Irish Life

100 Reasons We Loved Irish Sport In 2017

100 Reasons We Loved Irish Sport In 2017

In a year when the World Cup was dangled in front of us, only to be taken away, there's a temptation to think that sport just isn't worth it. Why put ourselves through this pain willingly?

But then there are the moments and occasions that remind us why we invest so much in these crazy games. In 2017, Irish sport gave us (at least) 100 reasons to believe.

 

1. A Galway fan and a Tipp fan shake hands after Joe's epic winner

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Pure class

 

2. Peter O'Mahony captaining the Lions

3. Gavan Hennigan rows across the Atlantic Ocean

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The 35 year old Galway man struggled with alcohol and drug addiction as a young man, before turning his life around and taking up adventure sports. This year, he rowed across the Atlantic in an Irish record time.

 

4. Katie Taylor walks to the ring at Wembley Stadium

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5. Cork Hurling Back from the Dead

We didn't expect much but an exciting young team emerged with a Munster title and the Rebel Army taking over Thurles on Munster final day was a sight to behold.

 

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6. Conor O’Shea reinvents rugby and bamboozles England

Eddie Jones didn’t like it one bit, which made it all the sweeter!

 

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7. Kevin De Bruyne swaps shirts with Conor Ronan

The Irish under 21 international impressed so much in Wolves' Carabao Cup clash with Manchester City that Kevin De Bruyne sought him out to swap shirts. The look on his face says it all.

 

8. Imelda May Singing Amhran na bhFiann at McGregor/Mayweather

You may not have been a fan of the event, and you may even have been randomly angry at Imelda for canceling a gig in England to appear, but her singing our National Anthem in front of such a huge worldwide audience was quite a moment

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9. Ireland gets Test cricket status

A journey that has been going on for decades and brought on journeys with the Irish cricket team all around the world finally culminated this year when Ireland became a full member of the International Cricket Council.

It means Ireland will play test matches from next year. It's a reward for a lot of hard work from a lot of people over many, many years.

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10. Michael Lyster and Cyril Farrell absolutely loved Joe Canning's winning point

The video that had it all. Getting behind the scenes of our studio analysts to see that human side is always money. Two Galway men couldn't contain themselves when the most dramatic score of the summer was scored. Neither could Henry Shefflin. Special props to Cyril for still having the wherewithal and composure to mark the scorer even in the heat of the moment.

 

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11. James McClean wearing #5 Vs Wales

Derry lost a hero this year with the sad passing of Derry City captain Ryan McBride. The tributes across Irish sport were many. One of the most poignant was the decision by another proud Derry man James McClean to wear McBride's number 5 jersey for Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Wales at the Aviva Stadium that week.

McClean explained his thinking behind wearing the jersey.

I thought it would be a nice touch, with the jersey if the family want it I think I should give it to them because again I think that would be a nice touch. It's been a tough week for all of us, but I can't imagine the pain they're going through and my thoughts are always with them.

 

12. Roscommon bring the Nestor Cup to Paddy Joe Burke’s barbershop

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There isn't a bigger GAA fan in the country that Roscommon's Paddy Joe Burke. When Roscommon shocked Galway in the Connacht final last summer, they paid special tribute to their biggest fan by paying a visit, along with the newly won silverware, to Paddy Joe's barbershop in Roscommon Town.

 

13. Ryan Burnett unifies world title: 

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Burnett unified the Bantamweight titles in Belfast in October, the first unification bout ever fought on Irish soil. Quietly, the Belfast man has become the most decorated and successful boxer in the country. Hopefully it's something that can get a bit more recognition for in 2018.

 

14. Cian Healy Floors South African

Forgotten in 2017 reviews is that Ireland absolutely hammered South Africa in 2017. South Africa were poor but it's a measure of how far we've come that this was barely a blip on the radar.

Instead, what we most remember is Cian Healy absolutely lamping Dillyn Leyds and it being caught on ref cam.

