Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport Ray Houghton celebrates scoring against Italy in the 1994 World Cup.
Magic Moments

The best of the best: what was the greatest Irish sporting performance?

Is Rory McIlroy’s stunning win at Congressional the pinnacle of Irish sport? Have your say.

RORY MCILROY astonishing victory at the US Open last Sunday sparked a million bar-stool debates about the greatest Irish sporting moments.

Read our nominations and have your say in the poll below. We’re sticking to a one-appearance-per-sport rule.

6. Barry McGuigan becomes the world featherweight champion.

While younger readers may know McGuigan primarily for his appearance on the show Hell’s Kitchen in 2007, he is also regarded as one of the finest Irish sportsmen ever. Before his victory, he had to recover from the considerable trauma of ending the career of a fellow boxer, Young Ali – an incident that caused him to seriously consider his future in the sport.

McGuigan carried on and eventually earned his title shot against world featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza of Panama. He beat Pedroza at Loftus Road stadium after a grueling 15 rounds. McGuigan subsequently was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

5. Eamon Coghlan wins the 5,000-metre event at the 1983 World Championships.

Eamon Coghlan marginally beats Sonia O’Sullivan as the athletics representative in this list, owing to his 1980s dominance in the sport. Recently-appointed a senator, Coghlan was nicknamed ‘Charmain of the Boards’ due to his success at indoor running and remains the only ever Irish athlete to win the 5,000m event in the World Championships.

Coghlan’s finest moment saw him out-run the Soviet Union’s Dmitry Dmitriyev on the last back straight, winning the race by 1.67 seconds. It represented his finest achievement in a career.

4. The Irish cricket team shock England.

Some might say that beating Pakistan was a more impressive achievement, but the performance against England was arguably more laudable given that the Irish team were no longer the unknown quantity that they had previously been.

Led by the magnificent Kevin O’Brien, Ireland’s coterie of part-timers achieved the unthinkable. O’Brien hit the fastest hundred in the history of the competition to inspire his side to victory, when an easy English win initially appeared on the cards.

3. Ireland defeat Italy in the 94 World Cup

There are several candidates for Irish soccer’s proudest moment – defeating England in Euro ’88, the penalty shoot-out win over Romania in the 1990 World Cup, beating the Dutch in 2002 to greatly improve our qualification hopes – however one moment stands out.

For the sheer occasion alone, Ireland’s 1-0 victory in the 1994 World Cup is the obvious choice. The sizeable contingent of Irish supporters in the Giants Stadium more than matched the Italians.  And a combination of Ray Houghton’s strike and Paul McGrath’s one-man defensive masterclass gave them reason to cheer.

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2. The Irish rugby team defeat England 43-13 in Croke Park.

After an anti-climactic first-ever international rugby match at Croke Park, the Irish team knew there was only one way they could make up for that disappointing day.

And they duly rose to the occasion, beating England by an unprecented points margin. As the BBC’s Jim Stokes put it: “In 45 years of watching international rugby, no game has matched the power, passion and emotion at Croke Park.”

1. Rory McIlroy wins the US Open

Some may see this choice as reactionary, but it really does seem unsurpassable. For an Irish player to win the US Open is impressive enough, but for McIlroy to do it while rewriting golf’s history books in the process beggars belief.

The triumph was all the more spectacular given his recent capitulation at the Masters. McIlroy, for the resolve and mental toughness he demonstrated alone, deserves to top this list.

Poll: What is the greatest Irish sporting performance?

Poll Results:

You're crazy - Other (53)
Ireland v Italy (44)
Ireland v England (rugby) (39)
Rory McIlroy (18)
Ireland v England (cricket) (18)
Eamon Coghlan (12)
Barry McGuigan (9)

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