Looking down the track for the year ahead

Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 00:00

Hopes that O’Driscoll can be a Lion amongst men and high expectations for Rory McIlroy dominate predictions, writes GAVIN CUMMISKEY

The opinions of some Irish sporting kings, and those who’ve spent a lifetime writing about their exploits, have been gathered.

Voices from all walks of life: a champion jockey, the Chairman of the Boards, the Greener of Inchicore, a high fielding Kerryman and a red blooded blindside of Tipperary stock.

First, let’s deal with what has passed.

Katie Taylor is sprinkled through most people’s 2012 highlights. Ian Poulter’s last five holes on Saturday night at Medinah is also remembered.

The Irish Times racing and rugby correspondents rarely, if ever, intersect but both have long been mesmerised by the enduring, stellar career of Roger Federer. In 2012 the 31-year-old Swiss giant captured his seventh Wimbledon title, the achievement finally generating some much needed liquid for Andy Murray’s tear ducts. And, it seems, some inner steel as well. Johnny Murtagh provided us with the best answer though. Who should we watch out for in 2013? “Me!” Murtagh replied. That is, once he gets his trainers licence next May.

Refreshingly blunt and so un-Irish in his naked desire for world dominance, be it in the saddle, as a trainer or owner.

Reminds us of a young fella from Cuba, named Tony, who once said about making it in America, “In this country, you got to make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman. That’s why you got to make your own moves.”

Looking ahead, Irish hopes of flooding the Lions squad have most experts predicting up to double figures to tour Australia next summer. If the average guess that eight or nine will travel comes to pass then Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonny Sexton, Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Cian Healy, the constantly injured Stephen Ferris, the seriously troubled Paul O’Connell and at least one of the young wingers must get/stay fit and perform during the Six Nations.

That’s a tall order. Not that our opinion counts for much, but considering the coaching ticket is all Welsh and English, six, maybe seven, seems a more realistic expectation.

Expectations for Rory McIlroy, however, continue to soar. Many predict his third and fourth Majors will be banked come the 18th hole on Sunday of the PGA at Oak Hill in August.

Most are playing it safe with the football – Manchester United for the Premier League and Barcelona for the Champions League – with the boss and Alan Quinlan veering off course by mentioning Borussia Dortmund, perhaps after witnessing performances against Ajax and Man City.

We’re not even going to bother writing about the hopes of an Irish medal at the world athletics championships in Moscow because not even Eamonn Coghlan could muster a second word answer to that question.

“None.” Nonetheless, Mark English’s career should prosper in 2013. Just not in the home strait when David Rudisha is running tape to tape and Nigel Amos of Botswana is in hot pursuit.

We crave better facilities and improved funding but most of all we want to believe in our winners again. The spectre of doping will linger into 2013.

But doubt will always be obliterated by youth. New names will sink into our sporting consciousness — maybe a Zebo or a Costello or a Sea of the Stars offspring.

Where will the joy be found? Because it always comes. Maybe, unthinkably right now, at the Aviva Stadium on May 18th or in Sydney on July 6th.

A fitting last stand for the man called O’Driscoll perhaps? We know September activity at Croke Park will bring elation to a few corners of this island. That’s a guarantee. The death and taxes of Gaelic games (Kilkenny and Kerry) may rise once again. For Shefflin’s 10th medal, or in memory of Páidí.

Who knows? Who cares? We all do.

That’s what brings us back.

Crystal Gazing

Johnny Murtagh - Champion Jockey
 
How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?
I'd say five


Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
It would be good to see Adam Scott win the Masters after what happened at the British Open. And Rory could win two.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Manchester United, and I hope Mourinhno can go out with a bang at Real Madrid.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
I hate saying none, so I'll say one. But don't ask me who.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Kilkenny in the hurling and Kerry might do the football. Páidí Ó Sé’s sad death might kick them on.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Clermont

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Katie Taylor winning the Olympic Gold

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
I'm going to say me! I plan to get my trainer’s license in May so then I'll be doing everything - training them, owning them and riding them.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
I would love Irish racing to get its act together, in terms of betting, facilities and all the rest. I keep hearing we're the best in the world but some of the infrastructure here is embarrassing.

