Ciarán Murphy: Fola Ayorinde’s Division 2 goal among the greatest ever scored

We have seen some brilliant scores in first three weeks of strange league season

Westmeath’s Fola Ayorinde in action with Down’s Jonny Flynn during their football league Division 2 clash at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Westmeath’s Fola Ayorinde in action with Down’s Jonny Flynn during their football league Division 2 clash at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

It’s not often one can say that something happened in a Division 2 league game between Down and Westmeath in Mullingar which genuinely would be a sporting dream fulfilled for any Gaelic footballer worth their salt, but that is precisely what happened last Saturday evening.

In a game littered with squandered goal chances, the one goal Westmeath did get, from midfielder Fola Ayorinde, was an absolute peach. He got the ball on the burst about 25 yards out, took a touch, and then rifled (yes, it’s the only word that could possibly be used in the sports pages to describe what he did) the ball into the top corner of the net.

What lifted this beyond the realm of the merely good into the truly dream-like however, was how the ball wedged itself behind the goal stanchion. Not alone did it fly into the top corner, it stayed in the top corner.

Controlled explosion

The highlights package on RTÉ on Sunday night might have lingered just long enough to see the ball fall from its gilded position in the goal-mouth infrastructure, but since I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t watching on GAAGO, I feel free to presume that the game was held up for 32 minutes trying to free it from its rusting iron prison.

First the umpire pokes at it from below with his green flag. Then the goalkeeper clambers on to the crossbar to try to jimmy it free from above. A wily octogenarian team masseur gets the Johnson & Johnson baby oil out to lubricate the offending article, to no avail. The fire station is called, their resident experts endeavouring to cut it free.

Light begins to fade. Finally a controlled explosion from below, using one of those robot bomb disposal units, frees the ball and it sails high and handsome over the Mullingar branch of Dunnes Stores, which always provides such an evocative and aesthetically-pleasing backdrop to the action there.

The only goal that really passes muster in all camps is, of course, Owen Mulligan’s effort against Dublin back in 2005

Beyond Ayorinde’s brilliant effort, we can’t ignore the fact that we’ve seen some brilliant scores in the first three weeks of this rather strange football league season, hewing closely to established principles.

I like to divide goals and goal-scorers into very distinct categories. Michael Langan scored one of the goals of the season in Donegal’s draw with Armagh last Saturday, but he had been at it the week before too, in a game which was a perfect summation of what we’re talking about.

Langan’s was a classic leggy wing-forward’s goal – go for a dander around the 45, beat a man or two, and then artfully smash it high across your body leaving the keeper with no chance.

However languid the style may have been, Langan’s team needed it at the time because at the other end in Ballybofey that evening, Conor McCarthy was taking the “knacky corner-forward’s finish” to the level of art form.

For an inside-man of McCarthy’s size and stature, when scoring a goal the ball needs to be caressed to its final destination as gently as possible (scoring without the ball touching the net at the back of the goal if at all possible) with defenders flailing helplessly in your wake. Peter Canavan’s goal in the 2005 All-Ireland final is the standard-bearer in this particular category.

Brawnier

On the other end of that spectrum then are goals scored by rampaging centre-backs, or perhaps centre-forwards of the brawnier variety (I have a secret guilty preference for these).

One thinks immediately of Joe Kavanagh’s goal in the 1993 All-Ireland final, when he took a lateral pass on a straight run, reefed two defenders out of his way, and stuck it in under the crossbar with a level of brutality which made one worry for the dastardly mind that could treat a ball with such disrespect.

Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan shoots to score a goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland football championship quarter-final in 2005. Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho
Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan shoots to score a goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland football championship quarter-final in 2005. Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho

Sliding the ball under the keeper’s body is for corner-forwards and other latte-sipping dilettantes – this is about blasting the ball as hard as is humanly possible in the general direction of the goal. This approach takes the goalkeeper out of the equation altogether, and perhaps even out of the stadium should they be so unlucky to get in the way of it.

Their disdain for the Peter Canavans, the Conor McCarthys of this world is bottomless, but these burly number 6s and number 11s do at least have a grudging respect for the midfield marauders, who have the athletic ability to do the bit they can do, as well as the footballing ability to at least try and pick a spot when faced with a one-on-one situation.

The only goal that really passes muster in all camps is, of course, Owen Mulligan’s effort against Dublin back in 2005.

Here there was something for everything – a starting position on the field that would satisfy the Jack O’Shea/Brian Fenton acolytes; a hail of dummies that befitted Mugsy’s true calling as an inside forward, and then the sort of shut-your-eyes, thunderbastard finish that James Nallen or Stephen O’Brien would be proud of. Sixteen years on, it’s still the final word.

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