Grab a Kleenex: Here are the most emotional moments from the 2016 sporting year

We're not crying, you're crying

Robbie Brady celebrates with his family at the Euros

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Sport has the power to evoke emotion in everyone, and we certainly had our share of those experiences in 2016.

Watching the Ireland and Munster rugby teams pay their personal tributes to the late Anthony Foley were memorable occasions, and for Leicester fans who thought they'd never see their club achieve the ultimate prize in domestic football, they watched the impossible unfold in 2016.

That's the power of sport, and here are some of the moments that made us laugh, cry and left us in a rage in 2016.

Robbie Brady's header

The Ireland team that went into that final group game against Italy at the Euros were a somewhat depleted outfit. Belgium had mortified us, and a victory against Sweden slipped through our fingers. 

 

Robbie Brady celebrates his wonder goal against Italy

Bodies were fatigued but in the early moments of that Italy clash, we knew the Irish team were intent on winning. It was 90 uninterrupted minutes of tension and when Wes Hoolahan scuppered that chance to steal the lead in the closing stages, we despaired that the chance was gone.

But Hoolahan rose again and whipped a cross into the Italy box that connected with Brady's incoming header, to steer the ball into the net and seal the win that would send us into the knock-out stages.

Annalise Murphy's redemption

Four years ago, we watched Annalise Murphy grieve on the shoreline after losing her grip of a gold medal at the London Olympics to eventually finish in fourth place.

Annalise Murphy beaming with her silver medal

Earlier this summer, she atoned for that heartbreak with a silver medal after a superb race on the final day.

Speaking after her triumph, she said: "Im just a bit shell-shocked. It's incredible to come here today and get a silver medal", Murphy told the Irish press after the medal race.

"Four years ago, when I was fourth I was completely heartbroken, so it's a completely different feeling. I'm delighted."

Pauric Mahony's free

Waterford hurlers came agonisingly close to defeating Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final replay this year. Pauric Mahony, along with Austin Gleeson, emerged as the leaders of the Waterford pack following a string of impressive displays, which ultimately landed the GPA/GAA Player of The Year award for Gleeson.

A dejected Pauric Mahony leaves Croke Park after the drawn All-Ireland semi-final

In the closing stages of that replay against Kilkenny, Mahony found himself standing over a free from distance, which would have surely sent the game into extra-time. The resultant shot had the accuracy, but  not the legs, as the flight of the ball brought it into the possession of Kilkenny keeper Eoin Murphy.

Kilkenny proceeded to win the game by two points and, after the final whistle, Mahony collapsed to the ground in disappointment.

He was comforted by Kilkenny fan Jennifer Malone from Kildare in one of the best moments that 2016 had to offer on or off a sporting pitch and, to show his appreciation for her efforts to console him, Mahony later gave her his jersey. 

Ireland overcome the All-Blacks

After a century of waiting, Ireland finally defeated the All-Blacks this year in Chicago. The victory brought New Zealand's run of 18 test match victories to an end, and Ireland were full value for their triumph.

Coming just days after the passing of Munster legend Anthony Foley, the Irish players decided that, to stand up to the traditional haka by forming a figure of eight, the number worn by the Killaloe man.

In an inspired performance, there was nothing left on the field as Ireland continued to find more energy, more will, something in reserve to push them over the line, even when the All Blacks applied pressure and looked as though they would make a comeback. 

Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland  

It was an appropriate tribute to the late Foley and it set Ireland on their way to beating all three Southern Hemisphere heavyweights in one year.

Michael Conlan's injustice

Following his exit from the Rio Games in controversial circumstances, Michael Conlan gave an explosive interview on Irish television in which he accused the AIBA (amateur boxing association) of corruption and labelled them as 'cheats.'

It was an impassioned summation of his feelings at the time and aside from the tone, Conlan says he still maintains the points he made in the interview.

The most difficult thing for Conlan and for fans to face was the fact that the hopes of a gold medal, well within the reach of the World, European and Commonwealth champion. Years of sacrifice, dedication and hard work were taken away in a second, and had nothing to do with the performance in the ring.

The AIBA threatened disciplinary action against Conlan at the time and recently revealed that they had issued him the maximum fine for his outburst.

It's unlikely that the fine will be paid, as Conlan has since joined the professional ranks and is no longer under the jurisdiction.

Chicago Cubs win

There was something special in the sporting air in Chicago in 2016. Ireland claimed their famous victory over the All Blacks, and the Cubs ended a wait of over 100 years to claim the World Series title. The Bears still sucked. 

The stories of parents and their children celebrating the win together, neither one believing they would ever get to experience that moment together, were incredibly touching. From 94-year-old veterans to fans who had been passed the torch of support down through the years, there was finally something to celebrate after years of disappointment.

In particular the story of Wayne Williams brought a tear to the eyes of anyone who heard it.  

Williams' father, also named Wayne Williams, had made a promise with his son that when the Cubs got to the World Series, they would listen to the games together.

Despite the fact that Williams Snr. passed away in 1980, Williams Jr. was determined to keep his promise and drove over 600 miles from North Carolina to Greenwood Forest Lawn Cemetery in Indiana, radio in hand, to sit by his father's grave as the Cubs won.

Leicester

Dilly ding, dilly dong. From the bottom of the pile to the top, ti's the type of stuff normally reserved for the script of a new instalment in the hackneyed Goal movie franchise or a rejected Dream Team storyline.

Not for Claudio Ranieri and Leicester, who completed the most incredible of feats in winning the Premier League. They didn't have the big names, they didn't have the budget, and they didn't have the prestige, but they refused to lie down and found a formula that outfoxed the league's heavyweights.

In the end, it's just a game with a bunch of people kicking a ball about, but perhaps Leicester fan Lee, who called into BBC Radio 5 Live a little bit tired and emotional after another win, put it into perspective. 

In the middle of their extraordinary run, he spoke to Robbie Savage about how he passed his support down to his son, and the moments they shared throughout the season were the stuff every fan dreams of.