Brian Kerr - Former Republic of Ireland manager

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

Even with no one on the coaching side of it, let's be optimistic that our injured stars get back to their best and with a good Six Nations we get 10 or 11.

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
Rory to win, and make up for 2011 disaster, but it would be extraordinary for him to win more than one Major but that’s exactly what he is.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Man Utd to win Premier League. Bayern Munich and Juventus have the greater hunger now. I will go for Juve.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
Only Rob Heffernan is world class of our current athletes. So Rob to get some consolation for not getting a medal in London.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Cork and Kilkenny

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Clermont

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
So many. The beautiful game; Spain 1 Italy 1 at the Euros and Katie's lap of honour with the tricolour billowing above her head in the Excel arena .

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Chris Forrester. For a late starter in competitive football, the St Patrick’s Athletic attacking midfielder shows great awareness and responsibility to his role.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
Chris Forrester gets an opportunity at a higher level.

Kieran Donaghy - Three time All-Ireland winner with Kerry

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

As many as possible to make me watch the games with more vigour! I’d love to see Brian O’Driscoll get the captaincy again after what happened in 2005.

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
McIlroy has the game to win all four. Whether he can focus himself totally on golf is the test. Maybe that will happen further down the line but certainly one.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
I wouldn’t rule Chelsea out yet, but probably Manchester United. Real Madrid can win the Champions League.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
Probably none. Our athletes do very well considering the resources and competition with other sports.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Kilkenny in hurling. Donegal are in the best position to win the football. It’s about how they react to the pressure.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Hard to look past Clermont.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Katie Taylor, of course, but also Ian Poulter on the Saturday night of Ryder Cup. Those five birdies sent everyone to bed thinking, ‘Jeez, we have a chance’.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
From a Kerry point of view, Peter Crowley could come through. Kyle Coney is another who could really announce himself if Tyrone get going again.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
No major tragedy at a sporting occasion and, yerra, the two Ks come in - a Kerry, Kilkenny double.

Alan Quinlan - Former Munster and Ireland flanker, two-time Heineken Cup winner

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

I’d say around eight to 10. The certainties are Brian O’Driscoll, Johnny Sexton, Rory Best, Jamie Heaslip and Seán O’Brien. If their injuries clear up in time, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe will all go. Donncha Ryan, Cian Healy and Simon Zebo will go close, depending on how the Six Nations goes.

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
I think Rory will win one major and it will most likely be this one. If not him, Charl Schwartzel.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
I’ll be very boring and say the obvious answer – Manchester United and Barcelona. The one wild card is Borussia Dortmund.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
It’s very difficult to see them coming home with more than one or two. Rob Heffernan has to have a chance in the walk but otherwise it will be very tough.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Donegal and Kilkenny are a step ahead of everybody else at the minute. I fancy Kerry to come again and my heart says that Tipperary will step up in the hurling. But my head says it will probably go the same way as last year.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Clermont Auvergne should finally do it this time.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
I came in off the beach in Malaga to watch Katie Taylor’s final in a bar.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Brian O’Driscoll will hopefully be going on his fourth Lions tour, hopefully as captain. It would be a great way to round off his time with the Lions if he could finally be part of a winning tour.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
That Ireland wins the Grand Slam again.

Eamonn Coghlan - Former world champion 5,000 metres

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia
?
Probably four or five at least.

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
There will be more distractions than ever before for Rory but still think there is two Majors in him.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Manchester United in both.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
None

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Dublin and Shefflin to win his 10th All-Ireland with Kilkenny.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Leinster if they can squeeze into the quarter-finals. But that's a very big ask.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
David Rudisha winning the Olympic 800 metres with a world record time. And Mo Farah’s phenomenal achievement of winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres must also be recognised.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Nigel Amos was second to Rudisha in that 800 metre final, and he is still only 18 years of age. From an Irish perspective, Mark English has all the ingredients; speed, stamina, an extra gear and a racing brain.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
That Irish athletes in all sports continue to realise that while we might be a little dot on the planet we got big hearts. If we go with confidence we can add to the brilliant success of Rory, Katie Taylor and our Paralympians, particularly Mark Rohan.

