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The Magnificent Seven: the most memorable games of 2011

Take a look back at some of the best sporting moments of the past 12 months.

Sexton lifts the Heineken Cup.
Sexton lifts the Heineken Cup.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

AS THE YEAR draws to a close, we felt it was about time to reflect on the events of the past 12 months and compile a list of the most memorable games of 2011.

There are plenty more we’d have liked to included but that would’ve sort of ruined the whole concept of a ‘Magnificent Seven’.

7. Ireland 24-8 England

Synopsis: England came to Lansdowne Road with a Grand Slam on the cards, while Declan Kidney’s men went into the game on the back of a defeat to Wales. Ireland were superb and could’ve won by a much greater scoreline as the outclassed their opponents.

Player of the match: Sean O’Brien was a force to be reckoned with in the back-row.

Best moment: O’Driscoll became the all-time leading try scorer in the Six Nations that day. Here’s all 25.

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6. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City

Synopsis: In years to come, this could potentially be pinpointed as the day the power shifted from the red side of Manchester to the blue. A youthful United had begun the season in scintillating form but were completely outplayed and thoroughly embarrassed by City in a game which Alex Ferguson described as his worst in football.

Player of the match: David Silva – Ran United ragged behind City’s front two, creating a couple and capping the performance off with the sixth goal. What about the through-ball at 6:15?!

Best moment: The game was 22 minutes old when Mario Balotelli received a cut-back from James Milner to slot the ball beyond David De Gea before revealing a t-shirt with the phrase ‘Why Always Me?’. Do you really need to ask?

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5. Estonia 0-4 Ireland

Synopsis: Trap’s Army were handed what looked like the least problematic play-off opponent in the Euro 2012 draw, but even still, a 4-0 win away from home was unthinkable. Keith Andrews was first to find the back of the net on 14 minutes before Robbie Keane (2) and Jon Walters got in on the act to ensure the second leg at the Aviva was no more than a formality.

Player of the match: Keith AndrewsDespite having his critics, the Dubliner became Ireland’s Mr Reliable as the last campaign went on… and he was worthy of credit that night in Tallinn.

Best moment: “The cat is in the sack, but the sack is not closed. The cat is in it, but it’s open — and it’s a wild cat.” Giovanni Trapattoni’s thoughts after the game. Brilliant.

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4. Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

Synopsis: After 16 years of being nearly men in the All-Ireland, the Dubs finally got their hands on the Sam Maguire again. Pat Gilroy’s side came from behind to snatch victory in the most dramatic fashion. With the sides level in injury-time Kerry conceded a free 38-metres out. Step up Stephen Cluxton.

Player of the match: Dublin’s goalkeeper was undoubtedly the hero, but Kevin Nolan, Bernard Brogan and Kevin McManamon all produced the goods on the day.

Best moment: Cluxton kept his nerve to score the most important point of his life and send the capital into a frenzy.

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3. Ireland beating England by three wickets in the Cricket World Cup

Synopsis: Until Kevin O’Brien’s record-breaking century, England had looked set for victory in Bangalore. However, the pink-haired batsman smashed 112 off 63 balls to cause one the biggest upsets in Cricket World Cup history.

Player of the match: Kevin O’Brien was immense.

Best moment: O’Brien’s century was the fastest ever seen at the tournament.

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2. Ireland 15-6 Australia

Synopsis: Brian O’Driscoll said post-match that it was a performance the Irish players knew they had in them – it hadn’t looked likely in the month leading up to the World Cup, however. Jonny Sexton kicked two penalties and a drop-goal while Ronan O’Gara came on to add a further six points as Ireland stormed to the top of Pool C with a momentous win over the Tri Nations champions at Eden Park.

Player of the match: Cian Healy – Assisted by Mike Ross, the Leinster front row targeted, and dominated the Wallabies’ scrum.

Best moment: Tommy Bowe made an interception on 78 minutes then ran the length of the field before being stopped just short. Felt as good as a try.

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1. Leinster 33-22 Northampton

Synopsis: It not an exaggeration to call this the greatest comeback in a Heineken Cup final. Trailing 22-6 at half-time, that man Sexton came to the fore and was responsible for scoring all but five of Leinster’s 33 points at the Millennium Stadium.

Player of the match: Jonathan Sexton – Top drawer.

Best moment: The second 40 minutes of rugby were incredible to watch.

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Which are your favourite games from this year? Get in touch and let us know.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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