Off the back of a huge day for Irish sport, it’s time we reflected on just how bloody brilliant we are a sporting nation.
So, we decided that we would rank our best international sporting achievements in no particular order to mark Shane Lowry’s Open Championship victory. There will be disagreements down the pub, there will be plenty of old favourites left off the list, there may even be tears, But who cares.
Let’s get going.
1. Shane Lowry’s Open victory at Royal Portrush
Lowry walked to the first tee on Sunday afternoon with a hefty advantage – while carrying the weight of a nation on his back.
It rained. It poured. It didn’t bother him.
His eventual victory was a romp from start to finish and Irish sports fans are just not accustomed to that.
While many superstars of the game talked or played themselves out of contention before the weekend – Lowry got on with his game.
We rarely see things with a perfect combination of professional pride and personal humbleness, but this is the defining moment of that gorgeous formula that produces the easy-to-support athlete.
2. Shane Long’s goal against Germany
You see, because this wasn’t in a major tournament, it gets overlooked. However, the intensity of a tournament and the process of getting to a tournament really don’t differ massively. At least they didn’t on this occasion.
Germany were world champions coming to Dublin. Our previous meetings with them hadn’t gone smoothly to say the least, and this may have been the biggest single surprise on this list. This is also a fine example of the Mandela effect – as people are adamant Long ran onto a flick-on.
He did not. But he did send the country into a frenzy. This win is more prestigious than any penalty save by Bonner in Italy and certainly a bigger deal than getting past a weak Italy side in Lille.
3. Padraig Harrington goes back-to-back in the Open Championship
The most underappreciated Irish son there is. He’s the type of bloke who just likes a good sandwich, a nice cup of tea and an early night.
And he retained his dignity throughout his career, is the next Ryder Cup captain and the highs were about as high as you could want.
Going into the final day in 2007, Harrington was six shots behind the man he would eventually beat in a play-off – Sergio Garcia.
But then he went and did it again in 2008 – being two shots off the pace, before ultimately storming to a three-shot win.
We may never see another Irishman retain a major in any of our lifetimes. Or Shane could do it next year. Who knows?
4. Katie Taylor – her entire career
Sometimes domination is more compelling than a plucky underdog story. Taylor’s pro career has taken her to another level of fame, but her amateur career was every bit as commendable. Winning gold in every amateur event she entered bar her final appearance before turning pro – a shock defeat to France’s Estelle Mossely – no Irish sportsperson has commanded the favouritism like she has prior to participating.
Since turning pro, she is 14 from 14 and while a couple of decisions that went in her favour may seem somewhat ropey in retrospect, if we were to analyse everything, everyone, did in a boxing ring, we’d stop enjoying the sport altogether.
5. Ireland v Pakistan – 2007 Cricket World Cup
Yano, before we were a fully-fledged test-status-secured cricketing giant that produces World Cup-winning captains, we were a pretty modest outfit. Prior to 2007, we had never beaten a test side. I know, I know – hard to believe.
But it’s difficult to remember a moment in Irish history that had so many people interested in a sport that they had previously written off as ‘nonsensical rounders’. Niall O’Brien, yes that Niall O’Brien, hit 72 off 106 balls, on their way to one of the biggest sporting shocks of the year.
6. Ireland’s Triple Crown win in 2004
It’s 2004 and the Irish Rugby team had won the Triple Crown since dinosaur’s roamed the earth way back in 1985. But this victory was arguably the one that let the country believe we could compete on the International stage as it included a 19-13 win over world champions England, sandwiched in between victories over Wales and Scotland at what was then, Landsdown Road.
That it ended a run of eight consecutive wins by England in the great competition made it all the sweeter and set us up for four more wins in 15 years.
7. Ray Houghton’s goal v England at Euro 88
It’s only fitting after some commentators tried to claim Shane Lowry and Niall O’Brien as British, that we recognise that Ray Houghton’s contribution to Irish sport wasn’t honed in the Phoenix Park or the GAA pitches up and down the country either.
Still, when Jack Charlton’s side faced England inStuttgart at Euro ’88 having qualified for a major finals for the first time – there were a few who feared the worst. Did the Boys in Green let us down? Did they balls as Houghton put the ball in the English net and there wasn’t a red-top tabloid to be found on the streets of the German city the next morning.
Long may it last.