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15. Bundee Aki settles in quickly to international rugby

Speaking of that game, Bundee Aki did this 50 seconds into his international debut.

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16. #Permutations

Before Denmark ruined all our fun, and before we even went and shockingly did what we needed to do in Wales, the country was awash with #Permutations.

It was a confusing nuisance, but we had it all worked out. There were several ways in which a win in Cardiff would be enough for a playoff place. The simplest started with England to win, and Scotland to beat Slovakia. Incredibly, we got both results in the last minute of the two games. From there, Ireland needed Scotland not to beat Slovenia in Ljubljana. Of course, they went 1-0 up before Gary Mackay Hall of Fame member Roman Bezjak came off the bench to score two in an eventual 2-2 draw. Perfect.

The writing was on the wall. Everything that could go our way had. And then we beat Wales, which brings us to...

 

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17. We won the draw!

We knew nothing could possibly go wrong by the time the playoff draw came around in October. We wanted no part of Italy or Croatia. Switzerland were a bogey we'd like to avoid. Denmark was the team everyone wanted.

First we won #Permutations, then we beat Wales. And now we'd won the draw. Nothing could do wrong from here!

Whatever happened after, those few weeks were fucking great!

 

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18. Posing as a photographer to console your mate

Aishling Maloney won the Ladies' Football Intermediate title in Croke Park in September. Later, when Mayo had lost the senior final, she "borrowed" a photographer's camera and snuck on the field so she could console her DCU roommate Sarah Rowe.

An amazing sporting moment.

 

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19. Peter O’Mahony's interview with Reggie Corrigan

Please don't question Peter O'Mahony's teammates!

 

20. Jack McCaffrey had the time of his life at the All-Ireland banquet

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21. Sarah McCaffrey's goal

It was an amazing week for the McCaffreys. A week after the men's All-Ireland, Jack was in Croke Park again to cheer on his sister Sarah who scored a goal for Dublin who completed the double with another win over Mayo.

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22. Blues Sisters

It was a huge year for Ladies' Gaelic football. Dublin's finally getting over the line after three successive final losses just happened to be in the year they were being filmed for a documentary. The resulting film was a huge success and hopefully should encourage an even bigger 2018 for the sport.

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23. Dan Shanahan still scoring bags of  goals

He's 40. Legend.

 

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24. Dan Shanahan and The Rock roll back the years

Dan's better known these days as the roving Maor of the Waterford backroom team. His Cork counterpart, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, is someone he would have come up against many times back in the day. Instead of being the cooler, older heads these days, they reverted to type this year and got a familiar "stern talking to" from the referee.

 

25. Austin Gleeson can do silly things on a hurling pitch. 

You just shouldn't be able to do this in a middle of a senior intercounty championship match.

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26. Seamus Coleman back training

Our leader. When Everton released photos of his first day back at training, there was genuine yelps in the Balls.ie office. 2018 will be all the better for his return to the field.

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27. Seamus Coleman consoles James McClean after Denmark

Not ready yet to contribute on the pitch, Coleman was there for Ireland in every way possible, even when it all went wrong.

Gutwrenching

A post shared by Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) on

 

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28. 54-year-old man makes his hurling championship debut

 

29. Andy Moran: The Resurrection

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From impact sub to Footballer of the Year, what a 2017. His continued incredible performances over the course of the summer were the source of much joy not just for Mayo but for those in our 30s everywhere.

 

30. Kammy and Jeff love Andy Mor-an

"When you've got a star player like Mor-an, you've got to give him to the ball because he'll either score or he'll feed somebody!"

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31. The Brick is still The Brick

Speaking of old timers warming our heart, the performances of Brick Walsh for Waterford this year were enough to win him an All-Star. The reaction when he left the pitch in the All-Ireland final was unbelievable, with most believing they were saying goodbye to one of the greats of the game. Thankfully though, they were wrong and he'll be back for another year in 2018.

