After a bumper three days of sport surrounding St Patrick’s Day, Ian Moore looks at three other weekends when Irish sports fans were in dreamland.
THERE’S never any shortage of entertainment around St Patrick’s Day, but this year our sporting heroes gave us something extra to cheer about on our national holiday. There was something on show for sports fans of every hue and while Ireland’s famous Grand Slam-halting victory against England stands out, we also had Michael Conlan’s professional debut at Madison Square Garden, the All-Ireland Club Finals at Croke Park and the conclusion of the Cheltenham Festival – to name but a few.
Ireland is no stranger to great sporting weekends – so the Observer decided to cast his eye back through the annals to see if anything can match 2017’s sporting smorgasbord.
September 22nd-24th, 2006
The 2006 Ryder Cup in Kildare was arguably one of the most important sporting events in Irish history. Not only did our home-grown golfers contribute to a record nine-point winning margin over the USA, but it proved that Ireland could hold its own and host an international sporting event.
The 2006 Ryder Cup in Kildare was arguably one of the most important sporting events in Irish history
Sure, there wasn’t much else on that weekend, but there didn’t need to be. Everything you could have wanted in a sporting event was on show in the K Club, from the pageantry of the opening ceremony to Paul Casey’s foursome-winning hole-in-one to Henrik Stenson’s title-clinching putt.
The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the performance of Darren Clarke, who contributed three points to Europe’s cause a matter of weeks after his wife Heather’s untimely passing. The images of the reception he received on the first tee and the raw emotion he displayed on the sixteenth green as he dispatched Zach Johnson on the final day will live long in the memory of Irish sports fans.
March 21st, 2009
The island’s sporting anoraks enjoyed an action-packed twenty-four hours as two titles found their way into Irish hands by day’s end.
A generation of genuinely world-class players like O’Gara, O’Driscoll and O’Connell were given their just rewards after many years of falling short
Progressing from the 2007 victory against England and recent Triple Crowns, it was a swipe of Ronan O’Gara’s boot that ended sixty-one years of hurt as Ireland finally got their hands on not only the Six Nations title, but also the coveted Grand Slam. After narrowly overcoming Wales in a bruising encounter at the Millennium Stadium, a generation of genuinely world-class players like O’Gara, Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell were given their just rewards after many years of falling short.
Later that evening at Dublin’s O2 Arena, Bernard Dunne seized the WBA super-bantamweight title, knocking out Ricardo Cordoba in a match-up that was later dubbed ‘Fight of the Year’ by ESPN. In a brutal contest that featured six knockdowns, Cordoba grew tired – and after ten rounds of punishing left hands from Dunne, the Panamanian fell three times in the eleventh, which led to the referee calling a halt to proceedings as Cordoba was stretchered to hospital.
The Dubliner’s reign as champion was short-lived as he lost his crown to Thai fighter Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in September of that same year.
November 12th -13th, 2016
Only a matter of days after Ireland’s historic triumph over the All Blacks at Chicago’s Soldier Field, Irish sports fans were treated to another weekend of top class sporting action.
In football, Martin O’Neill’s senior side finished a successful 2016 with a 1-0 win against Austria in Vienna, leaving the ‘Boys in Green’ atop Group D by two points heading into the next round of World Cup qualifiers later this week. Scoring for the second game in succession, James McClean latched onto a pinpoint through ball from Wes Hoolahan and slotted past a helpless Ramazan Ozcan, sealing a hard-fought win against one of Ireland’s “bogey teams” in their own back yard.
The early hours of Sunday morning saw thousands on these shores endure another late night in wait for the arrival of Conor McGregor into the UFC octagon, and the ‘Notorious’ one didn’t disappoint. McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez in front of a packed at the first ever UFC event in the Madison Square Garden to become the first two-weight world champion in UFC history.
Thirty-two year-old Alvarez proved no match for the Crumlin native, the American repeatedly leaving himself open to McGregor’s jabs which ultimately led to a facile second-round stoppage win for McGregor. To finish off the weekend’s entertainment we were then treated to a (now infamous) post-fight interview, McGregor demanding UFC shares and taking the chance “to apologise… to absolutely nobody!”