The most spectacular 20 seconds of football you will see from an individual all year 3 months ago

The most spectacular 20 seconds of football you will see from an individual all year

Mayo 2-22 Clare 2-18

It wouldn't have mattered if he had to do the divil twice, it probably wouldn't have mattered if he had to do it three times, Clare were scoring a goal because big old Darren O'Neill gave you his word for it.

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You've heard it before and don't tell us you haven't nodded in agreement to say that the day of the big horse-and-cart, that the day of the fetcher and the skyscraper of a midfielder is dead and gone. That those days were left behind sometime in the 2000s, as these systematic, possession-based formulas took over and the traditional, man-on-man game was abandoned.

That it's a game for full-blown athletes these days, that they'll link the play and chase back and give hand-passes and carry it all out with the military precision that their manager doesn't just drill into them but demands of them.

That's the beauty of the last few months though, that the good old days of kicking and catching and even on the odd occasion, just lobbing it in and hoping for the best, are seeing the light of day again. That the game of Gaelic football has a bit of excitement about it once more and that there's a bit of chaos in our fields again.

If you're one of those people who has given up on it and likes to hurl from the ditch, well then you may as well go straight to the top and tell it to Clare's kick-out-catching, havoc-causing midfielder extraordinaire, big Darren O'Neill.

Clare put up one hell of a fight against a sharp Mayo team in this Division Two League final and it was their Éire Óg wrecking ball who led the fight. At times, and especially when Mayo boy-racers Tommy Conroy and Oisin Mullin sent their county into the break leading by 11 points, you feared that this opportunity was going to turn into a nightmare for Clare.

But with his bustling style and force of will, Darren O'Neill dragged them back into it.

He's big, he's burly, he wouldn't compromise with you for love nor money and if anything summed up the influence he can have, it was a second half tour de force that saw him score a disallowed goal only to go on and do the divil a second time, setting up a legitimate one 20 seconds later.

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"Are you f*cking joking me," he roared before refusing to take no for an answer, catching a ball over no small man in Aidan O'Shea just 20 seconds later.

O'Neill had scored Clare's first goal moments earlier and it was straight out of the 1990s play-book, with the big man leaping into the sky to leave the smaller men rooted to their spot.

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In the end, the brilliance of Keegan, Durcan and the aforementioned duo of Mullin and Conroy saw it home for a Mayo side who will be worried at the loss of Diarmuid and Cillian O'Connor through injury.

 

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It was with 65 minutes gone when O'Neill pulled up with what seemed like a hamstring injury but it wasn't surprising to see him contesting high balls in the Mayo square ten minutes later, still causing havoc and still throwing himself around.

He dropped to his knees at the final whistle but nothing was lost by that man in defeat.

 

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