 

32. Cora Staunton wins another All-Ireland

Quite the year for the Ladies' football GOAT with Mayo reaching an All-Ireland final and then went on to win her 6th All-Ireland club title with Carnacon, kicking seven points in the decider.

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33. Cora is off to Australia

And on the back of that All-Ireland win, Cora is off to Australia to play for the GWS Giants in the women's AFL, becoming a professional athlete at 35.

 

34. Leitrim making waves in hurling

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35.  The year of the Buckos

A fine Irish tradition of acting the maggot in front of a live TV camera had a fine year in 2017. There were many fine instances up and down the country, though there was one very clear winner.

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36. Gina Akpe Moses wins Gold! 

A 100 metre sprint gold medal is not something we're used to in Ireland! Amazing moment. Ciara Neville also made the final, don't forget.

 

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37. Chancers in Copenhagen

Before there was Dublin, there was hope and joy in Copenhagen. Kudos to the Irish fans dressing up as Danes to get into the home section undetected, then having the cheek to post it on social media.

 

38. Anthems in Copenhagen: 

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Much was made of the Welsh anthem in Cardiff this year, but the performance of the Irish fans before the playoff in Copenhagen made the hairs stand on the back of our necks.

 

39. Diarmuid Connolly's Christmas present from Pat Gilroy

Thanks Pat ??

A post shared by Diarmuid (@diarmuidc_) on

 

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40. James McClean and friends Vs. The Oxford Bulls

 

41. James McClean and family singing rebel songs after Ireland beat Wales

After scoring one of the biggest goals in Irish football history, he just drives home with a few songs.

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42. James McClean trolls Paul Kimmage 

And we wonder why this guy was Irish Sportsperson of the year?

 

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43. Two Munster legends reunited in England

 

44. Peter Stringer's beard game is amazing. 

 

45. John Meyler is just brilliant

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46. David Meyler is pretty great too

This year he established himself in the Ireland midfield, grew a great beard, went on to captain Ireland, and even did this.

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47. 32 years later, Sophie O'Sullivan wins the same race as her mother

 

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48. Dave Kilcoyne wearing a muumuu

Love the dress @davidkilcoyne1

A post shared by Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) on

 

49. Etna Flanagan plays her 26th inter-county season

And makes it to Croke Park too.

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A post shared by Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) on

 

50. David Burke's All-Ireland speech

With lovely tributes to Tony Keady and to Niall O'Donoghue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caz91JJDKtQ

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51. Tony Keady tributes

Thoughout Galway's All-Ireland glory this year, there was an underlying grief about the loss of the great Tony Keady. His presence was felt many times throughout the summer and beyond, and none more so at the All-Ireland final with Burke's speech, Joe Canning spending his moment of glory with Keady's family and this amazing tribute jersey

There was also this incredible tribute played to the 82,000 in Croke Park at half time in the final.

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52. The Tony Keady Match

Over 7000 turned up in Athenry a few days after the All-Ireland final to pay tribute to Tony Keady to watch the All-Ireland champions take on the great Galway team of 1987 and 1988.

Two father-son combos went up against each other on the day.

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53. Joe Canning's Hurler of the Year Award is presented by a very special guest. 

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I'm not crying. You're crying!

 

54. Sean O'Brien finishes one of the great tries

We say we don't love the Lions, but then we get sucked in every time. When our great number 7 was in the perfect number 7 position to finish off one of the all-time great tries in the first Test in New Zealand, we certainly loved it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DljMAqV3kqw

 

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55. Sean O'Brien teaches James Haskell farming songs

56. Sean O'Brien calls out Warren Gatland and Rob Howley
Not content with a series draw, having a great tour personally, and dominating the social aspect of the trip, O'Brien wasn't afraid to criticise the preparations and coaching of the Lions tour to New Zealand.
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Gatland has basically admitted he was right since.
57. The Dublin Fire Brigade troll England for blowing the Grand Slam

 

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58. Joy Neville completely bossing it

 

59. JP McManus takes JT McNamara's 10-year-old son into the winner's enclosure in Cheltenham

It was totally spontaneous and it was lovely to be able to do it. I want him and them to have a good memory of Cheltenham. It meant a lot to me, and I hope that when they think of Cheltenham it will not be all bad, that there may be some good memories from it.

