Sporting predictions for 2021: We ask the experts . . .

Some of Ireland’s leadings sportspeople and writers have their say on the year ahead

Sanita Puspure in rowing has a great chance of going for gold at the Olympics in Tokyo. File photograph: Inpho

Sanita Puspure in rowing has a great chance of going for gold at the Olympics in Tokyo. File photograph: Inpho

 

Lee Keegan (Mayo footballer)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Golf is the sport we can potentially win a gold medal in, particularly with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry participating. Gymnastics too - Rhys McClenaghan is someone with immense talent and one that can be taking a medal home. I will say overall count 8-10.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
France I think are still the team to beat. They’re a quality team with superstars. Olivier Giroud as top goalscorer. Knowing my luck he won’t start. I’m sure all the talk will be about England.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
No they shouldn’t. I believe it’s up to the rest of us to catch Dublin in both men’s and women’s. They have set the bar and like in all sports it’s now up to the rest of the field.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I would love to see Rory complete the slam but the way Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are playing I will be tipping those two. Augusta is a beast so it’s a lottery. Of course all the talk will be dominated by Bryson DeChambeau and his insane power.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Super Bowl. A sport I love watching on a Sunday evening. Obviously when we can travel again. Maybe 2050!!!! But definitely on the bucket list.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
A mad one to even think back on, stop watching the daily news quicker than I did. In a sporting context appreciate the break during the lockdown from GAA to refocus and energise what we missed out on.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
I am going to be extremely biased here. For me Oisín Mullin. I think looking at the way he performed in his first senior championship it was off the chart. He is only tipping the iceberg to what he can fulfil. Plus he can cover my old body!

Mayo’s Oisín Mullin and Lee Keegan following this year’s All-Ireland football final. File photograph: Inpho
Mayo’s Oisín Mullin and Lee Keegan following this year’s All-Ireland football final. File photograph: Inpho

Phil Healy (International athlete)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
I think we have many hopefuls. Sanita Puspure in rowing has a great chance of going for gold to build on her World Championship success. The boxers also may present Ireland with some medal hope, in addition to gymnast Rhys McClenaghan. I predict 3-5 medals by Team Ireland.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
I may have got a bit of help on this one as it certainly wouldn’t be one where I would have too much knowledge. So I predict France - and Harry Kane to be leading goalscorer.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
No, I don’t think this would be a good move. Dublin have set the level of high performance that other counties need to step up and match. Of course funding in support of the team also plays a massive role, but the bar has been raised and while this will create debate in any sport when it happens, to settle it, it requires other teams to really step it up and make the required changes.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
No . . . Jon Rahm.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
The Olympic Games, the highlight of the 2021 calendar - and hopefully it will actually go ahead. If I had to pick a sport other than athletics, it would be swimming, boxing or rowing.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
I think it would be the pandemic not happening - an obvious choice for most!

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Ciara Mageean. She is already a leading star in Irish sport, but seeing firsthand how she operates is unbelievable. I have shared a room with her at so many international competitions and she is just a super sound girl. She’s had so many tough times along the way, but her resilience and true determination only strengthened. So, I’m looking forward to seeing Ciara build on 2020 and light up the track.

Gavin Moynihan (European Tour golfer)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
I think Ireland’s hockey team have a terrific chance of getting in the medals and a strong chance of making it a gold one, while Rory McIlroy must also be seen as a strong prospect in the men’s golf. Three medals would be a decent return but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is even better than that.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
Belgium have so many good players that I think it is about time they won a big tournament. The leading goalscorer will be between Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane, and maybe England’s fixture schedule tips the balance in favour of Kane.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
I am a big GAA fan and I’ve gotten to know some of the Dublin players well in recent years and they are just elite athletes who put so much into their preparations and performances. But they’ve also had a bit of luck too, which is also part of sport. I think it is more about other counties raising their own game.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I believe Rory will do it at some point but it could be later in his career, a bit like Tiger in 2019 or when Jack Nicklaus did it in ‘86. I’d obviously love to see him do it this year but, as much as I hate to say it, I think Bryson DeChambeau will do it.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
I’d love to take in an El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. but obviously when the crowds are back.

El Clasico - the meeting of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid - is one of the great sporting occasions. File photograph: Getty Images
El Clasico - the meeting of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid - is one of the great sporting occasions. File photograph: Getty Images

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Simple answer: play better golf! Although it was a disrupted season, my putting just wasn’t where I wanted or needed it to be when I got to play.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Jonny Caldwell is not exactly a newcomer but he is someone who has really impressed me with his attitude. He had a great season last year and led the putting stats in a number of tournaments. I think he will kick on again in 2021, he is sort of free-wheeling it and that is allowing him to play some great golf on tour.

Sonia O’Sullivan (Former athlete)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim? 
Sanita Puspure is still the standout medal prospect in rowing, with the potential for Team Ireland to win three medals. 

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament? 
Belgium to win, and Romeu Lukaka to be top goal scorer 

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two? 
There's no real benefit to splitting Dublin, as it most likely will result in Dublin A v Dublin B. Maybe just to make things interesting they could develop another game, a bit like State of Origin (in Australian sport) where it’s an annual game - Dublin north v Dublin south and its a big deal to be selected for your place of origin. North or south, based on the club where you played as minor. 

