Posted by Shane Stapleton

London and Monaghan are up against it in the provincial finals but history shows us that there have been upsets in these circumstances

2013 Clare Kerry 1992Turning the tables is easy, but only if you’re a good DJ. In the GAA, with the fittest being so much fitter than the rest, upsetting the odds is becoming tougher and tougher.

You’ll find some of the biggest shocks in GAA history in our quiz and we’ve previously looked at when it’s happened in Croke Park. This weekend, London and Monaghan face the daunting prospects of kingpins Mayo and Donegal — the latter duo both looking for a provincial three-in-a-row.

London need look no farther than the team that they beat in the Connacht semi-final for inspiration. In 1994, Leitrim went into a provincial final against Mayo with just a single title to their name, and that from way back in 1927.

A county with a population of less than 30,000 was expected to do little more than roll over and get tickled by Connacht’s big dog. But they Leitrim showed some bite that day, bravely fighting back from the concession of a goal in under 20 seconds. That would have felled most underdogs, but not Leitrim who were led to victory by John O’Mahony against his own native county.

Leitrim went on to play Dublin in Croke Park, as famously told by Seamus O’Rourke.

Kerry were a dominant force in the 1950s, winning All-Ireland titles in both ’53 and ’55.  In total, they won seven Munster titles during that decade but went two years in a row without collecting a title at one point.

The first came in ’56 after a replay against Cork, who would occasionally upset the Kingdom’s dominance of the province. In 1957, no one expected a Waterford team whose only provincial title ever came in 1898 to trouble the aristocrats from Kerry.

But trouble they did as out of the selected 15 players and six subs, only 15 Kerry players were present. A reporter from the Kerryman, John Barrett, was asked to tog out just in case. Still the Kingdom were 0-8 to 0-2 ahead after 40 of the 60 minutes and seemed set to coast home until Kerry-born Waterford player Georgie Whyte pulled a goal back.

Late on, a high ball into the Kerry area was stopped by stand-in goalkeeper Tom Barrett but, as you do, he was driven back into the net for a goal. Tom Cunningham, better known as a hurler, then kicked the winning point for the Decies in a 2-5 to 0-10 shock. Cork retained their Munster title but Waterford had done much of the work.

On a brighter note, Kerry got their own back on Na Deise in 1993 when they shocked them in the Munster hurling championship. And surely there can be no better example of a huge shock than Antrim beating Offaly in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final of 1989 — the with Saffrons’ subsequent heavy loss to Tipperary in the final showing how boldly they had risen against the Faithful County.

To give Offaly their dues, they did pull off a big shock of their own when they dethroned 1996 All-Ireland champions Meath in the 1997 Leinster final — it was their first provincial title since 1982, when Seamus Darby did the most unexpected of all.

A huge reason for Kerry featuring so prominently in the history of GAA shocks is that they have been so dominant — and of course logic deems that they can’t win every single day. In some ways, this article is almost a converse compliment of the county.

So with that said, let’s rewind to 1992 when Clare provided one of the shocks of the generation in the Munster final. The Kingdom went in as raging hot favourites against a team that had just won the All-Ireland B championship which, good as it was, gave them no right to fancy winning this.

But win they did, and they could even afford to miss a penalty. Colm Clancy’s goal pushed them on for the win and a first trip to Croke Park since 1917. Clare folk will still say it was massively unfair that just one Banner star, Seamus Clancy, received an All Star that year.

London and Monaghan may not end up with too many trophies this season but a flick through the history books show them that victory came come when least expected.

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