Pundits peer into crystal ball for an inkling of future highlights
World Cup, Ryder Cup, GAA and rugby promise another stellar year in sport
Lionel Messi: has the edge over compatriot Sergio Aguero among those favoured to claim the Golden Boot at the World Cup
Now, we accept that even Nostradamus, the most famed sage of all, doesn’t get the old prophecy game right all of the time. So, what chance do our collection of players and sporting pundits have in gazing into their crystal balls to predict the ways of the sporting world for the year ahead?
Admittedly, on the evidence of the past year’s endeavours on various sporting fields around the world, our soothsaying wasn’t half-bad at all.
Let’s just say that our esteemed sports editor Malachy Logan was fast out of the traps with his prediction that nine Irish players would make the original Lions touring party, that Adam Scott would win the US Masters, that Rory McIlroy would have a lean old time of it on the Majors front and that Manchester United would lay claim to the Premier League.
Impressive, we admit, even if things tapered off a bit after that.
Hats off too to those who predicted Rob Heffernan would bounce back from his Olympic travails in London to scoop gold in the World Athletics Championships – Brian Kerr, Alan Quinlan, our athletics correspondent Ian O’Riordan and jockey Johnny Murtagh – were all on the button in predicting that golden outcome although the wave of support for Clermont to claim the Heineken Cup proved misplaced with only the IT GAA correspondent Seán Moran having the wisdom to plump for Toulon.
Enough of the past, what of the crystal gazing for 2014?
Undoubtedly the biggest game in any town this coming year is the World Cup in Brazil. Nope, we didn’t ask our collection of mystics to predict whether or not the stadiums would be constructed in time to actually stage the event.
However, we did want to know who would claim football’s greatest prize and, surprise, surprise, it would seem neighbours Brazil and Argentina are most favoured with Germany and Spain thrown into the mix. No mention of England . . . or Belgium. Hmmmm.
As for the top scorer in the competition: a certain Lionel Messi it would seem has the edge over Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez also tipped for impressive showings. Again, no mention of Mr Wayne Rooney.
The Heineken Cup may or may not be on its last legs but it remains the holy grail for the Irish provinces and at least golfer Shane Lowry puts his hands up as being a devoted Leinster supporter in going for “my team” to win the competition.
He he has strong back-up support from Ireland international cricketer John Mooney, horse trainer Dermot Weld and rugby guru Liam Toland although that support base is outmuscled by the chorus of voices predicting a Clermont Auvergne success.
Lowry will be aiming to make the Ryder Cup in Scotland in September where Paul McGinley will become the first Irish man to captain the European team. As you’d expect, Lowry is firmly in the camp of those predicting a home triumph as Europe seek to retain the famed trophy with only Malachy Logan pinning his colours to the mast for a U-S-A win.
We all know how hard it is for a team to retain the Sam Maguire but it would seem that Dublin’s blue wave has brought a swell of support – some of it reluctant – that Jim Gavin’s men can again win the All-Ireland football championship in 2014.
The odds, it must be pointed out, are against it; Kerry in 2007 were the last team to retain Sam and you have to go back to Cork in 1990 for the previous back-to-back victories.
As far as the hurling is concerned, Shane Lowry believes Kilkenny will emerge from the long grass to again lay their hands on the Liam MacCarthy Cup even if the general consensus of opinion is that Davy Fitz’s young guns are now the team everyone must beat and most likely to retain the silverware.
So, whether it is the World Cup, the Ryder Cup, the All-Irelands or those who play with odd shaped balls in pursuit of the Heineken Cup, there is all to play for in 2014.
And as Mary Hannigan puts it, a dream Brazil-Argentina final in Rio would be probably be the hottest ticket of the year.
Shane Lowry (European Tour golfer)
Who will win the World Cup? Which player will go home with the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer?
I’d love to see Spain do it again, they still play the best football and deserve it. On current form Suarez for the Boot, but depends on how far Uruguay go in the competition.
How many Irish players will make the Ryder Cup team? Who will win, Europe or the United States?
Hopefully at least three. We’d assume Graeme and Rory are shoe-ins and I’d love to join them. Hard to see anything other than a home win, but the Americans will be up for it, big time.
Which team will win the Heineken Cup?
When their game is on I can’t see anyone beating Leinster, so I’ll have to go with an unbiased ‘my team’ win.
Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
Dublin and Kilkenny
Who will win the English Premier League title?
Man City or Liverpool. City have the deeper squad, my money would be on them.
What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2014?
If Leinster get there, I’d love to be at the Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff. But I’d have to miss the cut at Wentworth that week, or get a very fast train from London to make the game!
What was your sporting highlight of 2013?
Dublin v Kerry in the All-Ireland semi, unreal game. Personally, even though I didn’t play well that week, representing Ireland in the World Cup in Australia was a huge honour.
One to watch for the future...
A healthy Luke Fitzgerald is getting back to his very best, really hope he has a strong 2014, he deserves it. In golf, watch Kevin Phelan, best Irish player to turn pro in recent years.
If you had the power to change one thing in sport, what would it be?
It’s an impossible ask, but can we eliminate cheating in sport? Nothing riles me more!