The conclusion brought that age old, tried and tested feeling, the 'stomach punch' finish. A game, a result that leaves you feeling as if someone has quite literally punched you in the stomach.
So, on that note, one Irish/American's all time top five sporting 'stomach punch' games. I would say 'enjoy', but...well...
Number five: Ireland 2 Macedonia 3
(World cup qualifier 1997)
Not a heart-breaker, more humiliating than anything. A terrible result for a talented Irish team. The woeful result came with Ireland wearing a horrific, high visibility jersey that, as far as I know, was ditched after the loss. Irish Times journalist Peter Byrne described it (and the game itself) as such;
'Garbed in something approaching fluorescent amber, Ireland often projected the appearance of a gang of council workers . . . but significantly less productive.''
Ireland were awful, and not only gave away two penalties but also had Jason Mcateer sent off late in the game when trying to get back on even terms. Steve Staunton described it as the worst result of his professional career. Zero fun to play in, it was equally dismal to watch.
Number four: New England Patriots 14 New York Giants 17
I was quite literally numb after this one. Walked around in a daze for a while, head spinning. The glorious 2007 NFL season was not meant to end like this. With a whimper, and not a bang. The Patriots beautiful season went up in smoke as the tired defence couldn't stop the Giants driving all the way field to snatch the title right at the end. Certain aspects made for an even worse experience than the defeat itself. The idiots rooting against the Patriots for no reason other than New England's (to that point anyway!) success. The fact that many of the players will no doubt retire unless Bill can talk them into trying one more time. The season ending 18-1, not 19-0. Horrific finalé, no doubt about it.
Number three: Ireland 1 Spain 1 (Spain win 3-2 on penalties)
World Cup 2002 - knockout rounds
Game over, that's it, I am so cycling drunk into the city and falling asleep at 'Attack of the clones'
Picture an entire nation totally swept up in the excitement generated by a huge game like this. Ireland quite literally came to a stand still for this game. With the time difference between Japan and here it was played around noon, and still the bars were jam packed all over the country as people cheered on the boys in green. Ireland had played with great character in the tournament, scoring in the last minute to draw with Germany (I get chills just thinking about Robbie Keane's goal in that one) and played superbly against a vastly superior Spanish side, on paper at least. Amazingly Ireland had several chances to actually win the game, a late missed penalty would have put them through at the expense of a Spanish side full of big name stars.
Alas it wasn't to be and Irish hearts were quite literally broken by a cruel penalty shootout. Some of the Spanish players were too tired and spent to celebrate and flopped to the grass exhausted after the titanic show down.
The bar I was in emptied quietly, people too upset to break the game down amongst each other. Me, I cycled into the city, half drunk, with the intention of seeing the new Star Wars movie (Attack of the Clones!). I forgot to lock my bike and, after buying about $20 worth of cinema junk food, fell asleep only waking up in the last 20 minutes of the movie. I spent about a half hour trying to unlock my already unlocked bike and finally got home only to find out I was locked out. It was a beautiful summers evening and I sat at the door going over the game in my head until my room mate finally kicked me awake and let me in.
In my defence, it was a horrifically tough loss. One the Irish soccer team never fully recovered from, and that game was the highest we have climbed since.
Number two: New England Patriots 10 Chicago Bears 46
Why was this one worse than the most recent debacle? I'll tell you why. I cried, that's why. I couldn't have been any more excited about this game, and was completely deflated when Tony Eason and the Patriots simply forgot to turn up. I cried my little heart out actually, only barely able to hold it in until my Dad had finally gone to bed. I actually remember staring into the dying embers of the fire, wondering if any team I rooted for would ever win anything. Now that's a stomach punch game. Right there.
Number one: Boston Red Sox 5 New York Yankees 6
You can't top this one. The Red Sox were a bullpen call away from finally beating the hated swine from the Bronx and casting aside thousands of years of angst. I will never ever forget the disgusting sinking feeling that grabbed hold in the pit of my stomach as I watched that pop fly 'home-run' slip over the left field wall and the roided-up pinstripes celebrating as Tim Wakefield dropped to his knees on the mound. My heart would have gone out to the guy had it not been in absolute shreds.
Sure, 2004 more than made up for it, but hey, that's another posting.