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Ranking The All-Ireland Football Finals In Order Of The Most Iconic

Ranking The All-Ireland Football Finals In Order Of The Most Iconic
Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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Some All-Irelands are remembered, some are largely forgotten. Here we rank every All-Ireland final since 1990 in order of the most iconic.

By iconic, we don't mean the most exciting game or the match of the greatest quality. We mean the matches that have been most historically memorable, the finals which still generate talking points, the finals whose images have stuck in people's minds and the finals which still make supporters ache when they think of them. The finals that have been most remembered by popular culture.

24. 2007

Kerry beat Cork easily to win their second All-Ireland title in a row. The game was one-sided but not so freakishly one-sided as to be memorable. It was over shortly into the second half when Kieran Donaghy passed a ball into an empty net after ripping it off the full back. The game petered out and most neutrals lost interest well before the end.

23. 2001

It was hard to believe at the end but Meath went into the game as heavy favourites after destroying Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. However, they were remarkably meek throughout. Galway stuck with them in an encouraging first half, and then cut loose in the second period, cantering away from them. We awaited the kick-back from Meath.

It never came and Galway careered to their second victory in three years. A combination of the reasonably one-sided nature of the game and the fact that roughly the same Galway team had won an All-Ireland three years earlier made it a low-key celebration.

22. 1999

A relatively low-scoring final, the game is remembered for Joe Kavanagh's sensational second half goal (his second solo goal on a losing All-Ireland team). Graham Geraghty sent a few lovely points sailing over the crossbar as Meath kept them at arm's length towards the end. It was in the middle of that Meath, Kerry, Galway  All-Ireland sequence.

The game and whole era is notable for Trevor Giles going sleeveless.




21. 2004

For some reason, the memory of this final has been obliterated by the final two years later. It's almost as if the two games have been subsumed into one. Except the '06 game was that bit more freakish and horrible for Mayo supporters.

20. 1990

Meath and Cork almost held the deeds to the All-Ireland final in the 1980s. In compilations, their three finals all seem to roll into one.


It was an era despised by the purists but beloved of machismo junkies.

1990 was a typically sour, low scoring games. This game is most notable for being the one where Cork secured the double and Mick Lyons got boxed but barely flinched.


19. 2009

Mainly remembered for Tadhg Kennelly's input, his elbow early on, his two excellent points during the match, his jig on the podium and his interview afterwards.

After a poorish start, Kerry demonstrated coolness and experience to get ahead of Cork by half time. They 'defended with the ball' for the final ten minutes without being in any obvious discomfort.




18. 2010

A curiously forgotten victory. This is in spite of the novel pairing, the close contest, the fact that Cork had been rapping at the door for a while. Down built up an incredible momentum in the qualifiers that year, and at half-time in the final it looked as though it was going to sustain them all the way to the title.

However, Cork's maligned forwards came good in the final quarter and the Munster side poked their noses in front to condemn Down to their first ever All-Ireland defeat.


 17. 1997

Kerry's first All-Ireland in eleven years came after a drab final in which Mayo never really showed. The game is principally remembered for being Maurice Fitzgerald's signature match.


16. 2000

Darragh Ó Sé always complained that matches Kerry win are never considered classics.

Despite the fact that it went to a replay, the two game saga of 2000 is no exception. The first game was tight and blighted by frees. The replay thirteen days later is remembered for Galway nailing the goal of the decade in the opening minutes but thereafter Seamus Moynihan, Mike Frank Russell and John Crowley were the key players as Kerry won out by four points.


15. 1994

A wet day and a half built Cusack Stand. The game is most remembered for Charlie Redmond missing a penalty in the final few minutes and then squirting the rebound wide. Also, Down's captain DJ Kane was a Martin McGuinness doppelganger.



14. 1993

Maiden All-Ireland victories are usually recalled better. However, it is sandwiched between a host of Ulster triumphs and consequently has been forgotten somewhat. Derry's one point semi-final win over Dublin is remembered better by most GAA fans, partly thanks to Breaking Ball's lovely segment of Johnny McGurk's winning point. Joe Brolly has kept the memory alive via his Twitter handle.


