2016 sporting predictions: We’ll make a good fist of it at the Olympics
Our players and pundits see chances for Rio gold, but aren't so optimistic about Euro 2016
Thanks to Katie Taylor, things are looking up for Ireland at the Olympics. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Watching Usain Bolt in the Olympics 100m final will be one of the hottest tickets of 2016. Photograph: Afp
Can Arsene Wenger and Arsenal end a 12 year wait for the league title in 2016? Photograph: Reuters
Willie Mullins trained a staggering eight winners at the 2015 Cheltenham festival - but Annie Power wasn’t one of them. Photograph: Getty
“It’s like déjà vu all over again” is a quote attributed to the famous American baseball player and coach Yogi Berra and, for everyone looking back with the benefit of hindsight, New Zealand’s win in the 2015 Rugby World Cup was a bit like that. Inevitable really, as if we’d been there before, and something our pundits looking into crystal balls this time last year predicted with regularity.
But it wasn’t all so plain-sailing. No siree! And while there was common consensus that the New Zealand juggernaut would conquer all-comers, a large majority of forecasters also thought Rory McIlroy would achieve the career Grand Slam at Augusta (he didn’t!).
And it’s at this point we’d like to take our hats off to horse racing trainer Willie McCreery, who must have a degree in soothsaying or some other jiggery-pokery or hocus-pocus because he was quite a revelation when it came to the art of tipping.
McCreery, alone, went for Jordan Spieth to win the Masters; was part of the crew who opted for the All Blacks to win the World Cup; nominated Dublin to win the All-Ireland football and Kilkenny to capture the hurling; and predicted that Cork’s women would win the double of football and camogie titles.
If the World Cup was the big sporting ticket for 2015, there is quite a feast ahead for 2016. Normally, an Olympics year would dwarf everything else but both soccer teams – the Republic and Northern Ireland – qualifying for Euro2016 has added extra spice to that summer gig.
So, how far will either Martin O’Neill or Michael O’Neill’s men go? Unfortunately, not very far if our selection of expert pundits casting their eyes ahead to the year’s sporting fields are to be believed: the most optimistic view comes from Irish rugby international Peter O’Mahony, who envisages both sides advancing as far as the quarter-finals.
As for winning the actual titles? Well, it’s down to the usual suspects, with World Cup champions Germany the most popular choice, although Spain and Belgium also garnered some support. Nobody, though, sees England doing the job.
Not surprisingly, Katie Taylor – current Olympic, World and European champion – is seen as the best chance of a gold medal although Mick Conlon and (with golf’s return to the Olympics) Rory McIlroy have their supporters. The feel-good factor about the Ireland team is such that the predicted medal haul ranges from three up to a wow-factor eight, envisaged by Shane Lowry (hoping to win one himself in golf) and rugby player O’Mahony.
So, this could be a golden year for Irish sport.
1 How far will Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively advance in Euro 2016? Who will ultimately emerge as overall champions?
2 Who represents Ireland’s best chance of a gold medal in the Olympic Games? How many medals in total will be brought home?
3 Which team will win the English Premier League?
4 Who will win the All-Ireland football and hurling championships?
5 Who will win the women’s All-Ireland football and camogie championships?
6 What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2016?
7 What was your sporting highlight of 2015?
8 If you were handed €100 million to invest in a sporting facility or programme, what would you prioritise?
European Tour and PGA Tour player
1 Ireland to get to the last 16, Northern Ireland not to get out of their tough group . . . . and Germany to win!
2 Michael Conlon and Katie Taylor, eight medals
3 Arsenal to finally get there!
4 Dublin to win the football, Kilkenny to win the hurling
5 Cork to win both . . . . I expect their dominance in both codes to continue.
6 I aim to be at the Olympics as a competitor, to compete, to savour the special atmosphere and hopefully mange to see as much as possible, including some boxing and track and field.
7 Personally, my win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron stands out as a memory I will always cherish.
8 Sport is schools and at grassroots level deserves ever greater levels of financial support, because the work done on the ground is absolutely priceless!
