The top sports news stories of 2011 - lots of thrills and a few chills


It will go down in sporting history as one of the greatest comebacks of all time, a resurgence that will be used to inspire sports teams and sports men and women for many years to come.

Leinster were 16 points down to Northampton at halftime in the European Cup final in Cardiff last May and going nowhere fast until they took a proverbial look in the mirror and didn’t like what they saw.

They emerged for the second half with a sting in their tail, after words of inspiration from out-half Jonathon Sexton and coach Joe Schmidt, and a new determination in their stride.

By full-time, Sexton had scored 28 points, including two tries, Brian O’Driscoll had performed miracles and the recovery was complete.

Dublin win the All-Ireland

As one English journalist noted – Lazarus had a Ballsbridge postcode that day!
Dublin’s All-Ireland Final Glory

WHO could have written this script? Dublin hadn’t played arch rivals Kerry in the All-Ireland final since 1985 and hadn’t won the Sam Maguire since 1985.

This year was different though. Manager Pat Gilroy had rebuilt his team and the new boys in Blue were well able to move like Jagger in front of Hill 16 as they proved all summer.

They were underdogs going into the September decider against the crafty Kerrymen and looked every inch the part as they trailed the Kingdom by four points with just 10 minutes remaining of an endearing final.

Dublin looked dead but they refused to be buried. Substitute Kevin McManamon crashed an Alan Brogan pass to the back of the net before Kevin Nolan pulled the teams level.

Bernard Brogan and Kieran Donaghy traded points before the Gods turned blue and Dubs goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton stepped up to convert an injury time free from 35 meters out to cap a most incredible win.

Darren Clarke Lifts Claret Jug

Darren Clarke

IN hindsight, it was the bet to clear the mortgage. Royal St. George’s golf club outside London, with the wind howling and the rain blowing, was always going to suit a player brought up on the intricacies of links golf.

The horrible weather conditions so prevalent on England’s south-east coast last July were made to measure for a man used to hitting golf balls in gale force winds back home in Portrush.

The 2011 Claret Jug was always going to a player who knows how to win a seaside golf tournament.
Darren Clarke was able for all that and more as he stormed through the storm to win his first Major at the ripe old age of 42.

No one begrudged the Ulsterman his title.  Life has been hard on Clarke in the past.  Victory at Royal St George’s was payback time.

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Kilkenny’s Return to the Pedestal

THE painful fall-out from defeat to Tipperary a year previously meant Kilkenny were always going to be fired up for the rematch in September. And what a rematch it was.