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Thrillogy: Memorable three-game sagas

Thursday, February 07, 2013

There’s nothing quite like a trilogy to capture the public's imagination. For the last few weeks, the AIB Junior club football championship has dominated the back pages because of the epic three-game saga between Castlenock and Kenmare Shamrocks.

On Saturday night in Croke Park, they meet for the third time, in a second replay, following two remarkable draws, four periods of extra-time and 160 minutes of breathless football.

The Castleknock-Kenmare Shamrocks tie has all the ingredients of a classic GAA saga: town v country; Dublin v Kerry; old v new; Ciarán Kilkenny v Paul O’Connor; late scores; heroic performances and, finally, a fitting stage for the drama to play out.

Here, we delve into the archives and take a look at four more memorable trilogies that have caught the imagination.

Tipperary v Limerick, Munster Hurling Championship Semi-Final, 2007

June 10, Gaelic Grounds: Limerick 1-19 Tipperary 1-19
June 16, Thurles: Limerick 1-24 Tipperary 2-21 (aet)
June 24, Gaelic Grounds: Limerick 0-22 Tipperary 2-13 (aet)

Two weeks of heavenly Munster championship hurling delivered straight from the Gods in the middle of the miserable summer of 2007. While Cork and Waterford played sweet music in the other semi-final, Tipperary and Limerick’s three games lacked the same finesse but more than made up for it in terms of entertainment and drama.

Limerick had Damien Reale red-carded in the first game and trailed by 10 points at half-time in the second game, but in the end, after 250 minutes of gripping entertainment, played out between the Gaelic Grounds and Semple Stadium, Limerick emerged victorious after extra-time in the second replay.

Level at half-time and full-time, with the sides seemingly inseparable, Limerick made a burst in the second period of extra-time at the Gaelic Grounds. A string of five points, including the clincher from Ollie Moran which sparked a premature pitch invasion from jubilant Limerick fans, gave the Shannonsiders their first Munster Championship win in six years and meant Limerick manager Richie Bennis had finally outfoxed his counterpart 'Babs' Keating.

Limerick would go on to reach the All-Ireland final that year, losing heavily to Kilkenny in the final.

Errigal Ciarán v Crossmaglen Rangers, Ulster Club Championship Quarter-Final, 2002

Nov 3, 2002, Healy Park: Errigal Ciarán 2-9 Crossmaglen 2-9
Nov 11, 2002, Crossmagen: 1-10 Errigal Ciarán 1-10 (aet)
Nov 18, 2002, Clones: Errigal Ciarán 1-13 Crossmaglen 1-10

Given Crossmaglen’s remarkable record, it must go down as one of the great achievements in the club game that Errigal Ciaráin went toe-to-toe with the south Armagh giants three times over the space of two weeks back in 2002 and emerged undefeated.

In a brilliant sequence of games, Errigal Ciarán looked to have been beaten out the gate in the first game when their fans began pouring out of Healy Park with 15 minutes to go as their side trailed by eight points. However, manager Mickey Harte, in a move that he would use again when later appointed as Tyrone boss, brought Peter Canavan back on as a sub having been withdrawn with an injury earlier, and goals from Eoin Gormley and Mark Harte turned the games on its head and forced a replay.

In the second game, played on Crosmaglen’s home patch, the men from Ballygawley found themselves in big trouble again, 1-8 to 0-2 down at the break after an Oisín McConville masterclass. Inspired by superb performances from Canavan and Peter Loughran, the underdogs fought back to level matters, forcing extra-time and then a second replay. In the third instalment, ‘Peter the Great’ lived up to his billing yet again, scoring 1-5, including a fine goal, to give his side a three-point victory.

Errigal Ciarán would go on to beat Ballinderry in the Ulster final, but then lost to Nemo Rangers of Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final the following February. Cross' had their revenge over Errigal Ciarán in the Ulster semi-final last November.  

Meath v Kildare, Leinster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final, 1997

July 6, Croke Park, Meath 1-9 Kildare 0-12
July 20, Croke Park, Meath 2-20 Kildare 3-17
August 3, Croke Park, Meath 1-12 Kildare 1-10

A classic trilogy, as a nascent Kildare side in the first year of Mick O’Dwyer’s second spell as manager took on the might of the All-Ireland champions from Meath. In the first game, the Lilywhites were unlucky not to cause a sensation, the match ending 1-9 to 0-12 and going to a replay.

The second game has gone down in legend, and in 2006 was named by the Irish Independent as the fourth greatest game of all time. Playing the better football, Kildare led 1-7 to 0-7 at the break and then a Brian Murphy goal in the second half put them even further ahead. When Graham Geraghty got sent off midway through the second half, the stars appeared to be aligned for the underdogs.

However, they hadn’t reckoned with the reigning Young Footballer of the Year Trevor Giles (he scored 2-8 on the day), who converted a penalty and then scrambled home a second goal in injury time to force extra-time. Kildare hit back with a goal in the first half of extra-time, but Royals sub Jody Devine kicked a string of four inspired points to nudge his side ahead at the death. A fisted Kildare point with the very last play of the game ensured another day out.

The Royals prevailed in the second replay, which failed to reach the same heights, but were then beaten by Offaly in the Leinster final. Kildare would win Leinster the following year before going on to lose the All-Ireland final to Galway.

Cork v Wexford, National Hurling League Final, 1993

Thurles: Cork 2-11 Wexford 2-11
Thurles: Cork 0-18 Wexford 3-9 (aet)
Thurles: Cork 3-11 Wexford 1-12

The defeat that nearly broke Wexford. Twice, they had chances to win the tie in the two drawn games at Semple Stadium, but defender John O’Connor missed chances on both occasions. In the first game, Larry Murphy had equalised and O’Connor had the opportunity to end it all on day one, but he pulled a 60-yard free wide. A week later, Martin Storey leveled for the Models in injury-time and O’Connor failed to convert a ’65. Cork clung on in extra-time and Jim Cashman’s point sent the tie to a second replay.

Wexford had blown their chances and Cork claimed a straightforward five-point victory in the third game – the Rebels’ 12th of the campaign – despite having a man sent off after 10 minutes. A potentially fatal blow for Wexford hurling, but they would eventually recover to win the All-Ireland title in 1996.

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