Irish rugby international
1 Ireland won’t get out of the group but will get one memorable win; Northern Ireland could be a surprise packet and get through to the last 16. Germany or Belgium to win ....I’ll go with Belgium
2 Katie Taylor...in fact, I think Katie, Mick Conlon and Adam Nolan can all win. We will pick up two or three more. Maybe six medals in all.
3 My head says Man City, but my heart says Spurs.
4 Hurling, I’m going for Waterford, they won’t but I want them to. In football, Dublin
5 I can’t see anything but a Cork double again
6 Imagine Ireland playing in the Euro2016 final? Sure you’d have to be there.
7 Winning the Six Nations, it brought unbelievable pride along with relief. We had a score we had to reach against Scotland in our last match and there was a bit of pressure with that. The shows Ireland’s women’s rugby is on the map and that 2013 wasn’t a once off, a flash in the pan.
8 I’d like to see more money go into grass roots rugby, especially in the women’s side, into clubs and I would love to see an indoor velodrome and also money towards the Special Olympics.
National Hunt Jockey
1 Hate to be the pessimist but they will struggle to get out of the group stages and it will be a miracle if both get out. The Germans seem to be a step above everyone else.
2 Michael Conlan looks our best bet, as do the boxers generally. Maybe the golfers will pick something up too. I’ll say half a dozen medals.
3 Much as it kills me as a Man Utd fan I still think Arsenal will do it this year. I don’t know what’s happening at United: they have good players but are they all mixing?
4 Being from Tralee I have to say Kerry will beat the Dubs. I would love to see Galway come back and win the hurling but it’s still very hard to look beyond Kilkenny.
5 Cork in the camoige and Monaghan in football.
6 Other than Cheltenham Gold Cup day I would love to watch the athletics finals at the Olympics in Rio, especially the 100 metres final.
7 Ian Madigan’s show of emotion after Ireland beat France at the rugby World Cup showed just what it meant. A special day for me was Don Poli winning the RSA at Cheltenham.
8 Since I’m part of the racing business, I would invest the money in improving facilities at some of our smaller racecourses because some are terrible. Judging on how much Leopardstown are spending to upgrade right now, €100 million could make a big difference to six or seven tracks.
Cork dual footballer and camogie player
1 Ireland and Northern Ireland to get out of their groups but not any further; Spain to win.
2 Katie Taylor is again our best hope.....six.
3 Man City.... I know yer man at Chelsea was fired, so not them.
4 I have to say Dublin, and also have to go with Kilkenny.
5 Hopefully Cork in both championships. I’d say Galway in football and Kilkenny in camogie are our main challengers.
6 Oh, I’d love to go to Rio. If I had one ticket to any event, it would be the 100 metres sprint final, just to witness such sheer speed up front
7 There was a weekend we thought our matches were going to clash: we beat Kilkenny in the camogie semi-final and Galway in the football quarter-final in the one weekend. That was class.
8 I’d invest money to improve structures in camogie and football and would definitely prioritise getting coaches into every club. You’d get a lot of coaches for that amount!
Irish rugby international
1 I’ll be very optimistic and say both will make it to the quarters. Belgium to win out.
2 We have a number of genuine gold medal contenders. Eight medals
3 Leicester City ..... now that would be something.
4 Kerry to win the football and Cork to win the hurling
5 Cork to win both . . . . again!
6 No question what I’d like to see: the 100 metres final of the Olympics. Dream ticket.
7 Winning the 6 Nations with Ireland!
8 I’d build a new multi-purpose stadium in Cork. It’s badly needed.
1 Hard to see either make it out of the group but if I had to plump for one, it would be Martin O’Neill’s outfit. Germany to win the championship.
2 Toss up between Katie Taylor and Rory McIlroy. Ireland to win five medals.
3 Leicester City, I hope.
4 Mayo and Clare.
5 Dublin in football and Cork in camogie.
6 Hard to beat watching Usain Bolt in the 100 metres Olympic final in Rio.
7 Dublin winning their third All Ireland title in five years with a really thunderous display in dreadful conditions on September 20th.
