GAA

The Most Memorable Days On The Hill

The Most Memorable Days On The Hill

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a blizzard of texts were sent at around 5.15 yesterday evening proclaiming, "that was the best I was ever at!"

Whether it was a better game than the 2013 semi-final between the same games is a judgement best left to, in the words of Dick Spring, the cooler light of history. Either way, fans left Croker believing they'd seen something special.

Before yesterday, the Hill has witnessed many memorable occasions down the decades.

Jimmy Keaveney and Sean Doherty stood on the Hill for the 1973 All-Ireland final between Cork and Galway. They were employed as stewards that day.

A year later, they would win the most unlikely All-Ireland of all time with Dublin. The contents of the Hill spilled out onto the Croke Park pitch, singing, according to some sources 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

At the start of the '74 championship, the Hill was sparsely populated for Dublin games.

When Leslie Deegan lofted over that winning point against Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final, vast swathes of concrete were visible on the terrace. By September, that terrain had been occupied by the new recruits of Heffo's Army. Hill 16 has witnessed many glorious days since.

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Dublin v Cork, 1974 All-Ireland football semi-final

No television footage of this game exists as RTE decided to send their only outside broadcast unit to the Horse Show in the RDS.

Dublin had already violently surpassed expectations by beating Offaly and Meath en route to a Leinster title. Still, no one anticipated they'd beat the reigning All-Ireland champions. Prior to the game, the Cork team decided to book into the Clarence Hotel for the final.

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The game provided the final proof that this Dublin team had arrived. And the Hill was now packed with creatures who, a year previously, would never have thought to pitch up at the Jones's Road.

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Future Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole, who freely owned up to being a 'fair-weather supporter', described the scene.

Like many fair-weather fans, I had lost interest in the Dubs through their barren years of the early 1970s. I turned up that day more out of curiosity than expectation, pleased that they had somehow got that far and certain that they were in for a heavy defeat by a fine Cork side. But before the shock of discovering how good Dublin were, there was another, even greater shock. The far side of Hill 16 was now occupied by creatures the likes of which could not be imagined within the GAA's sanctum sanctorum even a year before.

They were young, working-class Dublin males. They sang and chanted and threw shapes, pointing in mocking unison at the culchies in the Hogan Stand. There was not a paper hat or a rosette between them, just scarves draped over their angular shoulders or held aloft in swaying exultation. They were, in short, soccer fans. Anfield and Dalymount Park had come to Croker like Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane, a physical migration as wondrous as it was unsettling.

 

Dublin v Galway, 1983 All-Ireland football final

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Memorable for some dodgy reasons. The 1983 All-Ireland final was at least the spur for better days on the Hill. The authorities heeded the warnings of the '83 All-Ireland.

There was severe overcrowding on the Hill on that wet day in 1983, with many supporters shuddering at the memory.

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A violent match and a poisonous atmosphere. The Dublin supporters could at least celebrate victory. Galway fans traipsed home with many labeling one of their worst experiences of all.

Mayo v Dublin, 2006 All-Ireland football semi-final

The Hill didn't take kindly to the spectacle of green and red shirts making a bolt for their end after the Mayo team photo.

Nor did the Dublin players react well upon seeing the Mayo lads lamping balls into 'their' terrace. The last thing they were going to do was warm up in front of the Canal End. That was obviously an impossibility.

Therefore, the Dublin players were left with no option but to link arms and march down to the Hill. Clearly, pumped to the max, they vigorously saluted their people on the terrace. It was real pro-wrestling stuff. They proceeded to warm up down the same end as the Mayo players. Pillar Caffrey threw a shoulder into the back of Mayo selector John Morrison.

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By all accounts, any O'Neills footballs with the word 'MAYO' scrawled across them which happened to clear the back netting and land in the terrace were not returned to its owners.

Dublin v Kerry, 2011 All-Ireland football final

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The aftermath of the 2011 decider offered up a bonanza in camera-phone footage from Hill 16. Internet surfers were treated to a variety of behind-the-goal angles on Stephen Cluxton's last minute winning free.

Dublin had gone sixteen tortuous years without an All-Ireland. While the titles won under Jim Gavin's stewardship were claimed with Dublin labouring under the burden of favouritism, the 2011 triumph was a surprise smash and grab win.

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Unquestionably, one of the biggest celebrations the Hill has witnessed. It will be hard beaten, not least because it's difficult to see Dublin enduring so long a famine ever again.

Dublin v Mayo, 2013 All-Ireland football final

The Hill embraced multiculturalism for the 2013 All-Ireland football final, something it typically spurns for games involving the Dubs.

After consulting the GAA rulebook, which surprisingly doesn't house a law saying that only Dubs must stand on the Hill for Dubs matches, the Mayo supporters, giddily anticipating their first All-Ireland in 62 years, asserted their right to stand on the famous terrace for what could be a historic occasion.

Alas, it wasn't quite so historic as instead they got to witness Dublin bridging a two year gap to their last All-Ireland.

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Kilkenny v Limerick, 2014 All-Ireland hurling semi-final

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Not a game involving Dublin but burned into the memories of all who were there. The rain came so hard and so heavy that many on the Hill couldn't even handle it.

An hour into the game and even those seated at home in their armchairs were struggling to watch.

The match was responsible for very nearly giving those present a glimpse at what would have been the most 21st century moment in the history of GAA watching.

There, they would have spotted a group of supporters huddled over a mobile phone trying to watch the game on the RTE Player from the bowels of Hill 16. It could have been the most 2014 moment in GAA history had Croke Park's wifi not let them down.

Read more: Kings Of The Hill - The Great Characters Of Hill 16

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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