‘The Best Goal I Never Saw!’

I remember well. Only because I have seen it countless times on TV and more recently on social media.

It was the year 2000. The millennium bug hadn’t crippled the world and Gaelic football fanatics from Galway and Kerry and around the country had ventured up to Dublin for the replay of the All-Ireland Football Final.

It was fresh day in the capital, and I was looking forward to my second All-Ireland having been at the drawn game two weeks earlier.

For that I was perched right up at the back of the Canal End, the players on the field unrecognisable unless they were shown on the big screen down by Hill 16.

But it was still memorable.

For the replay my father and I had managed tickets for the Cusack Stand.

My father being a Galway man, I knew were my allegiance lay even though that Kerry team was full of outrageous talent. 

So to was that Galway team. I had seen them play a fair few time. 

Current Galway senior manager Padraic Joyce, Michael Donnellan, former manager Kevin Walsh and Declan Meehan were all familiar faces to me as a 12-year-old.

So back to the build up to the game.

We left early and made our way to Dublin as we had to meet another fella, who will remain anonymous as he was at fault for everything and I don’t want to set the wolves on him, to give him his ticket.

The streets around Dublin were buzzing as they always are on All-Ireland Final day.

I was taking it all in as I followed my father closely, weaving through the crowds.

Remember back then mobiles phones were not as popular, and you had to rely on people actually being where they said they would be when they were meant to be.

Dad had it planned to meet the “other fella” outside a bar close to the stadium. 

But he was not sure where it was either, so he had to ask a few people where it was.

So anyway, we finally got there, and he was nowhere to be seen.

We waited about and I knew it was getting close to throw in.

Still no sign. It was going to be a close call to get in for the start of the match.

As usual there are always late comers who want to finish that pint or have had problems getting to the game. 

We were going to be one of them. I knew it, but hoped it wasn’t through.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we finally saw somebody we knew. Dad approached and asked of the whereabouts of the “other fella” and to my shock we were told he had got sorted with another ticket and was already in Croker.

I couldn’t believe it. Dad was pissed. 

We took off toward Croker in a rush to get in for the start of the game.

But dad had this extra ticket and nobody to give it to. So along the way he offered to different people at face value. Eventually a gentleman took it. But it was another delay on an already delayed trip.

As we got close to the stadium, I heard the roar as the ball was thrown in. 

I heard another roar shortly after which I learned was the Kerry fans cheering their side’s first point.

Then I heard an almighty roar and I could only guess that one side had done something incredible early on in the game. 

I was right. When we finally reached our seats high up in the Cusack, I saw the scoreboard read Kerry 0-01 Galway 1-00.

We must have only missed it. Dad asked the man beside him who scored it. Declan Meehan came the reply.

I have watched it so many times over the years and it was one of the most spectacular goals I have ever seen.

Galway turn the ball over close to their own goals.

It’s worked out to Sean Óg de Paor who passes to Kevin Walsh who plays a flailing hand pass to Padraic Joyce. 

He kicks a great ball into Paul Clancy who in turn, without even looking up swings his left boot at it and it lands perfectly into the hands of Meehan.

With seven minutes gone on the clock, the Caltra man gathers and smashes the ball into the top corner of the net. Giving the keeper no chance.

What a start for the Tribesmen.

For me though I missed the best part of the game for Galway.

Kerry recovered and went on to win by four points.

It was drab game. Galway only scored a point in the second half.

What made it worse for me was the battle going on beside us in the stand.

A Kerry woman shout “Up the Kingdom” while a Galway woman responded with “Come on the Tribesmen”.

It lasted a right while until the Galway woman saw her team were beat and lapsed into sullen silence before, like many of us, made an early exit.

So, the moral of the story is. Sort out your own tickets. And let others sort theirs. 

And never miss the start of a game, because you never know what is going to happen.

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