Cahair O'Kane's 20 best games of the decade

Dublin, Mayo and Kerry dominated the big days in the last 10 years, with the trio involved in many of the best games – but there were others. Cahair O'Kane raids the archives to present his 20 best football games of the decade...

Kerry's (l-r) Marc Ó Sé, Paul Geaney, Anthony Maher, Barry John Keane and David Moran celebrate their 2014 All-Ireland semi-final replay victory over Mayo at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick

2013 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11

NEVER mind this decade, has there ever been a better game of football played? The relentlessness, the pace, the quality, the drama. The seven-point margin tells nothing of the game, which looked like going Kerry’s way as the ball hung in the air at midfield with 69 minutes played and the sides level. But Michael Darragh Macauley won a ball he had no right to, Kevin McManamon raced away to find the top corner and then Eoghan O’Gara buried another goal deep into stoppage time. Kerry had hit three first half goals but were reeled in.

 2014 All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay: Kerry 3-16 Mayo 3-13 (AET)

WITH an American Football game in Croke Park forcing the All-Ireland semi-final replay down the road to Limerick, the scene was quickly set for something very different. The drawn game had been dramatic but the second date was epic. They were tied at 3-11 apiece at the end of normal time (when Rob Hennelly dragged a late free to win it), 3-13 apiece at half-time in extra-time, before the Kingdom hit the last three points on their way to Sam Maguire.

2019 All-Ireland SFC final: Dublin 1-16 Kerry 1-16

THE most breathless of All-Ireland deciders. David Clifford had Jonny Cooper on toast, leading to a second booking before half-time for the Dublin defender, but the Dubs still led by four after Stephen Cluxton brilliantly saved Paul Geaney’s penalty. There was no let-up and Killian Spillane’s superb goal put Kerry in command, but they were suffocated in the dying minutes as Dean Rock managed to grab an equaliser to force it to a replay.

 2017 All-Ireland SFC final: Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16

OF ALL the battles Dublin and Mayo had across the decade, none compared to the final two years ago. Dean Rock landed the late free to win it despite Lee Keegan tossing a GPS tracker into his path, but Mayo’s regret goes back to Donal Vaughan’s 47th minute red card, when he joined John Small in getting the line. Mayo seemed in a great position when Lee Keegan burst through to net seven minutes later, but the Dubs clawed it back again.

 2014 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17

AT THE very peak of their powers, Dublin were the unbackable unbeatables. Despite having won an All-Ireland two years previous, absolutely nobody gave Donegal a hope. Had Paul Flynn’s early goal chance gone in, the very course football itself was on might have changed. But Jim McGuinness’s side took the early blows and, with two Ryan McHugh goals and one for Colm McFadden, they stunned the champions and the country.

Two Ryan McHugh majors helped Donegal to a famous victory over Dublin in 2014  

 2016 All-Ireland SFC final replay: Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

ABSOLUTE ‘cornage’, as the D4 lads would say. Right from the off, with Mayo springing a surprise by putting Rob Hennelly in for David Clarke, there was an edge of chaos about the game. Lee Keegan’s wonderful first half finish had Mayo in a semblance of control, but Hennelly’s fumble and drag-down of Paddy Andrews gave Diarmuid Connolly the chance to swing it with a perfect penalty. Cillian O’Connor pulled a late free to equalise wide of the near post.

2015 Leinster SFC semi-final: Westmeath 3-19 Meath 2-18

WESTMEATH had never beaten their rivals in 22 attempts in Championship football. And when they trailed by 2-17 to 1-11 with 20 minutes to go, there appeared no hope of that record changing. But as Meath wilted, the men in maroon were led by Kieran Martin and John Heslin in forging the most remarkable victory. Westmeath won the last 20 minutes by 2-8 to 0-1, with Heslin’s late breakaway goal making it an unforgettable day.

2016 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 0-22 Kerry 2-14

AFTER an early wobble, Kerry steadied in the final 10 minutes of the first-half and turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead by half-time, thanks to late goals from Darran O’Sullivan and Paul Geaney. But any notion that the Dubs would be spooked were wiped away on the restart as they quickly drew level. From there, it went back and forth until Kerry had appeals for a late free turned away and Dublin broke to seal it with a wonderful left-footed effort from Diarmuid Connolly.

2011 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Donegal 1-12 Kildare 0-14 (AET)

“HE has it, he has it!” Kevin McStay’s palpable excitement in the commentary box from the moment he realised Kevin Cassidy’s 48-yard winner had the legs summed up the mood. Kildare had looked home and hosed when they led by 0-14 to 1-8 early in the second half of extra-time, but with Christy Toye having a huge influence on the game, Donegal fought back in the pouring rain to earn a semi-final spot.

