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The Top 30 Irish Sporting Moments Of 2016: #30-21

The Top 30 Irish Sporting Moments Of 2016: #30-21
By Balls Team
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2016 was an incredible year for Irish sport, arguably the most exciting year ever, and our list of the top 30 sporting moments of the year starts today with moments #30-21. On Friday we'll reveal the Irish sporting moment of the year.

#30 Horse kicks a football through a window in France

One of the most joyous Irish football moments of Euro 2016 occurred nowhere near a football pitch. It seems almost impossible in hindsight: how could a presumably-inebriated man in an horse mask kick a football through an open second-story window of a French apartment? It was a pretty fucking difficult kick, but Horse managed it. He became immortal in Irish football lore that June afternoon.


#29 Rory McIlroy wins the Irish Open

McIlroy’s understandable reticence to discuss issues of national identity has earned him some flak in the past, exacerbated during the wrangle over his competing in the Olympics. McIlroy’s commitment to the Irish Open, however, is unquestionable, and his victory at this year’s event in the K Club was an incredibly satisfying way of seeing that commitment recognised. McIlroy was emotional when sinking his final putt, and then went and donated the €660,000 he earned for winning to local childrens’ charities. In a remarkable Irish sporting year, this was one of its most underrated moments.


#28 Conor McGregor loses to Nate Diaz

You've seen me on salads, now you're gonna see me on steaks!

After the crushing disappointment of Rafael Dos Anjos pulling out of the main event and title fight at UFC 196, we were given a fascinating consolation. Conor McGregor would move up to 170 and fight the best thing to come out of Stockton since Nick Diaz.

McGregor was in the form of his life in the pre-fight trash talk as he dropped line after line, from balloon animals to being unable to count. It was gold, and it was spoken with the confidence of a man who was absolutely sure that in beefing himself up he would be without weakness due to the lack of a weight cut. And Nate just said there, insisting that he didn't give a fuck and looking incredibly frustrated at only being able to show his middle finger with increasing intensity by way of reply to Conor's taunts.


Then came fight night. A shocking decision to use 'El Chapo' by the Game summed up McGregor's lack of focus. Biggie. Always Biggie. Nate Diaz sent shockwaves through the MMA world as he walked through punches until Conor's experimental conditioning resulted in desperation. Diaz couldn't believe his luck when Conor shot for a takedown, and within moments the rear-naked chose was locked in deep.

I'm not surprised, motherfuckers.

The reaction from the result was unprecedented. Those words will go down in MMA folklore as one of the best post-fight interview moments ever, the likes of Aldo and Dos Anjos ditched the 'gentlemen's approach' they had been projecting for memes and laughs, bandwagons were evacuated, Nate Diaz became a household name, and we saw Conor McGregor react to a high-profile setback for the first time. And react well.



It also set up the rematch, which was one of the fights of the year, and now a make or break moment for the Irishman.

#27 Jason Smyth completes the 100m hattrick

Jason Smyth is arguably Ireland's greatest sprinter and he wrote his name into the history books in Rio this summer when he mirrored Usain Bolt by winning a third consecutive Paralympic T13 100 metres  gold. He'd likely have completely the full Bolt if the T13 200 metres race hadn't been called off.  Despite all the pressure on him, Smyth won the 100m with absolute ease. A true legend of the track.



#26 'UCC from the depths of hell'

The incredible conclusion to the 4 x 400 relay at the IUAA meet this year was NEARLY lost to all time but thankfully Cathal Dennehy was on hand to provide commentary on Phil Healy's mind-boggling anchor leg that saw UCC come literally from the depths of hell to steal the race. Healy literally threw herself over the finish line to secure the win. Victory - and viral fame - were hers.



#25 Umpires bottles Carla Rowe point in the Ladies football final


In the aftermath of the Cork ladies winning their 10th All-Ireland in 11 years, all of the attention should have been on how this Cork team handled managerial transition and still maintained their impeccable standards. Instead the focus was on how two umpires managed to bottle Carla Rowe's clear-as-day point in the first half. Dublin would lose by one and were right to feel aggrieved by the terrible officiating, even if they eventually took the high road and let the result stand. If ever proof was needed that female athletes get a raw deal in this country, it was to be found on ladies football final day. The arguments about why Hawkeye wasn't used have never really washed. A very disappointing end to a big year for ladies football.

