Top 10 Hurling Moments of 2020
By John Harrington
In a year we will never forget, the hurling championships produced some really memorable moments.
There are always going to be sins of omission in a piece like this, but no-one can argue the ten we’ve chosen, in descending order, were all very special.
10: Aidan Harte’s goal for Galway against Tipperary
There were just four minutes of normal time remaining in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final and 14-man Tipperary were stubbornly holding on to a two point lead. Then came a moment of real class from Galway that finally broke their resistance. Joe Canning did well to block Paddy Cadell’s attempted clearance and Brian Concannon picked up the breaking ball. He jinked past a couple of Tipperary tacklers before off-loading to Jason Flynn who immediately picked out fellow substitute Adrian Tuohey. With an overlap now created, Tuohey pass to the unmarked Harte who unleashed a rasper of a shot from around 25 yards out that zipped past Brian Hogan into the corner of the net.
9: Conor McCann lifts the Joe McDonagh Cup for Antrim hurling
After a six year wait, Antrim hurling will be dining at hurling’s top table again in 2021 thanks to their Joe McDonagh Cup Final victory over Kerry which secured promotion to the Liam MacCarthy Cup. The Saffrons have worked hard to raise their standards in the past couple of years and this victory is a reward for that. With the Gaelfast project starting to gain real momentum, having the county senior team back in the shop-window of the All-Ireland Senior Championships will be a massive boost to Antrim hurling’s hearts and minds campaign as they seek to inspire a new generation in the county.
8: Tony Kelly’s performance against Wexford in the All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers
Tony Kelly was simply outstanding in every championship match he played for Clare this year but the best of the bunch was his display against Wexford in the All-Ireland Qualifiers. He scored 1-15 of his team’s 1-21 total, 1-6 of it from play. Two of the points he scored were so outrageously good they’ll surely feature in highlight reels for years to come, and the goal was a cracker too. It truly was a pleasure to watch a hurler of such class play to his full potential.
7: Joe Canning converts four sidelines in All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick
Even by Joe Canning’s lofty standards, scoring four points from four sidelines in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Limerick was an audacious exhibition of skill. It set a new senior championship record, beating the three each that Michael Moroney of Clare (1977 v Tipperary) and Wexford’s Martin Storey (1993 v Kilkenny) had previously managed. Canning has now scored a remarkable 28 points from sideline cuts in Championship hurling.
6: Gearoid Hegarty’s All-Ireland Final performance
Already a top contender for Hurler of the Year coming into the All-Ireland Final, there’s a very good chance Gearoid Hegarty sealed that accolade thanks to his performance in the most important match of the year. He scored a remarkable seven points from play but contributed so much more too thanks to his hard tackling, ceaseless running, and accurate distribution of the ball.
5: Stephen Bennett’s point against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final
Trailing by 2-10 to 0-8 in the 33rd minute of the All-Ireland SHC semi-final, Waterford badly needed some inspiration and Stephen Bennett provided it. Collecting a pass from Kevin Moran deep in his own half he took off on a jet-heeled solo-run that left four Kilkenny would-be tacklers in his wake and brought him as far as the opposition 21-yard line before the struck the ball over the bar off his hurley for a truly magnificent point.
4: Stephen O’Keeffe’s double-save in All-Ireland Final
Stephen O’Keeffe’s double-save in the All-Ireland SHC Final against Limerick defied belief. Kyle Hayes looked sure to score a goal when he raced onto a hand-pass from Cian Lynch and uncorked a close-range shot that O’Keeffe somehow got a hurley to. The ball rebounded to the onrushing Lynch who doubled on it from six yards out. Once again O’Keeffe did the incredible by getting his hurley to the sliotar which rebounded back out past the 21 yard line so fiercely struck was Lynch’s shot. It’s hard to believe there has ever been a better piece of goalkeeping in an All-Ireland Final.
3: Bryan McLoughney’s goal for Kiladangan in the last minute of the Tipperary SHC Final
Noel McGrath looked like he had won the Tipperary SHC for Loughmore-Castleiney when he pointed a ’65 in the injury-time of extra-time against Kiladangan. But Joe Gallagher won the ball from the quickly taken puck-out that followed and hand-passed to McLoughney who raced towards goal. He could have tapped over a point that would have levelled the game and brought it to a penalty shoot-out, but instead he went for glory by hammering the ball to the roof of the net. It was Hollywood studio stuff as Kiladangan were crowned Tipperary champions for the first time in their history.
2: Richie Hogan’s goal for Kilkenny against Galway in the Leinster SHC Final
Galway looked set to win the Leinster SHC Final until a sublime Richie Hogan goal ignited a Kilkenny comeback.
With his first touch he killed a high-ball down into his path, with his second he dinked it away from onrushing Galway goalkeeper Éanna Murphy, with his third he controlled it on his hurley, and with his fourth he doubled it to the back of the net.
If there has ever been a wristier goal scored in a match of this magnitude, I’d love to see it.
1: Declan Hannon thanks front line workers in All-Ireland winning speech
Declan Hannon gave one of the great All-Ireland winning captain’s speeches after Limerick’s victory over Waterford. The highlight was when he paid tribute to the front-line workers who have done so much to keep us all safe and healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a fitting way to draw the curtain down on a year like no other.
"I want to mention the frontline staff who've worked so tirelessly throughout this pandemic,” said Hannon.
"The respect that we have for you all, in going out there each day to keep us safe, is absolutely fantastic. It doesn't go unnoticed by us, so thank you very, very much.
"2020 has been an incredibly tough year. Businesses have been closed, people have lost their jobs, I know a lot of loved ones have passed away this year who really would have loved to be here.
"To those families, we think of you every day. You inspire us, we wish you were here, but no doubt they're all looking down from heaven on top of us today, smiling their way down."