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exclusive My top ten highlights of 2020 - and there's no room for negativity

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Flames are lit in memory of the victims during the GAA Bloody Sunday Commemoration at Croke Park

Flames are lit in memory of the victims during the GAA Bloody Sunday Commemoration at Croke Park

SPORTSFILE

Flames are lit in memory of the victims during the GAA Bloody Sunday Commemoration at Croke Park

At this time of year I always offer my highlights and lowlights of the football Championship. This time around there are no lowlights. We’ve had enough low points this year, I’m being positive as we embark on 2021, so here are my top ten moments of football in 2020. The first three are so far ahead of the rest that I’m making no apology for giving them far more space than the other seven.

1 The Bloody Sunday commemoration

I make no apology for placing this here. I honoured it on The Sunday Game the night the Championship ended and I got so many calls and texts from people thanking me for what I said.

I’m not an emotional person by nature, but being one of about 200 people in Croke Park on the night of November 21st last was a privilege that I will hold dear as long as I live.

The 21st of November 1920 was one of the darkest days in Irish history, when 14 innocent Irish people were murdered in Croke Park by Crown forces. Thirteen spectators at a football match were killed including three children and the only female, Jane Boyle, who was buried a few days later in the wedding dress she was due to wear a couple of weeks later.

And the 14th person to die was Tipperary corner-back Michael Hogan, shot in the back as he tried to struggle off the pitch near Hill 16.

It was a spine-tingling night because of a very poignant ceremony.

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John and Paddy Small of Dublin lift the Sam Maguire Cup

John and Paddy Small of Dublin lift the Sam Maguire Cup

SPORTSFILE

John and Paddy Small of Dublin lift the Sam Maguire Cup

Croke Park was lit up only by the 14 torches that spread light on behalf of each of the fallen. It was a simple but wonderful ceremony.

2 Dublin’s achievement in winning six in a row

Here’s what this wonderful team has achieved. They’ve won six All-Irelands in a row, are 42 Championship games unbeaten and they’ve won eight All-Ireland titles in ten years. Some seven Dublin players have now joined five Kerrymen in holding eight All-Ireland football medals.

Stephen Cluxton has made 111 Championship appearances and conceded just 64 goals. The goalkeeper is also the only Dublin player to play every minute of the eight finals.

Brian Fenton has been playing in the Championship for Dublin since the summer of 2015, and never lost a match. Ciaran Kilkenny lost the very first senior game he ever played for Dublin, the semi-final of 2012. That was played eight-and-a-half years ago – he’s never lost a Championship match since, as he was injured for all of 2014.

Jim Gavin lost one Championship match, to Donegal in 2014, in seven years as boss and new manager Dessie Farrell is now the only man in GAA history to have managed a team to win the All-Ireland football title at minor, Under-21 and senior level, having won a senior title as a player. All you can say is, Wow!

3 The whole weekend of November 21 & 22

After the Saturday night event in Croke Park, Tipperary and Cavan gave us a true Super Sunday for so many reasons. The shock, which we rarely get now, of two teams winning after 85 and 23 years of waiting, the outpouring of emotions and the trophy acceptance speeches of the two captains, Conor Sweeney and Ray Galligan. How brilliant they were and how humble they were. It was just a special second day of a great weekend.

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Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster final win

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster final win

SPORTSFILE

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster final win

4 Conor Sweeney’s point from a sideline kick against Limerick

Think Maurice Fitzgerald in Thurles or Mayo’s Ciaran McDonald in his pomp. Conor’s kick was to keep Tipperary in the Championship. It was a huge moment, as everything that flowed for Tipp football in 2020 stemmed from that sideline point.

5 the donegal-tyrone clash in ballybofey

It was a full-blooded, proper, Championship encounter. The weather was atrocious, yet the match was a great contest that you could never take your eye off for a minute.

6 Cillian O’Connor’s magic moments for Mayo

The Mayo star’s 4-9 against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, 4-3 of which was from play. It was a masterclass in how to perform as an attacker. He is a marquee forward.

7 The last play of the game between Monaghan and Cavan in Ulster championship

Monaghan had just equalised. Cavan goalkeeper Ray Galligan took the kick-out, His cousin, Thomas Galligan, took the catch in midfield and was fouled. Ray Galligan came out from his goal and took the winning free. Each moment was one of huge pressure.

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Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates

SPORTSFILE

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates

8 Louth’s Sam Mulroy’s stunning show

Mulroy scored an amazing 1-7 out of 1-7 for Louth against Longford. I had seen him score nine points in the Allianz League against Cork a few weeks previously. He’s a fine player. Hopefully Mickey Harte won’t turn this class forward into a wing-back in his defensive blanket.

9 Cork beating Kerry in Munster championship

It was pure drama, with a last-minute goal that had people jumping off their sofas. Or, if you were from Kerry, hiding behind them! One of the greatest days of a Championship of shocks.

10 Tipp-top jerseys inspire the Premier county

Tipperary footballers wearing the colours of the Grangemockler club, white and green, the colours their team had worn on Bloody Sunday, as they won the Munster Final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

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