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60. David Clifford is going to be a superstar

Just the 4-4 in the All-Ireland minor final for the young man.

61. Longford fan saves the day

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When Robbie Smyth went off as a blood substitute in Longford's away trip to Donegal in the qualifiers, he couldn't return to the game, because of the blood on his jersey.

Luckily Eugene Quaine made the trip up to Ballybofey and was there to save the day. He told us:

So Robbie came off the pitch as a blood sub and jersey covered in blood There was no spare jersey so the Longford mentors washed his jersey with water but the 4th official still wouldn't let him back on with it as it was still obviously blood stained. Longford management were panicking about getting their best player back on.

I was wearing the same replica 13 jersey that he had on. So I took it off and one my friends threw it to that maor foinse -Trevor Smullen, he runs to Robbie and Robbie wears it back on the field!

 

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62. Wexford beat Kilkenny

Davy might have been banned, but that didn't stop them getting their first championship win over Kilkenny since 2004. An amazing night in Wexford Park, bettered only by the manager greeting his players in the tunnel afterwards.

 

63. Liam Spratt doesn't give a shit about bans

The legendary Wexford commentator wanted Davy to speak to the people of Wexford

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64. Waterford beat Kilkenny

1959 was a long time ago. There might have been a bit of white line fever in normal time, but they did they job and then some in extra time. A real GAA hoodoo finally put to bed.

 

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65. Westmeath Under 21 hurling goalkeeper is cult hero

Westmeath couldn't repeat their heroics of beating Kilkenny in the U21 Championship this year, but their performance produced a GAA cult hero in goalkeeper Sean Maher.

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66. Gerry Armstrong redefines biased commentating

 

67. Nigel Owens yellow cards a ball boy in the RDS

Ah the craic.

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68. Bray Wanderers release the greatest statement in the history of sport

It included this:

Wicklow County has unfortunately now attained the accolade of being the North Korea of Ireland for business.
But like all suppressed people, they eventually revolt, a revolution of Football is going to start and Bray Wanderers will be the leaders not just for Wicklow but for Ireland in this revolt.

 

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69.  Kevin McStay crying after Connacht final

What a moment of redemption.

 

70. Like father, like son

Aidan O'Brien had his best ever season, breaking all kinds of records. But when it came time to finally end his Melbourne Cup losing streak, he was beaten at the post by his own son.

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Unbelievable.

 

71. An opera singer sings about Tadhg Furlong

 

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72. Ronan O'Gara returns to Thomond with Racing, and joins wrong warm up

 

73. Shane Long's encouragement for Sean Maguire's debut

He had a horror night, in the midst of the worst run of form of his career, but his greeting for the debuting Seani Maguire was pure class.

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Eamon Dunphy even took time out to point it out.

I saw Shane Long coming off the other night, and a young kid from Cork who could be his successor is coming on, and he gives him a big hug. You know? Really, genuinely wishing him all the best after having a nightmare himself where he missed three good chances.

That's character. And generosity, within that team.

 

74. Shane Long looking after Seamus Coleman

A horrible moment, but Long again was absolutely class.

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75. 10 year old lifts the cup for Dr. Crokes on St. Patrick's Day

When Dr. Crokes ended a 25 year wait for an All-Ireland in March, team captain Johnny Buckley called up 10 year old Amy O'Connor to help him lift the cup. Amy had been suffering with serious illness for the previous year.

 

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76. Shane Duffy's Emergence

The year that Shane Duffy became a staple for Ireland. A set piece weapon the likes of which we've never seen, and man can he head a ball like nobody's business.

 

77. Pep Guardiola seeks out Harry Arter

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78. Gaelic Players for Change

Over 400 players slept out to raise funds and awareness for homelessness. An unbelievable initiative.

