Top 5 All Ireland Football Finals in Recent History

The All-Ireland Football Final is contested between the two top teams in the country for the right to climb the steps of Croke Park and lift the Sam Maguire.

Taking place in September of every year, the Final has produced some memorable games of football that last for the ages.

With Dublin and Kerry contesting the 2019 All-Ireland Football Final on Sunday 1 September, here are the top five best in Recent History.

5. 1998 All-Ireland Final – Galway 1-14 Kildare 1-10

1998 saw two breakthrough teams make a remarkable appearance in the decider. Galway last contested a final in 1974, and Kildare 1931.

Galway quickly registered a three point lead, including an excellent score from marksman Paraic Joyce.

However, Kildare fought back and managed to get in front when Dermot Early palmed the ball into an empty net. The Lilywhites led at the break.

The game turned on its head again when Paraic Joyce rounded the keeper to raise the green flag. A huge Ja Fallon point gave Galway a five point lead, before finishing with a 1-14 to 1-10 victory. Croke Park was engulfed with maroon as Galway won their first title since 1966.

4. 2003 All-Ireland Final – Tyrone 0-12 Armagh 0-9

The 2003 All-Ireland Final was a novelty tie as it was the first time two Ulster teams had contested the final.

Armagh were the reigning Champions after they had defeated Kerry in 2002. However, this tie was the coming of age of a Tyrone team that would go on to dominate that decade.

This was an intense and competitive affair. Tyrone raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead. A couple of Steven McDonnell scores brought Armagh back, but Tyrone led by eight points to four at half time.

Fights broke out amongst the players, leading to a red card for Armagh that quashed their hopes of victory. Two excellent scores late on from substitute Stephen O’Neill put Tyrone three points to the good as they lifted their first All-Ireland.

3. 2012 All Ireland Final – Donegal 2-11 Mayo 0-13

Jim McGuinness, Donegal’s manager at the time, revolutionized the game with his defensive tactics that grounded opposing teams to a halt, and Mayo were victims in 2012.

All the best components of this Donegal team were on display, giving them an explosive start Mayo could not contain. The game is remembered for a long ball from Donegal general Karl Lacey that was commanded by Michael Murphy who fired home after two minutes. Another goal soon followed from Colin McFadden.

A Mayo purple patch cut the deficit to just three points and left it Donegal 2-5 Mayo 0-8 at the break. However, Donegal were to pull away in the second half.

Michael Murphy put the Tir Chonaill men six to the good with nine minutes to go. The game was sealed when midfielder Neil Gallagher calmly finished a slick Donegal move after Mayo had registered two consecutive points. Sam was brought back to the hills of Donegal. 

2. 2011 All-Ireland Final – Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-11

Kerry-Dublin games are always classics and the last ten minutes of this game alone would be enough to make this list.

A Colm Cooper goal gave Kerry an early advantage, and a point from the same man put ‘The Kingdom’ four points up at 1-10 to 0-9 with only eight minutes to go.

Football, however, is a game of inches and one Kerry mistake a minute later led to a Kevin McMenamon goal, and Hill 16 erupted. By 64 minutes Dublin had levelled the game. Bernard Brogan and Kieran Donaghy traded scores to make it 11 points apiece going into injury time.

The game is memorialised by goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton’s long range free kick in the last minute of the game to give Dublin their first All-Ireland since 1995.

1. 2016 All-Ireland Final & Replay – Dublin 2-9 Mayo 0-15 / Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

The first game is remembered for two Mayo own goals that spared a lacklustre Dublin team. The game was riddled with mistakes and errors but this made for an exciting affair.

Seven minutes were added on which saw Dublin lead. However, an outstanding long-range effort from Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor levelled the game and meant the sides had to do it all again.

Dublin started the replay explosively and went four up. Mayo soon levelled before taking the lead with a Lee Keegan goal. Lee Keegan was black carded for a challenge on Diarmuid Connolly, who then scored a penalty to give Dublin the advantage.

Dublin sub Cormac Costello sealed the game with three excellent points before Cillian O’Connor missed a last minute free to ensure Dublin lifted Sam for the second year in a row by the minimum margin.

Make sure you tune in to watch the 2019 All-Ireland Football Final between Kerry and Dublin, which has the potential to be a game worthy of making this list.

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Dan O'Muirigh is a keen travel writer from Belfast, County Antrim. He is a passionate sports man who plays Gaelic football for Naomh Gall GAC. He recently graduated with a degree in Law but instead wants to pursue a career in writing. He loves Ireland and believes the island offers something for everyone. He has immersed himself into the country by playing Irish sports, taking part in the culture and learning the Irish language.