It was a tremendous year for Irish sport and over the next three days, we're counting down the top 30 moments of the sporting year. Here are moments #30-21.
#30 - Own point scored in the Cavan championship
It's been a long time since Cavan were a force in gaelic football, but that doesn't mean you won't see the rare and the beautiful at Cavan club matches. It's unclear what Stefan Connolly of Ramor had in mind when he volleyed this kick off the ground in a Cavan championship game back in September. Maybe he misjudged that mercurial Cavan wind, but either way, he produced that rarest of things in the GAA: an own point. Within hours of the point going over the bar, Cavan was trending on Twitter. For putting Cavan GAA back on the map, Stefan Connolly is the first entrant in our own Moments of the Year post.
Wow! An 'own point' from Stefan Connolly pic.twitter.com/YYZni7jvEC
— We Are Cavan (@Wearecavan) September 13, 2015
#29 - Irish lads take over France-New Zealand World Cup game
The Rugby World Cup quarterfinal draw was quite sympathetic to Irish fans, in a purely logistical sense. Beat France and top the group, play Argentina in Cardiff on a Sunday. Lose to France and finish second in the group, play New Zealand on the previous night. Cardiff turned green that weekend, and during that Saturday night damp squib between New Zealand and France, the Millennium stadium turned into an Irish home ground. Many Irish fans had bought tickets expecting a match with the All Blacks. They did not let the occasion go to waste. It's just a pity what happened the next day.
#28 - Super Bowl 49 decided on 1 yard line
It all felt inevitable. On the last drive of the game, and trailing by four, Seattle had driven to the one-yard-line, thanks in large part to unbelievable catch by Jermaine Kearse. The Patriots had seen this movie before, losing two previous Super Bowls in similar gut-wrenching fashion. But on 2nd and goal from the 1, the Seahawks inexplicably called a passing play when a Marshawn Lynch running TD was all but inevitable. Little-known cornerback Malcolm Butler made the play of his life and the rest is history. An incredible game decided in unbelievable fashion.
#27 - Irish fan serenades Holly Holm
The UFC's desire to ensure the fans are always front and centre can be a bit of a blessing and a curse. It's a commendable policy yet, at times, it can quickly descend into downright anarchy as fans jostle to get control of a mic for the sole purpose of slurring through some kind of poorly constructed question/taunt. (We're definitely not thinking of one 2015 Dublin event in particular)
This wasn't one of those times. It could and perhaps should have been horribly embarrassing but the man just had it. The confidence and the signing ability were there in spades and he had the MGM Grand hooked.
We'll entirely ignore the fact that Holly Holm was beginning to look a bit nervous and just concentrate on the dulcet tones of an Irish crowd enjoying a weekend that few of them will ever forget. The fact that she walked off stage to another Irish fan singing, this time a very impressive rendition of The Auld Triangle, just topped it off nicely.
#26 - Annie Power falls at the last on the first day of Cheltenham
There was no gambling moment as agonising as Annie Power's fall at the final fence on the first day at Cheltenham this year. The smart money that fateful day was on a Mullins/Ruby 4 race accumulator. Walsh had already delivered wins aboard Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen, and a win on Annie Power, 4/7 favourite, seemed like a done deal as the horses reached their final jump. Instead, bizarrely, Annie Power jumped far too early and crashed through the barrier. The stumble saved the bookies £40 million and nearly caused heart attacks across Ireland and Britain.
#25 - Padraig Harrington wins the Honda Open
One thing next to no one in Irish sport or world golf predicted was a PGA tournament win for Padraig Harrington. Yet his Honda Classic win in March goes down as one of the most memorable achievements of the Irish sporting year. As ever with Harrington, he did it the hard way: birdieing four holes in a row on the back 9 during the final round to take the lead, before double bogeying 17 and hitting one of the ballsiest birdies in his life below to force a playoff. Harrington went on to win his first PGA tournament in the US since 2008 PGA. It was vastly improved year for Harrington, and though he threatened at St. Andrew's, nothing would top this.
#24 - Diarmuid Connolly cleared to play in All-Ireland semifinal replay
The Central Hearings Committee, the Central Appeals Committee and finally the Disputes Resolution Authority. You would have been hard pressed to find many general fans who knew the structure or purpose of any of those faceless bodies this time last year but in early September it seemed as if the fate of the All-Ireland would rest on their anonymous Orwellian shoulders.
And for the most part it seemed like they were going to do right for once. The consensus seemed to be that the GAA finally needed to make a stand. A red card needed to be punished for once and now was the time to do it.
When the Appeals Committee upheld the ban in the early hours of Friday morning that looked to be that. The replay against Mayo was on Saturday evening, the Dubs would have to do without Connolly. But the DRA was there, Dublin took the option and with just a couple of hours sleep under his belt, Connolly was named in the starting XV.
By his standards, he was rather anonymous during the replay but it almost didn't matter. The much hyped psychological battle had been won in a Croke Park boardroom and it was on to the All-Ireland final for Connolly and the Dubs.
#23 - Conor McGregor takes Aldo's belt
The Dublin media event in the build up to UFC 189 was interesting to say the least. There's few Irish sporting fans out there who can say they were overly proud of what went on that day but it really gave McGregor the opportunity to fill out the highlight reel for a few years to come.
If you thought the build up to UFC 194 was relatively understated, it's probably because every trick in the book was pulled out in anticipation of the July bout. The event in Dublin was the culmination of that. And there was no doubt about the high point for the assembled crowd.
The belt was a mere token of Aldo's six year reign at the top and grabbing it off the table, while gimmicky, was, as it turned out, the perfect fuel to keep the fire burning all the way to December 12th.
#22 - Steven Gerrard's gone in 38 seconds
It was the most Steven Gerrard thing ever to happen to Steven Gerrard. With a deal signed in LA and his time at Liverpool ending awkwardly, Gerrard began his last-ever league match against Manchester United on the subs bench. With Gerrard, things either go spectacularly well or catastrophically bad, and unfortunately for him, this fixture against United was one of the worst moments of his career. Subbed on at half time with Liverpool trailing by a goal, Gerrard first got stuck in on a challenge with Juan Mata and then seconds later, stamped on Ander Herrera. Martin Atkinson flashed a red card, and just like that, Gerrard was gone. It was a lot of damage to cause in 38 seconds.
#21 - Japan defeat South Africa at the World Cup
Apologies New Zealand fans but the greatest moment of this year's Rugby World Cup, and arguably any Rugby World Cup, came when Japan beat South Africa in Bristol. A ballsy result that embodied everything noble that we think of when we think about sport. It was a transformative result for the so-called 'minnows' of world rugby. Japan would be bedeviled by grueling scheduling and failed to make it beyond the group stages, but they will be remembered forever for their valour and skill in beating the eventual semifinalists at the death. The Irish fans below celebrated like they'd won the World Cup. It was as close as they'd get.
We'll be back tomorrow with moments #20-11