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Championship review: ranking the 10 best football games of the summer

2014 saw some epic championship encounters played out on the field, we rank the best, from 10 down to 1.

10. Longford 2-16 Derry 2-14

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers Round 1, 21 June

One of the biggest shocks during the early stages of the championship was Longford’s two-point victory over NFL Division 1 finalists Derry at Celtic Park.

It’s easy to forget Derry’s stunning league campaign while Longford were relegated to Division 4 in the Spring. Derry looked good early on and led by four points after 25 minutes but Longford led by five points heading into the last ten minutes.

Then all the drama unfolded, with two Derry goals arriving from Benny Heron and Mark Lynch before Longford sub Mark Hughes hit the winning goal.

Source: ForKingAndCountry20142/YouTube

9. Tyrone 2-11 Down 3-8

Ulster SFC quarter-final, May 18

Tyrone needed a dramatic last gasp free by Sean Cavanagh to rescue a point in a helter-skelter Ulster championship opener in Ulster.

It was the second of two injury time frees Cavanagh kicked to ensure a replay for Tyrone, despite them leading by 1-5 to 0-3 at half-time. Benny Coulter’s impact from the bench inspired Down’s fightback, and they fired in three second-half goals before Donal O’Hare missed a late 14-yard free and a chance to put the game past Tyrone.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

8. Galway 4-17 Tipperary 4-12

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers Round 4, 26 July

Galway advanced to the quarter-finals in an eight goal thriller, but they never should have allowed Tipperary back into the game.

Two goals in a five minute period before half-time and another two shortly afterwards had the Connacht side in complete control, but Tipperary somehow fashioned a remarkable comeback.

Four goals in the second-half, including three in the last six minutes, trimmed Galway’s lead significantly, but Tipperary eventually ran out of time. It’s a game best remembered for Shane Walsh’s classy touch and point below.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

7. Kerry 2-9 Donegal 0-12

All-Ireland SFC final, 21 September

While it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of games, the All-Ireland final was an absolutely absorbing encounter. Ask any of the 82,000 who packed into Croke Park on Sunday about that manic final 20 minutes, Kieran Donaghy’s goal, Paddy McBrearty’s brace, Johnny Buckley’s curling point and Colm McFadden’s desperately close last gasp effort on goal.

Source: Laois GAA Archives/YouTube

6. Tipperary 3-17 Laois 4-9

All-Ireland qualifiers Round 3, 12 July

Tipp’s penchant for goalfests began earlier in the summer when they secured only a second ever championship victory over Laois. The NFL Division 4 champions took a 10 point lead into the interval but Laois drove in four goals to draw level by the 62nd minute.

Just when it seemed Tipp would crumble, Barry Grogan popped up with their third goal which eventually led them to a five-point victory.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

5. Mayo 1-19 Cork 2-15

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, 2 August

Mayo feature in three of the best five games this year, but this was the only one they managed a victory in.

The sides were level five times in a first-half that finished level at 0-8 each, but Mayo upped the ante after the break and surged six points clear. Donnacha O’Connor announced his arrival off the bench with a brilliant goal to level the game in the 63rd minute, but Aidan O’Shea plundered in a Mayo goal soon after.

Brian Hurley smashed home a second Cork goal moments later to lead by one, but Mayo held their composure and advanced through late scores from Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

4. Monaghan 2-16 Kildare 2-14

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers Round 4, 26 July

Monaghan’s extra-time win over Kildare was made even better considering the atrocious conditions it was played in. It was their first championship win in Croke Park for 84 years, but a poor start had them behind after a brace of first-half goals from Emmet Bolton.

Kildare led by three at half-time but Vinny Corey’s goal led the Monaghan comeback and Conor McManus sealed extra-time with a late point. In a dramatic extra-time, Monaghan sub Chris McGuinness grabbed the all-important goal to seal a two point win.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

3. Kerry 1-16 Mayo 1-16

All-Ireland SFC semi-final, 24 August

It was a game that had absolutely everything, a sending off, a penalty, missed goal chances, a stirring second-half comeback, a Lazarus-style return and an incredible last gasp equaliser.

It’s a shame that the aftermath of this game was largely concerned with the fixing of the replay in Limerick – which didn’t turn out to be a bad thing either.

Kerry stormed into a 0-9 to 0-5 half-time lead, by which time Lee Keegan was shown the line, but Mayo changed tack in the second-half and looked in control heading into the final ten minutes.

By that time Kieran Donaghy was summed from above and he had no small hand in James O’Donoghue’s late goal and Kieran O’Leary’s later equaliser. A game that reignited the championship.

Source: RTÉ Sport/YouTube

2. Kerry 3-16 Mayo 3-13

All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay, 30 August

Many will have this as their best game of the year and it’s hard to argue against it. The Gaelic Grounds classic, as it became known, saw underdogs Kerry see off Mayo at the second time of asking.

Mayo keeper Rob Hennelly had the chance to win it with a free at the very end of normal-time an epic encounter. James O’Donoghue had converted two penalties by that sage as Kerry recovered from going seven points down in the opening half.

Cillian O’Connor was excellent in that opening half and once Andy Moran made the most of a poor mistake from Brian Kelly, Mayo led by 3-7 to 2-9.

Vaughan drew the teams level with a fisted score but as extra-time began Kevin McLoughlin opted to take his point when a goal was on. Mayo wouldn’t score again and sub Jonathan Lyne kicked a fine brace to seal their passage back to Croke Park for the final.

Source: ForKingAndCountry2014/YouTube

1. Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17

All-Ireland SFC semi-final, 31 August

It’s impossible to separate the top two games of this year’s championship but Donegal’s semi-final win comes out on top because its’ shock factor. Nobody saw this one coming.

As much as many pundits backtracked afterwards by saying that Dublin’s all out attacking flair was always going to leave them exposed at the back, Jim Gavin’s side were supposed to be too far ahead of the rest of the pack to be threatened here.

Jim McGuinness produced the best tactical masterclass of his four years in charge of Donegal as they recovered from a slow start to stun the Dubs with some devastating lightening fast counter-attacks.

Dublin sprinted five points clear but Ryan McHugh’s first goal had Donegal 1-8 to 0-10 in front at half-time. If the country didn’t start to believe in Donegal, they certainly started to once McHugh dispatched his second with a neat finish. Colm McFadden sent the county into dreamland with their third goal and Dublin couldn’t recover.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

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Don’t agree? What were your best championship games of 2014? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Kevin O'Brien

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