after) and Robbie Brady’s goal against Italy in Lille in 2016 to defeat one of the top sides in world football. All beautiful moments that I will never forget. However, the one that I have chosen is the 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the Aviva Stadium last September.
A 1-1 draw you may say does not sound exciting, but you could not be more wrong. We held ourselves together for most of the game and pushed up on The Swiss at times. Heartbreak on 74 minutes. A well worked attacking move saw passes from Granit Xhaka and Breel Donald Embolo cut through the Ireland defence, and play Fabian Schar in who calmly slotted into the bottom right corner. As soon as the ball hit the net the Aviva fell silent. It was going to be incredibly hard to get a goal past the Swiss defence now that they had the lead. If anyone was going to score though, it was going to be us. The 85th minute came along and we were still in search of an equaliser. Another Irish attack was cleared, but only as far as Glenn Whelan who smashed the ball off the bar from around 20 yards out. Mbabu came out of the Swiss backline with the ball but some fantastic defensive tracking back by McClean down the left wing resulted in him winning back possession and turning towards goal. The Derry man sent in a cross which deflected and looped up into the air for what seemed like an eternity. When the ball eventually did descend, it was met by David McGoldricks head on the edge of the six yard box, and the Sheffield United Striker netted the equaliser for The Boys in Green. I rarely celebrated a goal as much as I did that one.
I had four Ireland collectors pins in my pocket that repeatedly pricked me in the leg as we fell and danced around the South Stand behind the goal where ‘Didzy’ scored. The reason this game is ranked so high on my list is because at the time, we were doing well in the group, sitting at the top of the pile, and a draw with Switzerland was something to be proud of. Unfortunately some following results went against us, but there and then in the moment I was on top of the world. Of course our quest to make the Euros isn’t over yet due to the play-offs being postponed, but our fingers are certainly crossed.
For club, not many compare to Celtic. I have loved the club all my life, and there is no bigger occasion than the Glasgow Derby, with our city neighbours. An Old Firm at Paradise is a particularly amazing spectacle. In such a heated derby, there are so many contenders for the top spot, such as the 5-0 defeat of Rangers in April 2018 and the 5-1 at Ibrox in April 2017. The one I have chosen though is the alternative 5-1 victory over the blue side of Glasgow in Celtic Park in September 2016. It was a momentous occasion because it was the first time the two sides met in the Scottish Premiership since Rangers’ return to the top tier.
There was so much weighing on this game with huge bragging rights up for grabs. It took just over half an hour for the deadlock to be broken, and it was The Hoops who hit the net. Celtic taking advantage of Rangers poor defensive organisation, and a corner from Scott Sinclair was headed in by Moussa Dembele. It didn’t even take 10 minutes for The Bhoys to double their lead. Nir Bitton intercepted a sloppy pass by Kiernan, and played a perfectly weighted ball through for Dembele who turned Senderos, and finished into the far corner with the outside of his boot. Garner bundled in a goal for The Gers just before the half time whistle to give them a bit of hope going into the break. 15 minutes after the break, Scotty Sinclair extended the lead. After receiving a wonderful through ball from Dembele, he kept his cool and slid the ball in off the post. Senderos received his marching orders in the 75th minute for a deliberate handball to increase Rangers woes. 7 minutes later Lustig broke down the right wing and swung a cross in that found Dembele who controlled it effortlessly and smashed the ball home to complete a wonderful hat-trick and make history. Stuart Armstrong added the fifth 10 minutes later after a brilliant low cross from Kieran Tierney. The rout was complete and Celtic had once again asserted their dominance over the local rivals.
Sam Curtin: Deputy Sports Editor.
It is so difficult to choose my favourite sporting moment. I feel as if that I have been quite lucky to have grown up in the last 20 years as it has coincided with an unprecedented period of Irish sporting success. One day that signifies the modern strides we have made in elite sport is March 21st 2009.
What’s so significant about this day? It was the day that Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff to win only our second Grand Slam ever at the time and our first since 1948. On the same night, Bernard Dunne captured the WBA super-bantamweight title at the O2 arena in Dublin (now called 3 Arena).
Both events went down to the wire with Ryle Nugent’s commentary going down in Irish folklore as Ronan O’Gara hit a 76th minute drop goal to put Ireland 17-15 ahead. The drama wasn’t over however as the match went down to the last kick of the ball when Stephen Jones nearly broke Irish hearts but this long range penalty fell short and Ireland banished the demons of previous missed opportunities. Bernard Dunne then followed this up with a gladiator like performance on home soil later that night surviving two knockdowns to land an 11th round knockout victory against Ricardo Cordoba which was live on RTE like many Irish world title fights were on terrestrial TV.
The fact that we had two iconic moments in one night with one of those coming on home soil, March 21st will always live long in the memory for me.
Cian McGrath: Byline Editor.
I mean, as a huge football fan, there are so many moments that stand out. Cork City winning on penalties against Dundalk in the 2017 Cup final, the only time I’ve ever had a dog in the race for a shootout, was a stand-out one, but I was watching on television. It would be remiss though to feature this, as I’ve been to so many amazing live football games. I think there are two that stand-out, Ireland 1-0 Germany and Ireland 1-0 Italy.
Martin O’Neill’s Ireland team may not have been free-scoring, tiki-taka wizards, but to anyone who attended his games, there was a real sense of togetherness. That togetherness and camaraderie within the team was infectious and I’ve never known a time that Irish Football Fans were so united in their support. I think the absolute culmination of this came in the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille on June 22nd 2016.
Ireland, needing to beat Antonio Conte’s Italy to qualify, did just that thanks to a late Robbie Brady header. I was lucky enough to be in attendance that night and the atmosphere was indescribable. The roof had been left on due to issues with the pitch, and I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like it. Hopefully we can expect to see more of the same in the coming years under Stephen Kenny’s watch
Ciaran Dineen: Editor.
The one silver lining about situations like this that we currently find ourselves in is that we are given the chance to think back to better days and relive moments of ecstasy. It’s not surprising that sport has always filled those moments for me and while there have been many joyous occasions over the years, a select few have a special place in my heart. October 2011 saw me travel with about 1500 other Cork City fans to Tolka Park, the home of Shelbourne Football Club, for a contest that would see one of the two teams lift the First Division title that night. A winner deep into injury time from Graham Cummins sent me three rows down the stand to where I was originally standing and the best part was that I got to share it with my Dad, who had been bringing me to games since 2004.
As a Chelsea fan nothing will ever surpass winning the Champions League on that historic night in Munich which seemed to almost be like destiny. But moving away from football I go to moments such as the 2008 Wimbledon final between Nadal and Federer, the greatest tennis match ever played bar none. I watched it as an 11 year-old in a bar in Portugal with my mum. As two staunch Rafa fans we lived ever point as if we were in the crowd and were delighted to see him lift the trophy at SW19 that day.
Finally a personal moment that progressed over the course of a week. My Dad was due to undergo an operation as part of his cancer treatment in 2017. Every July we would always take part in a golf event in Kerry and he had brought me since I was about 12. That day I won the competition and received a beautiful Waterford crystal vase. As the mic was passed to me to say a few words I couldn’t but help see the tears rolling down my dad’s face, it was an incredibly special moment that we had shared and we both new why it was particularly poignant. Later that week Cork played Clare in the Munster Final and the rebel renaissance that year continued with Kieran Kingston’s men securing the victory. It topped off a huge week for my family and I as dad faced his own battle just a few days later. Thankfully he came out on top for that too.