2012 was a mad, mad year for Irish sport, the kind of eventful, heartbreaking year we may never see again. To commemorate it, Balls.ie writers Xavier McDaniel, PJ Browne, Paul Ring and Cian Tracey have offered their reflections on the year that was.
Countdown from #30 - #21 below
#30. Sean St. Ledger's levels for Ireland against Croatia
I can still remember the disbelief that followed this goal. The Croats reacted like the whistle hadn't been blown or that St Ledger was a mile offside. Then came the euphoria from the realisation that actually Ireland were in this game and in this tournament and all that stupid optimism and talk of beating Spain was justified. We didn't know then that this was just a blip, the only moment of genuine on-field pleasure that the tournament would provide Ireland supporters. McGeady's freekick was lofted inch perfect and St Ledger found a gap. The 24 hours before the match had been so frenetic with hope, especially Sunday morning when all realised just how many Irish people had taken to Poznan. This is all the Ireland team would give us. It is hard to know whether to savour it or to begrudge that insane hope it inspired for the crushing dejection that would come and come and come over the following week. XMcD
#29 That Crazy Shot That Bubba Watson Took From The Forest In The Masters Playoff
Everyone loves Bubba Watson right? How you could not at least like a man who owns the General Lee car from The Dukes of Hazard, has never had a golf lesson and who reportedly; has never seen a replay of his swing. Bubba has a go, does what feels like on the course and has a maverick talent.
That combination came to the fore at the most critical of times at this year’s Masters. In a play-off to win the green jacket with the cultured swing of Louis Oosthuizen as his opponent, Bubba went far right off the tee and into the trees. What followed next was an improbable shot that arched its way onto the green and ultimately won him his first major. PR
#28 Rafa Gets Booed
Rafael Benitez's arrival at Chelsea has been heralded as one of the worst welcomes that a manager has ever recieved, without having been involved in a single game. Benitez has a long competitive history with Chelsea during his time with Liverpool. His comment that Chelsea fans lacked passion came back to haunt him as he recieved a frosty welcome in his first game in charge against Manchester City. As Benitez walked out from the tunnel to take his place on the bench, the boos that he was met with were incredible. Added to his previous issues with the club, Chelsea fans were distraught at losing Roberto Di Matteo in such a cold hearted manner. Di Matteo had been taken into Stamford Bridge like an adopted son so regardless of who took over the job, they were always going to be in for a tough time. CT
Sky's Geoff Shreeves was quick to remind Rafa of his welcome and wasn't willing to let him brush it aside, another moment from that day which won't be forgotten in a hurry. CT
#27 Kevin Kilbane's Ice Ice Baby
I'm happy to admit I was wrong about Kevin Kilbane. Despite his great showings in Paris for Ireland, his undoubted commitment to the team and his obvious love for Ireland, I was quietly happy when he retired from international football. He always seemed like a liability in defense. He sounded like a decent bloke in interviews and commentary on Newstalk post-Ireland, but it was seeing this video that changed my mind forever on Kilbane. Anybody can rattle off 'The Green Fields of France' but rapping takes skill. Killers kills. It's empowering to know one of Ireland's most capped internationals can rap. DM
#26 Paddy Jackson's Corner Conversion In Training
It might have been on the training ground but this is some rare skill from Paddy Jackson. Angles literally do not get much tighter. >
With Ronan O'Gara's light dimming and Johnny Sexton being leaned on heavily for the Irish team we are in dire need of options. Paddy Jackson is just 20 years of age and is a precocious talent.
Small glimpses at ability like this are always cause for optimism. PJB
#25 Seanie Johnston Hurls At Corner Forward
Up to the August bank holiday when it became impossible for the haters to write off Donegal as serial buspakers, Seanie J was possibly the biggest GAA story of the year. Those 90 seconds he played for Coill Dubh provided the most talked about even in Kildare club hurling of this or any other year. It was fitting that the bungled 'transfer' ended in this most bizarre of ways. After endless appeals to the CCCC, Johnston, McGeeney and Kildare found a loophole that would get Johnston into a white jersey. Most simply assumed that shame would prevent them for lining out Johnston for a brief hurling cameo - it was certainly an act of disrespect to whomever Johnston replaced in the CD starting XV. In the end, Johnston's arrival coincided with a drubbing at the hands of Meath and for the rest of the Championship he made almost zero impact, and the cherished ethics of the GAA did not collapse. We did get an unusual into how the GAA, and indeed Ireland works. XMcD
#24 Seamus Coleman's brilliant nutmeg
Things were at a low ebb for the Irish football team this autumn following the heavy defeat to Germany. We had a manager whom the consensus was against and he was stubborn on top of that, unwilling to change and be progressive with his selections for the Irish team.
Seamus Coleman was one of those players Irish football supporters were clambering to see selected. He could offer an exciting option at right back.
When he was selected there against Greece, he really shone and produced a moment of brilliance which he is more than capable for reproducing in the future. PJB
#23 Michael Murphy's Goal After Two Minutes
It took Michael Murphy just two and a half minutes to make his mark on the All-Ireland.
Karl Lacey took possession of the ball at midfield, rounded a Mayo opponent and soloed the ball to the opposition 45 metre line. He looked up, spotted Murphy and lobbed the ball into the full forward who claimed the ball over Kevin Keane before lashing the ball past David Clarke with ferocious power.
Donegal supporters were ecstatic, Mayo's semi-deflated. It was the goal of the championship.
And it never really felt like Donegal were going to lose the game from that moment on. PJB
#22 Richie Sadlier vs Liam Brady
Many Ireland fans on the social media era don't really feel like they have much a go-to pundit on the RTE Panel. Chippy is so loyal to Trap, Dunphy's lost most of his credibility as a pundit and Giles is just Giles. Over the last few months, through a few various coincidences (thunderstorm in the Ukraine, Dunphy's September illness), Richie Sadlier has taken his place on that panel and emerged as the voice of the pissed-off Ireland fan who feel terribly let down by the direction that Trap has taken Ireland football. His scraps with Brady (above post Spain, below post Kazakhstan) were some of the most interesting discussions to happen on the RTÉ panel in a long time. XMcD
#21 Tim Tebow's Breaks The Internet With Overtime Touchdown Pass
The Broncos and Steelers were tied 23-23 going into overtime of the wildcard round playoff game last January. On the very first play of overtime Tim Tebow fired a pass to his wide receiver Demaryius Thomas who handed off the Steelers defensive back and ran the ball in for an 80 yard touch down, winning the game for the Broncos.
2011 had been a pretty good year for Tim Tebow after he took over from Kyle Orton as the Broncos starting quarterback. He was the catalyst for some miraculous wins against the Jets and Dolphins. Many people doubted his ability to be a long term starting NFL quarterback and they have pretty much been proved right since.
But the moment when he completed that pass to Thomas was amazing. It was totally unexpected. Many people wanted Tebow and the Broncos to win but deep down they did not believe that he had the ability to do it.
What made it even more incredible was it being the first time the new NFL overtime rules had been implemented which meant that a field goal on a team's first possession would no longer be enough to win the game, a touchdown would be required.
And Tebow obliged. PJB