13. 1991

Meath's 1,000th game that year and they almost mounted another incredible comeback. They found themselves 11 points down early in the second half and almost came back to get it done. Down's sleek forward play early on gave them a lead that Bernard Flynn and co couldn't quite reel in.

12. 2012

Not the most memorable Donegal game of the Jim McGuinness era (that distinction goes jointly to the 2011 and 2014 semi-finals), Donegal banged two early goals and thereafter weren't at their most awe-inspiring as they did no more than hold off a Mayo team who weren't yet the finished article.



11. 2013

One of the most heavily anticipated All-Ireland finals of all, and billed beforehand as a buccaneering shoot-out, it turned out to be a curiously shite game. A suffocating, tense affair where everything was congested in the middle of the park. It was a game where there was just too much at stake.

After the devastating statement that was their win over Donegal in the quarters, Mayo folk had talked themselves into thinking this was the one. Therefore, the defeat was much harder to take after Dublin weathered an early storm to win the game after a strong third quarter. The crucial score of the game was Brogan's first goal. A bolt from the blue which halted Mayo's early momentum.

10. 2008

Billed as a game of the decade type event between the dominant teams of the era, it proved to be Kerry's worst nightmare. Succumbing to a Sean Cavanagh inspired Tyrone seemed to leave them with the feeling that winning the previous two All-Irelands had been for nothing.

9. 2003

A game which marked a low point in North-South relations in Gaelic football. A horrible negative match, which included one of the Tyrone forwards punching the Armagh goalkeeper with a water bottle no less. Neutrals could hardly bring themselves too celebrate Peter Canavan and Tyrone's first ever All-Ireland win.


8. 1995

A crap match as a panicky Dublin side willed their way to a one point win after a series of agonising big day defeats against Ulster opposition. Charlie Redmond remaining on the pitch having been sent off was typical of Dublin's attitude that day. No team has been more desperate for an All-Ireland as Dublin in '95.


7. 2005

A superb match, Tyrone stood tall for a second time in three years against Kerry. A match famous for its high quality, Peter Canavan's coolly taken goal and Brian Dooher invoking the name of Cormac McAnallen in his speech.


6. 2002

Well recalled for Pat Spillane's dismissal of Armagh at half-time when Kerry were looking good for another All-Ireland. Armagh wrestled their way back into the match with Oisin McConville banging a goal and Francie Bellew locking the wiry Colm Cooper in saran wrap for the second half.

5. 1998

Kildare were giddy with the tag of favouritism going into the 98 final but they were dispatched by the sexiest, most stylish forward line in the business. Michael Donnellon left them with twisted blood, Ja Fallon sent over booming points from all angles and Padraig Joyce and Niall Finnegan chipped over scores at will as Galway overwhelmed them in the second half.

A Year til Sunday helped this final become one of the more iconic ones.

4. 2006

Despite the margin, a final that has lingered in the memory because of the bomb that exploded in Mayo's faces early on. The horror of it all framed the opening chapter of Keith Duggan's House of Pain. For some reason, it has lived longer in the memory than the somewhat similar final of 2004.

3. 2011

A Dublin-Kerry final teed up by the usual 1970s Dublin-Kerry inspired montages on RTE. And it was a suitably dramatic final, with Stephen Cluxton lashing the winning point into the mouth of Hill 16. It's been partially overshadowed by the semi-final two years later.



2. 1992

Not an attractive game a la 1998, but Donegal people's distinctive wildness, which is on show every time Brendan Devenney appears on Off The Ball, ensures most of their wins are memorable. However, the Dublin hubris that was rampant before the final has also made this a curiously iconic final. Also, the Dublin team took an extremely unwise open top bus tour of the city the day after the loss.

1.  1996

The most famous All-Ireland final of the last thirty years, this is usually portrayed as the sporting equivalent of Bambi's mum being slaughtered. Mayo, the naive romantics in search of their first All-Ireland in 45 years being reeled in by the pantomime villains of the GAA.

The equalising point bouncing almost comically over the crossbar in the first game, the frenzied punch-up early in the replay followed by Liam McHale trudging disconsolately towards the line, the game has produced an abundance of storylines and famous images.



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