Top 10 moments in the decade since the Aviva Stadium opened its doors

We've plumped deliberately for the most memorable occasions here, not necessarily the best games.
Top 10 moments in the decade since the Aviva Stadium opened its doors
An Aerial view of the Aviva Stadium during the first match to be played there. Picture: INPHO/Norman McCloskey

It's a decade today since the first game at the Aviva Stadium, an otherwise nothing of a thing between sides representing Leinster and Ulster on one side and Munster and Connacht on the other.

Other duds have followed but there have been plenty of thrills too.

We've plumped deliberately for the most memorable occasions here, not necessarily the best games.

The two haven't always aligned but feel free to find fault. Listing them chronologically should at least allow us dodge some of the flak.

A general view of the Connacht/Munster vs Leinster/Ulster game, the first to be played at the Aviva Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
A general view of the Connacht/Munster vs Leinster/Ulster game, the first to be played at the Aviva Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

2011: Party time as the Republic book their ticket to Poland 

Euro 2012 didn't go well for Ireland. We know that now but this was still an evening to cherish as the Republic booked their place at a major tournament for the first time since 2002 and awful days that bottomed out under Steve Staunton were put to one side.

A 4-0 win in Tallinn in the first leg of this play-off meant that the serious work was done and dusted come the return. 

It mattered not a jot that the game itself was a bore, or when Konstantin Vassiljev equalised Stephen Ward's opener in the second-half.

Paper aeroplanes flew down from the stands in their dozens, watched with the sort of interest that the game itself could never command. The Aviva sang and danced and laughed.

Over eight years later and it's still a memory to warm the heart.

2012: Notre Dame leave Navy feeling queasy 

Not exactly a game to remember either as Notre Dame continued their historical dominance of the Midshipmen but, as anyone who has ever sat through a game of American football will know, this was as much about the wider spectacle than any routes, spirals or tactical jargon.

An estimated 35,000 Yanks descended on the city for the weekend, a good many of them in pristine Navy whites having been given shore leave from the warship anchored in Dublin Bay, and the party stretched from Temple Bar to Trinity College and on to Ballsbridge.

The University of Notre Dame marching band preform during the half-time break of their 2012 clash. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
The University of Notre Dame marching band preform during the half-time break of their 2012 clash. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

In truth, the Aviva has never looked better than it did that day when the colours of both colleges were emblazoned behind either goal. Not even the Paddywhackery that extended to the Fighting Irish leprechaun and their tricolour boots and gloves could ruin it.

2013: Two classics for the price of one 

This was the first year that the Women's FAI Cup was played at the Aviva and Raheny United and Castlebar Celtic did justice to the occasion, screened live on RTÉ, with the Mayo side twice equalising before losing out to an extra-time own goal by Kim Flood.

It was a game that had everything: drama, brilliant goals and superb all-round football. 

A superb advertisement for the women's game although we could do with seeing much more women's sport played at the ground in the next decade.

There has been no shortage of stories to tell from ten FAI Cup men's deciders at the ground. Four have required penalties to find a winner, another three were settled in extra-time. 

The 2013 showcase was probably the best of them.

Drogheda took a 13th-minute lead via a slick counter-attack and a Paul O'Connor finish. Danny North came off the bench to score twice and put Rovers ahead midway through the second-half and then Ryan Brennan equalised for United in the 92nd minute.

Ongoing work at the Aviva Stadium in September 2009. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Ongoing work at the Aviva Stadium in September 2009. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Two minutes later and the final blow was landed, Anthony Elding claiming the winner for Sligo and North extending his impact with the assist. Cruel on the Drogs but a brilliant way to end an enthralling day in Ballsbridge.

2013: Crotty goes in Ireland little black book 

Seven years on and it's still a case of the less said the better. Ireland stormed into a convincing and early lead, appeared to have weathered the inevitable All Black storm and then fell victim to an injury-time try from Ryan Crotty and conversion that denied the men a first win over the Kiwis.

Still hurts.

2015: Long makes short shrift of Die Mannschaft 

Do we really have to say any more about this one? Like, does anyone need reminding? Some of us were in Cardiff for the Rugby World Cup when this one dropped.