2017 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Kerry 2-14 Mayo 2-14

IT WILL always best be remembered for the day that Aidan O’Shea played at full-back on Kieran Donaghy, but it was superb entertainment in its own right. Despite the fact that Mayo, led by Andy Moran, were the better team for most of the game, they were still the ones that needed a Paddy Durcan equaliser at the death. Andy Moran and Colm Boyle had goaled for them, but David Moran and Johnny Buckley raised green flags for Kerry in a topsy-turvy encounter.

2018 All-Ireland SFC Qualifier: Roscommon 2-22 Armagh 1-19

THE first-half of this round four Qualifier bordered on the ridiculous. Every time either side attacked, they scored. It was man-to-man, end-to-end football. By the interval, it was 1-11 to 0-12 and, despite the blistering heat in Portlaoise, the scoring rate barely let up. Despite missing a penalty, Armagh closed the gap from six to one, only for Roscommon to finally pull away in the last few minutes.

2019 All-Ireland SFC Super 8s: Donegal 1-20 Kerry 1-20

THE Super 8s got a bad name fairly quickly, but it did produce a handful of excellent games, none better than this summer’s draw between Donegal and Kerry. Paul Geaney’s goal was cancelled out by Michael Murphy penalty, with Eoin McHugh then having a goal disallowed for a square ball in a frantic final 20 minutes that saw Murphy land a late free to tie it.

2014 All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers: Monaghan 2-16 Kildare 2-14 (AET)

CHRIS McGuinness has since become something of a forgotten man of Monaghan football, but it was his goal in extra-time that helped the Farneymen to a first Championship win at Croke Park for 84 years. Two Emmet Bolton goals had Kildare ahead at half-time, but Vinny Corey netted to force an extra 20 minutes. McGuinness’s goal gave Monaghan a lead that they never relinquished.

Chris McGuinness was Monaghan's hero against Kildare back in 2014  

2015 Munster SFC final: Cork 3-12 Kerry 2-15

IF YOU put a lie detector on Fionn Fitzgerald to this day, he’d do well to convince it that he meant to kick the late equaliser in this dramatic Munster final. He was landing one into the square from 50 yards when it surprised everyone, not least the Kerry corner-back, by flying over the bar and denying Cork a first win in Killarney for 20 years. Barry O’Driscoll’s late goal looked to have settled it, but the Kingdom didn’t let go.

2015 All-Ireland SFC Qualifier: Fermanagh 1-14 Roscommon 0-16

DESPITE being caught out by Sligo in Connacht, there was still a degree of hype about Roscommon, that wasn’t for dampening when they led by six with 13 minutes left. But Pete McGrath’s Fermanagh side chipped and chipped away at it, with a Seán Quigley penalty followed by a 45. A Tomás Corrigan line ball then helped pull them level before Quigley fired the winner in stoppage time.

2018 All-Ireland SFC Super 8s: Monaghan 1-17 Kerry 1-17

IT’S funny how this game is – and will be – remembered. Monaghan played some superb stuff, with Conor McManus revelling in the acres of space Kerry afforded him, gathering up 1-9 by himself including an early goal. They led the whole way but, off a long ball in stoppage time, David Clifford somehow managed to squeeze the ball through the eye of a needle past Rory Beggan to grab a draw. Even then, Monaghan botched a late chance to win it.

2016 All-Ireland SFC Qualifier: Tipperary 1-21 Derry 2-17

WITH a place in the last-eight at stake, Tipperary and Derry came to Cavan to slug it out. Mark Lynch’s goal saw Derry lead by one at half-time. Although Tipp responded with a Kevin O’Halloran goal, the Oak Leafers seemed to have won it when Eoghan Brown raced in at the far post to palm a levelling major before Danny Heavron kicked them ahead. But two late Conor Sweeney scores flipped it and sent Tipp on their way to an eventual All-Ireland semi-final.

2011 All-Ireland SFC final: Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

AT SOME point, this Dublin group would have got over the line. But as Colm Cooper scored a free to put the experienced Kerry four up in the Dubs’ first final for 16 years, there seemed only one winner. Step up Kevin McManamon. He raced through to drill a goal that, despite it all, has been pushed into the shade by Stephen Cluxton’s brilliant winning free.

2010 Leinster SFC semi-final: Meath 5-9 Dublin 0-13

IT’S only hindsight that allows us to marvel at the significance of Meath scoring five goals past Dublin. It was, to this day, the last time they lost a Leinster Championship match. The Royals hadn’t been in a final for nine years but they set about cutting the Dubs apart in Croke, goals from Stephen Bray (two), Cian Ward, Joe Sheridan and Brian Farrell leaving the Dubs shellshocked.

2018 Ulster SFC quarter-final: Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18

FOR quality and drama this was the best Ulster SFC game of recent years. The score-taking was sublime on both sides all afternoon, and the sides seemed inseparable for a long time but Monaghan, with Conor McManus hitting an unbelievable score from out on the sideline, hit a purple patch in the final 10 minutes to grab a deserved win in Omagh.

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