 

79. Limerick Under 21s celebrate winning All-Ireland

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80. Rory Beggan playing fly goalie

Monaghan keeper Rory Beggan bursts up the field and scores a point. The dream of all football playing children.

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81. The Cartel

 

82. Zak Moradi plays in Croke Park

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Zak Moradi arrived in Leitrim as an 11-year old refugee during the first Gulf War in 1991. This year, he played in Croke Park in the Lory Meagher final. He told the Irish Times:

When you play GAA, you become part of the community and part of the culture.

 

83. Paddy Holohan retirement statement

The Dublin fighter was forced to call time on his career this year. His statement includes:

I really did see MMA as the way to have a real shot at life for myself and my family and it turns out I was right.

I have mixed emotions about it:

• Proud because I always wore my heart on my sleeve, stood my ground, never cheated, never turned away from diversity or challenges and always strived to inspire and encourage people from all backgrounds.

• Sad because I will never make that walk again, under those lights, feeling all those uncomfortable yet life giving feelings as they count and you hear "walk walk walk" staring into a camera, knowing millions are watching but most importantly the Irish are watching.

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84. Con o’Callaghan won bloody everything

An unstoppable force this year at two sports. Maybe Pat Gilroy should be sending him hurleys too.

 

85. Katie Taylor's mam is such an Irish mam

In the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and in just her 7th professional fight, Katie dominated Anahi Sanchez from start to finish to become a pro world champ. When the decision was announced, Katie's mother couldn't contain herself and burst into the ring, before, like any Irish mother, she gave Sanchez a big hug for her troubles too.

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86. Gooch wins his club All-Ireland

He'd done everything else. But the club always means the most. What a moment.

87. Mark McNulty penalty shootout save

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2017 was all about Cork City. Their blood feud with Dundalk has made the League of Ireland eminently more exciting over the past couple of years.

Goalkeeper Mark McNulty has had a pretty big part in that feud. When he needed to back in the up, in the FAI Cup Final shootout, he did, saving Dundalk's last penalty and securing the double for City.

 

88. The Randolphs

While Darren was keeping out the Danes in Copenhagen, his brother Neil was dropping bombs in the Super League of Irish basketball for Templeogue. Their dad Ed was in Oblate Hall watching Neil, with more than one eye on his phone where Darren's heroics against Denmark were playing out.

Wonderful.

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89. John Mullane has extremely cheeky challnege for Grainne Seoige  on Up For The Match

 

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90. This lad

One happy Offaly man - tonight after Offaly came back to beat Westmeath.

A post shared by Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) on

 

91. Keith Earls runs amoc in Japan

After years of bad luck with injury, Earls had probably his best ever year. His performances in Japan last summer really emphasised this, as he completely dominated.

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92. Peter O'Mahony's lineout steal against England 

A man of the match performance that stopped an English Grand Slam in Dublin summed up by this moment

 

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93. Bundee Aki celebrates his Ireland debut with his family 

 

94. Ireland's Burnley contingent 

In a world where Ireland have fewer and fewer Premier League players, there's a group of four in a battle for European places at Burnley.

 

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95. Preston is our new Championship club

The League of Irleand's English championship representatives have given us a new score to check every Saturday in 2017.

 

96. Vinnie Murphy quit the fags and made a comeback

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97. Dean Rock's balls of steel

Unfazed by a poor free earlier in the game, the pressure of the moment, and even a GPS being thrown at him, Rock nailed the historic 3-in-a-row kick.

 

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98. Cometh the hour, cometh the Joe

The moment that may define Joe Canning's career. Could it have been more perfect?

 

99. Joe Canning celebrates with his parents

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What it's all about. Both of Canning's parents have had health issues in recent years. The pride on his dad's facej just gets us every time.

 

100. James McClean puts the ball in the Welsh net

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Ah lads. How good was this?

 

What a year! I love sport.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caz91JJDKtQ

Michael McCarthy

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