Best sporting moments of the year - No 5: Seán O’Shea breaks Dublin hearts from another parish

The match-winning free in the semi-final was the key moment in Kerry’s All-Ireland title run

Gaelic Football – All-Ireland semi-final: Kerry v Dublin, Croke Park, July 10th

The clock had ticked beyond the time allocated for injury-time when Davy Byrne put a hand in on David Clifford which was copped by referee Paddy Neilan. A free. But some 50 metres out. Surely not in range, into the wind and into the Hill?

Not in Seán O’Shea’s mind.

O’Shea, who had seen a penalty saved by Dublin goalkeeper Evan Comerford in the first half, took on the responsibility. His own goalkeeper Shane Ryan had started to make a move upfield to take the kick only for O’Shea to wave him back.


With five minutes of injury time announced but with the clock moving beyond the 76 minutes mark, the Kerry No 11 placed the ball on the turf aware in the full knowledge that he needed to point it to claim the win, the sides locked at 1-11 each at that stage.

On the Radio Kerry commentary, Tim Moynihan was aware of the huge challenge. “Fog horns [blaring], into the wind,” he said, before the follow up words told its own story. “Hup ya boy ya,” roared Moynihan into his microphone, his own words accompanied by delirious roars of acclaim from the Kerry supporters packed into the stadium for a first win over the Dubs in the championship in 13 years.

O’Shea kept his composure and produced the sublime kick, with one more thing other than the wind in his face and the noise from Hill 16 ... Dublin goalkeeper Comerford also took to swaying a goalpost in an effort to narrow the target for the Kerry attacker!

His manager Jack O’Connor – like his Dublin counterpart Dessie Farrell – was anticipating the match would be moving into extra-time until the ball sailed majestically through the uprights.

“I didn’t think it was kickable, straight up. I didn’t think a man could get the distance because Seánie had emptied the tank. He had given a ferocious performance up to then. To have the resilience and the strength and more importantly the technique to kick that with the instep and just glide it in from the right-hand post into the breeze and into the Hill ... [it’s] one of the best pressure kicks we’ve seen [in Croke Park] and we’ve seen a lot of kicks,” said O’Connor.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times