Best sporting moments of the year - No 10: Tony Kelly, a cut above the rest

Clare star’s sideline cut to send the Munster Final to extra-time was a mix of skill, precision and nerve

Hurling – Munster Final, Semple Stadium, June 5th

A thing of rare beauty, a hurl in the hands of Tony Kelly.

The clock was ticking to its death shrill with referee John Keenan ready to blast on the whistle one last time to bring matters to an end, with Limerick – seconds after a massive point from Declan Hannon – set to lift the new Mick Mackey trophy.

But no.


As the third minute of injury-time was played out and the stopwatch hit the 73 minutes mark, Clare had one last shot at salvaging the game against the immovable force that was Limerick.

To keep the game alive would require something audacious, something truly special. And when Shane O’Donnell forced Barry Nash over the sideline in a corner of the famed field, Clare – a point behind – had one last chance to keep the game alive.

Peter Duggan had scored a point with a sideline cut earlier in the game but, this time, with all the pressure on his shoulders, Tony Kelly was asked to find a miracle.

The art of the sideline cut is one of the great feats in sport, using the hurl to propel the sliotar through the posts and, for Kelly, the line from the whitewashed sideline to the uprights was akin to threading a thread through a needle but while wearing gloves and your eyes blindfolded. Impossible. But not for Kelly.

In one of the defining hurling moments of the year, Kelly let fly. The clock had moved to 73 minutes 14 seconds when the ash hit the leather and the Limerick supporters with a bird’s-eye view willed the ball wide and the Clare supporters held their breath: two seconds later the roars of the crowds told the story of his successful execution before the umpire had the chance to reach and wave the white flag.

Kelly knew before anyone. Before the ball dissected the uprights he was turning away in exultation and raising his left hand to the crowds in a moment of defiance, a magician working his magic.

“Whoever wrote the script?” wondered Marty Morrissey in his match commentary on RTÉ. “Steven Spielberg in Hollywood?”

Kelly’s wonder point forced extra-time in the most sensational manner, even if Limerick – after extra-time – were the ones exiting the famed ground with the trophy.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times