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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

Game on, Ger: The 9 greatest sporting comebacks

As Allen Iverson prepares to make a return to the NBA, he can take inspiration from this lot.

Leinster's recent Heineken Cup win is destined to go down in the annals of history.
Leinster's recent Heineken Cup win is destined to go down in the annals of history.

AS ALLEN IVERSON prepares for an imminent basketball comeback, he has a lot to live up to. No pressure, Allan.

9. Offaly comeback to stun Limerick

1994

Offaly beat Limerick 3-16 to 2-13 in what is routinely described as the greatest comeback in GAA history. Offaly were valued at 16/1 prior to the start of the championship and few people outside of the county gave them a hope of winning the All-Ireland. However, captain Martin Hanamy and his team-mates had other ideas. The game is famously referred to as the “five-minute final” after Offaly incredibly scored two goals and five points in the final five minutes.

Best Quote: ““When people ask me about it, I just tell them it was a freak accident; 2-5 in five minutes is not something you plan for, you don’t go out to training with that in mind. We hadn’t played as well as we could that day — looking back we didn’t really appreciate it because we were young.”-  Faithful hero Johnny Pilkington



8. Manchester City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 3

2004

At half-time in this encounter, City were 3-0 down away from home, with influential midfielder Joey Barton having just been sent off. No one gave them a hope. In the second half however, the Mancunians pulled off arguably the unlikeliest comeback in FA Cup history with goals from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jonathan Macken, as Tottenham collapsed.

Best Quote: “They’ll talk about this game a long time after we’re dead and gone” - Man City boss, Kevin Keegan.

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7. Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France

1999

Regardless of the constant rumours linking Armstrong with performance-enhancing drugs, it was difficult not to admire the American’s 1999 triumph. In 1996, he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and many predicted his career was over. Yet Armstrong prove the doubters wrong by coming back and beating runner-up Alex Zülle by 7 minutes 37 seconds. He then astonishingly went on to win a further six titles, consolidating his status as the comeback king of cycling.

Best Quote: “I hope it sends out a fantastic message to all survivors around the world. We can return to what we were before – and even better” – Lance Armstrong.



6. George Foreman wins the World Heavyweight Title

1994

The boxer won his first World Heavyweight Title in 1973, only to lose it to Muhammad Ali a year later in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ contest. Few would have predicted that 21 years later, the 45-year-old Foreman would regain the title against Michael Moorer – a fighter 19 years his junior. While Foreman would only fight once more as champion before he was controversially stripped of the title, the victory against Moorer alone represented an incredible achievement and one that is unlikely to be matched ever again.

Best Quote: “I want to keep fighting because it is the only thing that keeps me out of the hamburger joints. If I don’t fight, I’ll eat this planet” – George Foreman



5. Buffalo Bills beat the Houston Oilers

1993

The Buffalo Bills came back from a 32-point deficit to record the greatest comeback in NFL history. In overtime, a field goal by Steve Christie was enough to seal a 41-39 victory for Buffalo. They also won the next two AFC playoff games to advance to the Super Bowl, where they lost 52-17 to the Dallas Cowboy. Yet despite this anti-climactic end to their campaign, their place in history was secured.

Best Quote: “I was hollering the same things the fans were hollering at me when we left the field (at half time)” – Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator Walt Corey.



4. France 43-31 New Zealand

1999

A classic David vs Goliath-style encounter, the All Blacks were overwhelming favourites to beat France and advance to the final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup. And these predictions seemed justified when took a 24-10 lead. However, a Christophe Lamaison-inspiredFrance proceeded to shock the world, with the out-half registering 28 of his sides’ 43 points to seal their comeback. Like Buffalo however, they failed to attain silverware despite their heroic efforts, as they were comprehensively beaten 35-12 by Australia in the final.

Best Quote: (Pre-match, following their unconvincing display against Argentina) “We have to play a lot better against New Zealand. If we play badly, they will beat us and the French press will decapitate us like Marie Antoinette” - Jo Maso.



3. Dennis Taylor defeats Steve Davis to win the World Snooker Championship

1985

The famous ‘black ball game’ had all the criteria for a snooker classic. Davis – who had won three of the past four championships – was the world no 1 at the time and was widely tipped to secure the Championship. Northern Ireland’s Taylor had other ideas though. Davis at one stage led by 9 frames to one, but Taylor launched a stunning comeback, bringing the game to 17-17. In the deciding frame, the Championship – for the first time ever – came down to a black-ball finish. Taylor eventually triumphed after 14 hours and 50 minutes of snooker.

Best Quote: “It was all there in black and white” – Steve Davis.



2. Leinster 33-22 Northampton

2011

Tries by Phil Dowson, Ben Foden and Dylan Hartley meant Leinster were losing 22-6 in last month’s Heineken Cup final. However, the English would fail to register a single score for the rest of the encounter, as Leinster, led by the magnificent Jonny Sexton, secured their second Heineken Cup in three years.

Best Quote: “We were shellshocked and needed leaders. I said comebacks happen in finals – I knew we could come back” – Jonny Sexton.



1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan

2005

While there have been three-goal comebacks before in sport, they had never been executed on such an illustrious stage. Liverpool, comprehensively outplayed by their opponents in the first half, somehow conjured up the willpower to recover from their first-half humiliation. Goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimír Šmicer and Xabi Alonso brought the game into extra time and then penalties, where in light of how the match had panned out, there could only be one winner.

Best Quote: “How can I think of leaving Liverpool after a night like this?” – Steven Gerrard.

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