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
2. Peter O'Mahony captaining the Lions
3. Gavan Hennigan rows across the Atlantic Ocean
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.
— Gavan Hennigan (@soulogav) February 2, 2017
4. Katie Taylor walks to the ring at Wembley Stadium
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.
6. Conor O’Shea reinvents rugby and bamboozles England
Eddie Jones didn’t like it one bit, which made it all the sweeter!
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
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.
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.
Delight in studio for the two Galway men pic.twitter.com/1et3wrkIjD
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 6, 2017
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
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.
— Brian Carroll (@bcarroll17) July 10, 2017
13. Ryan Burnett unifies world title:
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) October 21, 2017
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.
15. Bundee Aki settles in quickly to international rugby
Speaking of that game, Bundee Aki did this 50 seconds into his international debut.
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...
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!
18. Posing as a photographer to console your mate
Had to fire our new photographer - while covering All Ireland Day she wanted time off to play in one of the games..."YOUR FIRED" 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/B9yLFK3DvA
— Anois (@AnoisPhoto) September 25, 2017
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.
19. Peter O’Mahony's interview with Reggie Corrigan
Please don't question Peter O'Mahony's teammates!
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) October 7, 2017
20. Jack McCaffrey had the time of his life at the All-Ireland banquet
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) September 17, 2017
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.
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) September 24, 2017
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.
23. Dan Shanahan still scoring bags of goals
Full Time Lismore 6-13 Passage 3-19 Lismore were 16 points down at half time Shanahans scored 6-9 between them 2-8 for Maurice 4-1 for Dan
— Tomás McCarthy (@tomasmcc) April 15, 2017
He's 40. Legend.
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.
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 18, 2017
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.
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.
28. 54-year-old man makes his hurling championship debut
"He will be a starter too, so it's not a sympathy-type thing. Inspiration barely begins to describe this man." https://t.co/1cgHhxoEik
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) May 5, 2017
29. Andy Moran: The Resurrection
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!"
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
— Gerry Mc Namee (@gerrymc123) November 11, 2017
38. Anthems in Copenhagen:
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
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.
42. James McClean trolls Paul Kimmage
And we wonder why this guy was Irish Sportsperson of the year?
43. Two Munster legends reunited in England
44. Peter Stringer's beard game is amazing.
45. John Meyler is just brilliant
John Meyler, Cork bainisteoir, gets very emotional after his sides injury time victory over Waterford in the Munster under 21 hurling SF. pic.twitter.com/qI7V4Mta43
— GAA BEO TG4 (@GAA_BEO) July 14, 2017
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.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 5, 2017
47. 32 years later, Sophie O'Sullivan wins the same race as her mother
— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) July 16, 2017
48. Dave Kilcoyne wearing a muumuu
49. Etna Flanagan plays her 26th inter-county season
And makes it to Croke Park too.
50. David Burke's All-Ireland speech
With lovely tributes to Tony Keady and to Niall O'Donoghue
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
— Alan Kinsella (@electionlit) September 3, 2017
There was also this incredible tribute played to the 82,000 in Croke Park at half time in the final.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) September 3, 2017
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.
What a great photo! Joe and Joseph Cooney and our own Gerry Mac with his son Gearóid McInerney at the Tony Keady Fund match in Kenny Park pic.twitter.com/d4mKi1CgX2
— Kinvara GAA (@kinvaragaa) September 7, 2017
53. Joe Canning's Hurler of the Year Award is presented by a very special guest.
— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) November 3, 2017
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.
55. Sean O'Brien teaches James Haskell farming songs
— Dublin Fire Brigade (@DubFireBrigade) March 18, 2017
58. Joy Neville completely bossing it
Joy Neville today becomes the first woman to referee a European professional club fixture.
She takes charge of the Challenge Cup game between Bordeaux and Enisei in France.
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 15, 2017
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.
60. David Clifford is going to be a superstar
Just the 4-4 in the All-Ireland minor final for the young man.
— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) September 17, 2017
61. Longford fan saves the day
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!
A Longford supporter next to me had to give his jersey so Longford #13 could re-enter field of play. Mad, Ted.
— Niall (@Nially1988) July 1, 2017
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
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.
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.
This Westmeath U21 keeper is definitely my new favourite hurler
— Paddy Aherne (@Paddyaherne) June 21, 2017
Westmeath goalie in u-21 this evening is a thing of beauty
— Colm Óg Doran (@ColmDoran91) June 21, 2017
I'm sorry we won't be seeing more of that Westmeath goalie this year. Clearly quite a character.
— Enda McEvoy (@EndaEndamac95) June 21, 2017
The Westmeath U21 goalie is the hero the GAA has been crying out for
— Dannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Florek (@WildState) June 21, 2017
66. Gerry Armstrong redefines biased commentating
got a bit bored today so I put together a supercut of gerry armstrong praising northern ireland during the last 20 mins of their heroic 0-0 draw. pic.twitter.com/7YcbOEjR6Y
— James Lorenzo (@_JamesLorenzo) November 12, 2017
67. Nigel Owens yellow cards a ball boy in the RDS
Ah the craic.
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.
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.
71. An opera singer sings about Tadhg Furlong
72. Ronan O'Gara returns to Thomond with Racing, and joins wrong warm up
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) January 21, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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
— Sky Sports PL (@SkySportsPL) February 14, 2017
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
— Jerome O'Connell (@JeromeSport) September 9, 2017
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.
81. The Cartel
— Irish Biltong Co. 🏆 (@Irishbiltong) September 1, 2017
82. Zak Moradi plays in Croke Park
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.
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.
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
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.
— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) November 11, 2017
89. John Mullane has extremely cheeky challnege for Grainne Seoige on Up For The Match
John Mullane on his possible upcoming horse ride should Waterford win the All-Ireland pic.twitter.com/tk61bnWTFD
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) September 2, 2017
90. This lad
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.
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
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.
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
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.
98. Cometh the hour, cometh the Joe
The moment that may define Joe Canning's career. Could it have been more perfect?
— The GAA (@officialgaa) August 6, 2017
99. Joe Canning celebrates with his parents
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
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) October 9, 2017
Ah lads. How good was this?
What a year! I love sport.