8 I would finish off every project in Abbotstown and let it become a centre of excellence with a world-wide reputation.
1 The Republic has the better chance of getting out of the group and I think they will. Germany are deserving favourites to win it: outstanding World Cup winners.
2 Boxing represents our best chance again. And Michael Conlan is an exceptional talent approaching his peak: three boxing medals and maybe one other.
3 It might be a bad league but after Arsenal win it, where will those ‘experts’ who were calling for Arsene Wenger’s head not so long ago be looking?
4 Kerry had their pride wounded in September and wounded Kerrymen are deadly dangerous: at this stage, any chance of an ‘ABKK’ – Anyone But Kilkenny? It’s got boring!
5 ‘C&C’ – Cork and Cork.
6 The dream is Croke Park in September and Cork winning Liam McCarthy – the nightmare is the waking up.
7 Willie Mullins training a record-breaking eight winners at Cheltenham was a remarkable achievement.
8 Depends on who’s handing it – but a non-agenda €100 million could kick-start an independent international doping regime over all sport. We’ve learned the hard way self-regulation doesn’t work.
Chief Sports Writer
1 Northern Ireland to go out in the group stage . Have a feeling the Republic of Ireland will go through to knockout phase.
2 Katie Taylor.
3 Think this has got to be Arsenal’s time.
4 Galway and Mayo. It’s in the stars.
5 Dublin and Cork.
6 Prime seats at Wimbledon to see Federer v Djokavic –or Federer v anyone- on men’s final day. Failing that, court side for Lakers- Jazz on April 13th, Kobe Bryant’s final home game would be nice.
7 A magical night, with the stadium rocking: 2015 will always be associated with Shane Long’s goal against Germany.
8 I’d quadruple Sports Council High Performance funding. Also, the Irish national school system is in dire need of a concerted sports/exercise programme.
1 No easy way out of their group for either team, obviously, although something about the O’Neill-Keane combination suggests Ireland can slip into the last 16, and that’s about it.
2 Michael Conlan is boxing with near unbeatable confidence, definitely offers our best chance of gold, and Katie Taylor we know won’t easily surrender her Olympic title. One more boxing medal, probably, although that could be it.
3 Arsenal, or so my brother keeps telling me: although he has told me that before.
4 Dublin are edging into a class of their own, certainly the football team to beat, now primed for a back-to-back; Kilkenny are a more vulnerable, and if Clare hurling can rise swiftly they have the knack to win.
5 Cork’s footballers have lost their guiding light in Eamonn Ryan, and that might clear the way for Dublin, although Cork should still have the edge in the camogie championship.
6 Bob Dylan concerts probably don’t count, so three weeks in France in July following the Tour is one gig I’d like to experience.
7 Being in Baku for the inaugural European Games didn’t feel particularly worthwhile, until the moment Katie Taylor took out the Azerbaijani, Yana Alekseevna, in a rousing semi-final, then won gold 24 hours later.
8 A chemistry lab? Just kidding, I’d start by restoring the disgracefully abandoned Belfield track at UCD, then build an indoor athletics track somewhere in southside Dublin and watch participation levels soar.
1 We’ll both pox our way into the knock-out stage but no further. Spain look to have fewest potholes on the way to the last four so I’ll go for them.
3 Arsenal. To be in this position despite so many injuries just shows what a winnable league it is this time around.
4 If not this year for Mayo, then when? And why would any sane person not pick Kilkenny?
5 Cork aren’t as bankable in football without Eamonn Ryan - so Dublin. But their camogie team are still the best bet.
6 A month off, a rail pass from SNCF and a different Euro 2016 game each day. Not much to ask, surely?
7 Highlight might be the wrong word for it but for pure jump-out-of-your-seat drama, nothing was more visceral than Annie Power falling at the last at Cheltenham.
8 Use it to triple Wada’s annual budget with a view to finding out how the world’s richest sport, soccer, somehow appears to be one of the cleanest