#24 Seanie Maguire wins the FAI Cup for Cork City

Cork City are on the verge of a penalty shootout in the last minute of the FAI Cup Final. It’s an oh so similar story to what’s happened the last couple of seasons on Leeside. A good year in 2014 where they came from nowhere and were 45 minutes away from being champions. But they came second to Dundalk. Another good season in 2015 saw them reach the Cup Final at the Aviva. But they came second to Dundalk after extra time.


It was happening again. Until Steven Beattie's throw in fell to the feet of Sean Maguire. A deflected effort trickled almost in slow motion past Gary Rodgers in the Dundalk goal and into the corner. The Rebel Army fans behind the goal rush towards the pitch, the entirety of the Cork bench bar John Caulfield race to the pile up in the corner, of which Maguire is under. His 29th goal of the season brought major silverware to the 'real capital' for the first time in nine years.


#23 Kilkenny defeat Waterford in Thurles

It was a pretty poor year for hurling, with the semi-final meetings of Kilkenny and Waterford the highlight of the Championship. Waterford bounced back from Munster final embarrassment to match Kilkenny stride-for-stride for just over two hours of hurling, but ultimately came up just short In the replay in Thurles. The matches were as anarchic and thrilling as all good hurling is, but this game will persist in the memory for reasons beyond solely entertainment: at the end, RTE panned to an iconic shot of Brian Cody, hands on hips, grinning widely in satisfaction. It felt like this was Cody telling the GAA to look at his mighty works and despair, at the end of a performance that was quintessentially Cody. In the final, Tipp showed the Cats are fallible, and as the great crop of the 2000s take their leave, the reality is that Cody and Kilkenny will eventually come to an end. That replay win in Thurles will live on as a perfect illustration of how Cody achieved what he did, it was as much prototype as it was performance.


#22 Ireland beat Austria in Vienna

Ireland's final football international of the year and a game that was anticipated with some trepidation. Not least because of Ireland's famously dismal record against Austria. Our defence was also thought to be brittle and untested.

Realists assumed that a draw was the best case scenario. Another of those Ireland matches when you spend 90 minutes praying that nothing of interest happens. Pocket the point and move along.

What followed was Ireland's most significant away win in 29 years. The most eye-popping stat to emerge in the aftermath was that it was the first time since 1987 that Ireland had beaten another bona fide qualification rival since the 1-0 win at Hampden in 1987.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the win was the goal that won it. Right from Wimmer's brazen decision to sit down wide on the left, tantamount to asking the referee to give him a free. David Meyler, who delivered a flawless performance from midfield when introduced for Glenn Whelan, collected possession, threaded a nice ball through to Wes Hoolahan who set McClean away with a perfect pass. The single-minded McClean powered a fine shot under the keeper's legs.


The Austrians were ragged but they were able to pepper Ireland's goalmouth. When Harry Arter lost the ball on halfway in injury time, Martin O'Neill became very animated (more so than usual) frantically gesturing that his players regain their shape, as if anticipating an Austrian goal. They didn't score but Janko was offered a glorious chance, turning the ball wide with his head. So reared are we on 1-1 draws, it wouldn't have been surprising to see the Austrians nab a point.

It was a great end to a fine, enjoyable year for the Irish football team.

#21 Mouse Morris and David Mullins win the Grand National with the Rule The World

Mouse Morris and young David Mullins are a pretty unlikely sporting duo but they won the hearts of the nation after Rule The World's unexpected Grand National 33-1 win back in April, Ireland's first Grand National winner since Silver Birch in 2007. Given his own family tragedy, Morris was understandably emotional, though Mullins' blubbering brother might have stole the entire show.

SEE ALSO: Vote For The Balls.ie Man Of The Year For 2016

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