Maurice Fitz magic, the ‘crying baby’ and startled earwigs – iconic football quarter-final moments

Knockout quarter-finals, absent since 2017, have delivered drama in spades over the years
Kerry's Kieran Donaghy reacts to Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty after scoring his side's second goal in their 2006 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Kerry's Kieran Donaghy reacts to Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty after scoring his side's second goal in their 2006 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor scores the first of his three goals against Donegal – as goalkeeper Paul Durcan and Anthony Thompson watch on – in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor scores the first of his three goals against Donegal – as goalkeeper Paul Durcan and Anthony Thompson watch on – in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, scores a second Kerry goal past Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty. Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final, Armagh v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / SPORTSFILE

Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, scores a second Kerry goal past Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty. Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final, Armagh v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / SPORTSFILE

Colm Cooper, Kerry, celebrates after scoring his side's goal past Stephen Cluxton, Dublin. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Colm Cooper, Kerry, celebrates after scoring his side's goal past Stephen Cluxton, Dublin. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Conor McKeon

It’s five years since we had straight knockout All-Ireland quarter-finals, nine since they were all hosted over a single weekend.

If history is any sort of gauge, there’s a fair to decent chance we’ll see something this coming Saturday or Sunday that lingers in the memory after the season is over.

From Maurice Fitz to Muggsy, floods to startled earwigs, some of the most memorable moments in the recent history of the football Championship have happened at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage since its inception in 2001.

Here are eight of the most iconic:

2001: Maurice Fitzgerald’s point

Remaining dissenters of the new era of forgiveness in the football championship were dismissed by two pulsating games between Dublin and Kerry in Thurles in the first round of All-Ireland quarter-finals ever played.

The novelty of the venue was one thing but equally, football’s most gushed-over rivalry hadn’t had a fresh airing since 1985. In those, pre-SatNav days, the Dubs who didn’t make it to the first game became as much a part of the story as the rousing Dublin comeback.

Naturally though, the tie is best recalled for the languid stroke of genius that took it to a second game.

2005: Muggsy’s goal

According to Owen Mulligan, Peter Canavan convinced Mickey Harte to leave his former student on the pitch for just a few more minutes in the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin, Muggsy’s performance having mirrored his season to that point – unconvincing.

Then Stephen O’Neill found Mulligan with a pass just inside the Dublin ’45. He shrugged off Paddy Christie on the turn, deceived Stephen O’Shaughnessy with a feint, sold Paul Casey an outrageous dummy, and roofed his shot above and past goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.

“I was sitting watching the Sunday Game in the local,” Mulligan later recalled, “then it kind of hit me, I did something special.”

2006: ‘Who’s crying now, baby?’

The story of the 2006 Championship is the tale of Kieran Donaghy’s transformation from training-fodder midfielder to trend-setting full-forward, around whom the luxuriously talented Kerry attack began to function again.

Irony of ironies, Donaghy will be on the line for Armagh this weekend, but in ’06 Kerry were sore from repeated championship defeats to Ulster teams and it was his goal that teed the win up, after which, he got nose-to-nose with Paul Hearty to deliver his riposte after some earlier, alleged, sledging.

In the best traditions of Gaelic football, big midfielders could be seen loping into full-forward in most counties the following year.

2008: Meehan reigns

Kerry survived both a performance of exceptional craft and variety from Michael Meehan and a trip to the twilight zone in 2008.

Meehan scored 0-10, including five from play, but that day – the second Saturday in August – is best remembered for the Old Testament weather conditions that beset it.

The ball was thrown in at 6.0 and for the first time, a championship game was played under floodlights.

Spectators in the Hogan Stand were forced to walk around the stadium and exit via the Cusack Stand due to flooding on Jones’ Road in what was the most memorable downpour since 1939’s ‘Thunder and Lightning’ hurling final.

2009: Startled Earwigs

According to pestworld.org, “when startled or uncovered, earwigs will quickly move and run away.”

That’s the only prominent Google search result for the words “startled” and “earwig” that isn’t some reference to Pat Gilroy’s immortal description of his team during the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, a game in which Kerry – who had narrowly avoided defeat to Sligo the previous week – scored a goal within a couple of minutes through Colm Cooper, and ended up winning by 17.

Kerry won that year’s All-Ireland, but the day, in all its infamy, was a watershed for Gilroy and Dublin. It’s the last time they have failed to make an All-Ireland semi-final.

2010: Provincial WipeOut

The odds on the four provincial champions all losing this coming weekend may be 948/1, but it happened once before; in 2010, when Kerry, Tyrone, Roscommon, and Meath all fell within 24 hours of one another, just one hurdle on from claiming provincial silverware.

On the Saturday, Down continued their remarkable historic habit of beating Kerry before Dublin landed their first clean punch on Tyrone after a near decade of oppression.

A day later, Cork went through Roscommon for a short-cut, while Meath, whose ears were still ringing with boos from their Leinster final controversy with Louth, lost to Kildare

Coming after a seven-year run in which Kerry and Tyrone shared the All-Ireland between them, it was a thrilling development that caught everyone unsighted.

2011: Cassidy Breaks Kildare

It was late on the night of July 30, 2011, when Christy Toye got an equalising score for Donegal in a match that had more movements than an opera.

From a drab first half in a half empty stadium, by the end, a sparkle of magic hung in the air as Donegal and Kildare took quick turns looking likely winners.

Then, after Michael Murphy sprinted to collect a low ball out near the side line, skidding to keep it in play, Donegal threaten to turn the ball over three times before it worked back to Kevin Cassidy, who thumped an almighty shot with his left foot from 52 metres to win it.

2013: O’Connor strikes thrice

Among Cillian O’Connor’s many scoring distinctions is having bagged four championship hat-tricks for Mayo.

He got one in the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary, one in a 2018 qualifier against Limerick and two in 2013, the second of which came against a team who, only a year previous, were All-Ireland champions on a success built around the most prohibitive and daunting defensive setup Gaelic football had ever seen.

Aidan O’Shea was the blunt-force instrument through which Mayo inflicted much of their damage in a devastating 16-point win, but O’Connor was lethal.

“The second half was the longest 35 minutes I’ve ever been in, in my life,” admitted Jim McGuinness afterwards.


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