Malachy Logan – Sports Editor

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

Nine

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
Adam Scott. None.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Man Utd and Borussia Dortmund

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
None

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Kerry and Galway

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Harlequins

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Having the privilege of going to the London Olympics, the best and most enjoyable sports event I ever attended.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Dublin dual player Cormac Costello

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
That our politicians give up issuing soundbites and press releases after Irish sporting success in favour of doing something of a more substantial nature i.e. providing proper funding.

Brian O’Connor - Racing correspondent

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

Seven

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
McIllroy. And he'll win two.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Manchester United look good. And Real Madrid with no La Liga worries to clutter things up.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
It looks like zero I’m afraid.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Dublin if a couple of under-21s come through. And Tipperary to use their 2012 embarrassment as motivation.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Clermont look good.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
For me, it was Roger Federer winning Wimbledon, and getting back to number one. Class really is permanent.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Tarana. A John Oxx trained filly who won her only start as a juvenile at the Curragh at 12 to 1. Looked very green and sure to improve. By the sire of Sea The Stars, and holds classic entries in 2013.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
A pipe-dream, but it would be nice to watch certain sports and not have a doping niggle at the back of your mind whenever someone does something remarkable. 

Gerry Thornley - Rugby Correspondent

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

10 or 11

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
McIlroy will win the Masters and one more.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
The Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited City and Barcelona.(or, eh, Arsenal).

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
No point in guessing. Haven’t a Scooby doo.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Kerry and Galway.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Clermont Auvergne.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Leinster retaining the Heineken Cup.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Hard to choose between the young Connacht pair of scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and full back Robbie Henshaw, while Simon Zebo could be a bolter for the Lions.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
Arsenal to win a trophy. Just one trophy.. Any trophy really. And Federer, the greatest sportsman in the world, to win another Major.

Ian O’Riordan - Athletics correspondent

How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?

Happy, for once, to agree with Gerry Thornley on this one, and root for 10.

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
No reason whatsoever why McIlroy can’t win at Augusta, and pick up another Major somewhere else.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League  and the Champions League trophies?
Something ominous about Man Utd in the Premier League, and something inevitable about Barcelona in Europe.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
Time perhaps for Rob Heffernan to get his just reward over the 50km walk, although after that, it’s less about medals as it is finalists.

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
My money already on Kilkenny on the hurling and split, as usual, between Dublin and Kerry for the football.

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Looks to me as if Clermont on something of mission, so far anyway.

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Unquestionably the incomparable David Rudisha, and his 1:40.....

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Expecting further progress from our own 800m specialist Mark English.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
That I can sit back and watch the 100th Tour de France and believe...

Seán Moran – Gaelic games correspondent
How many players will Ireland have on the Lions touring squad to Australia?
Nine

Who will win the US Masters at Augusta? How many Majors will Rory McIlroy win in 2013?
Luke Donald. Two.

Which teams will lift the English Premier League and the Champions League trophies?
Manchester United and Barcelona.

How many medals will Ireland win at the World Athletics Championships?
None

Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Dublin and Kilkenny

Who will win the Heineken Cup?
Toulon

What was your sporting highlight of 2012?
Katie Taylor and less obviously Cuala under-14s winning the Dublin Division Two camogie championship.

One to watch in 2013 . . . . .
Irish players settle into the AFL much quicker these days and Dublin’s loss of the multi-talented Ciarán Kilkenny will be Hawthorn’s immediate gain.

Sporting wish for the year ahead  . . . .
That the GAA has a sensible and honest debate on the proposals of the Football Review Committee and that they get passed at next March’s congress.