When it did it propelled anything Joe Schmidt & Co might do that week firmly down the pecking order.

The goal was created and scored by a pair of subs, Darren Randolph having replaced an injured Shay Given and Shane Long called off the bench with 20 minutes to go. If Long's finish was sensational then the genesis was purely agricultural.

Republic of Ireland's Shane Long celebrates scoring against Germany in the 2015 qualifier. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Republic of Ireland's Shane Long celebrates scoring against Germany in the 2015 qualifier. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

“We avoided 99 of those long balls but the 100th was just too many,” Joachim Low pouted. Bless him. 

Ireland rode their luck, no doubt. They held out through vast periods of German pressure and could thank poor shooting, good fortune and Randolph's heroics in securing the win.

Glorious.

2016: Bullied by the All Blacks 

Beaten by Ireland for the first ever time two weeks earlier, the world champions claimed a 21-9 win that will be best remembered for the sheer intensity of the contest and some shocking, over-the-edge tackling from the visitors.

Jaco Peyper's officiating was called into the dock, not least after appalling tackles from Sam Cane on Robbie Henshaw – which ended the Athlone man's game - and Malakai Fekitoa on Simon Zebo failed to produce the punishment merited.

A brutal test match in the physical sense.

2017: Ireland halt the English chariot 

Ireland had already denied England one Grand Slam at the Aviva back in 2011 but this repeat was even sweeter. 

It brought an 18-game unbeaten run to an end for the visitors and it was the first time Eddie Jones tasted defeat in his role as the side's head coach.

Charlie McGinty from Donegal, the first person to enter the Aviva Stadium throught the Haddington Road stiles in 2010. Picture: INPHO/Colm O'Neill
Charlie McGinty from Donegal, the first person to enter the Aviva Stadium throught the Haddington Road stiles in 2010. Picture: INPHO/Colm O'Neill

A team that had lost two of its first four Six Nations games produced an exceptional performance despite the absence of Conor Murray and the loss of Jamie Heaslip in the warm-up. 

An Iain Henderson try and eight points from Jonathan Sexton was enough in a 13-9 win.

The atmosphere was electric.

2017: Leinster show championship credentials in catching Exeter 

Leinster have been renting out the Aviva twice or more every season for ten years now but the list of memorable occasions they have enjoyed there is surprisingly low despite huge knockout wins against the likes of Toulouse and Saracens.

This was only a pool game but it may be their best display on site yet. Leo Cullen's side had claimed a huge win at Sandy Park against a serious Exeter side the week before but they fell 14 points down against the same opposition here and lost Jonathan Sexton to injury.

Isa Nacewa took over the kicking duties, Ross Byrne filled in at ten and Luke McGrath scored their only try in a 22-17 win that sent the Christmas crowd home happy and paved the way for their fourth European title further down the road.

2018: Made it, Ma! Top of the World!

Steve Hansen decided to up the ante pre-game. Whoever won this one, he said, would be the best team in the world. Challenge accepted. 

Ireland didn't just win, they kept the All Blacks tryless to secure a second ever victory against the visitors and a first on home soil.

Ireland's Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best, Cian Healy, Peter O'Mahony and Devin Toner celebrate beating the All Blacks. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Ireland's Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best, Cian Healy, Peter O'Mahony and Devin Toner celebrate beating the All Blacks. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Jacob Stockdale's chip-and chase second-half try was the difference between the sides. Peter O'Mahony, as with the year before against England, was named man of the match and Ireland looked set fair for a serious crack at the World Cup in Japan after this 16-9 success.

Ah, well...

2019: League of Ireland's big two do the big day justice 

Too often the domestic game has failed its big auditions on live TV, whether on Friday nights or on cup final days. Not last year when Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk produced the goods in the FAI Cup decider.

The Aviva provided the perfect backdrop, the 33,000 or so fans who took it in spoke for the magnitude of the occasions and the game, while good rather than great, highlighted the abilities of the players and the teams and the potential for the wider product.

It finished 1-1 after normal time with Aaron McEneff opening the scoring for Rovers from a penalty with just a minute to go, Michael Murphy equalising right after with a superb finish and the Tallaght side ending a 32-year FAI Cup drought after penalties.

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