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17th Jan 2019

Diving headed assist in Sigerson Cup will go down in GAA history

Conan Doherty

How could you not be romantic about college ball?

Rivals coming together under the same crest, the biggest names and the hottest prospects scattered around for one tournament, no gap in the fixtures to break it up, just wall to wall action of novel teams with loosened shackles. And they’re on during the week, night time and afternoon games to follow through what would usually be five days of no action.

The standard of third-level football is obviously extraordinarily high but it’s still down the rung from the inter-county football championship and it still preserves this off-beat feel where the best players aren’t afraid to try something a little more audacious.

As competitive as it is, there’s almost a showpiece element to it too where the crowds flock in, all casual, all relaxed, and they’re there to be entertained by ringmasters all too happy to oblige.

So you get some moments of pure, unfiltered magic and they don’t come much more satisfying than they did on Wednesday when St. Mary’s beat NUIG.

The 2017 champions toppled the 2018 finalists after a free-taking competition and, as Tyrone man Liam Rafferty kicked the winning score, it was also him who finished off what should be an iconic play in Gaelic football.

Jarlath Óg Burns sought out Niall Toner but the sharp corner forward slipped as he came out to retrieve so what else could he do but caress the most beautiful tee up for the oncoming Rafferty.

Armagh to Derry to Tyrone and a moment of history.

Avenir Sports were on hand to capture the wonderful score.

Toner, a Lavey man who helped the Erin’s Own club back to the Derry final in October, is a serious young talent with pace to burn, skill to marvel at and, obviously, ingenuity to boot.

Having slipped with three players closing in, there was nothing else he could’ve done but head that ball for Rafferty to get it but who on earth would even think of that?

And who would execute it as well even if they had the audacity to dream it up in the first place?

It should go down as one of the most perfect touches of an O’Neill’s ball and one of the classic pieces of play that the game has seen.

That’s improvisation for you. That is the Sigerson Cup.

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