A general view during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
A general view during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Also maybe instead of the league games, have a totally different system where players play for a team that can include five drafted players each year and the teams are not counties but The Vikings, The Rebels, The Cats, The Kingdom. Draw up a top tier limited league of teams say 12 and eventually this will become bigger than the championship. It will start small and in time become a professional league. 

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win? 
Rory will play well, but he won’t win, and in the end it most likely will be won by an American player. 

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021? 
To have a seat in the Olympic Stadium for the final few days of athletics on the home straight would be all I could ask for. That may depend on whether or not the Olympics go ahead with spectators and the virus is eliminated from world sport with things operating as normal.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do? 
I think there are many events that could in hindsight have played on, such as the Australian Grand Prix, and the NCAA Indoor track and field championships in the US. 

One to watch for the year ahead . . .  
Keep an eye on rising distance runner Tadgh Donnelly from Droheda and District, who has already come close to breaking Frank Greally’s long-standing National Junior 10,000m record.

Alan Casey (International basketball player)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Our rowers have joined our boxing team now as our perennial medal contenders with multiple world champions in their ranks. Sanita Puspure looks our best bet for a gold and it would be great to see Paul O’Donovan go one better this time around be-it with his brother or new partner Fintan McCarthy. Eight Medals - a new record to give the nation a huge boost.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
Same results as the World Cup I think, France win while Harry Kane picks up the golden boot.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
No way, that would ruin the competition for me. As a Mayo man I would enjoy seeing someone else (preferably us) winning one but, if Dublin was split in two, would it feel like a real All-Ireland? I don’t think so.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I don’t think Rory will do it this time either, seems to keep getting in his own way there. I think he will do it someday but when the expectations aren’t there. Dustin Johnson looked pretty unbeatable there in November but I’ll go with an improved performance from Collin Morikawa with conditions to suit him better this time around.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Superbowl for sure!

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Saving the world is probably a little out of scope with my abilities. The obvious one would be just to have made the most of the summer to see more family and friends when we were still able to do so, (maybe even taking a day or two off during the 12 week pre-season for the season that ceased to be)!

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Ciarán Roe, our point guard and Irish captain, has taken up sprinting during lockdowns, he’s too late to make Tokyo but maybe Paris. In the NBA, Ja Morant, now in his second season with the Memphis Grizzlies, is one of my favourites to watch. He’s electric.

Killester’s Alan Casey celebrates victory in the 2019 Hula-Hoops Men’s National Cup final. File photograph: Inpho
Killester’s Alan Casey celebrates victory in the 2019 Hula-Hoops Men’s National Cup final. File photograph: Inpho

Willie McCreery (Racehorse Trainer and Ex Kildare Footballer)

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
I saw Sanita Puspure on TV recently and she’s a strong woman, legs like iron. I don’t think a year later will make much of a difference to her. A couple of years might have. We seem to always do well in the boxing and rowing so I’ll say three or four which would be great for Ireland.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
Either Spain or France, I think. I’ll go for Spain. And Ronaldo to be top scorer.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
No, and I think other counties need to shut up and step up. Dublin have a great system. The rest should stop complaining and try to play like Dublin rather than playing so much defensive stuff. Then we might have a championship worth looking at. To me, we’re losing people watching football because it’s so boring. Hurling has gone defensive and it’s still great to look at. Football isn’t like that. We need it to be football again rather than handball.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I don’t think so. He doesn’t seem able to do it for four days. I don’t know whether it’s concentration or not but he seems to be a three day man. I like Justin Thomas - a fantastic player.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
I’d love to be at the 100 metres final in Tokyo. I was in Japan for six months in 1990 and I’d love to go back. They are the nicest people you could meet.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Obviously I’d get rid of this horrible virus above anything else. There are a lot of numbers put out there but there’s death and tragedy behind them all.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Our filly Lustown Baba won a Listed race at the Curragh at the backend of the season. I think she can improve again. She’s very honest and ploughs through testing ground when others can’t. I hope it’s a wet spring for her - and a wet autumn!

The Irish Times writers

Mary Hannigan

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Sanita Puspure or Rhys McClenaghan. It’s hard not to be hopeful when you look through the team that we’ll be sending, and the people still with a good chance of qualifying, like Kellie Harrington. So, let’s be optimistic - they’ll match London 2012’s total of six medals.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
France - and Kylian Mbappe.

Could Kylian Mbappe be the star of Euro2021? File photograph: Getty Images
Could Kylian Mbappe be the star of Euro2021? File photograph: Getty Images

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s. Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
God no, that’d be abominable - what value would an All Ireland have if you only beat half of Dublin to win it? And then there’s the prospect of 10 years of North Dublin v South Dublin finals, at which point 31 counties will tune out. No, hang in there, those reigns will eventually end. Maybe.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
Maybe not this year. The ever popular Bryson DeChambeau to win, which will really thrill Brooks Koepka.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
After the 2020 we endured, you’d take a ticket to any sporting event at all - even an Under-12 Tiddlywinks contest.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Erase it from the calendar and pretend it never happened.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Jack Woolley, the 22-year-old from Tallaght who is the first Irish person to qualify for the Olympics in Taekwondo. He won silver at the 2019 European Championships and beat the world number two to win the US Open last February. If he medals in Tokyo, the nation will go Taekwondo bonkers.

Johnny Watterson

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Skibbereen’s Paul O’Donovan and AN Other in the boat with him. The boat has qualified in the lightweight double sculls and Paul will be in it with a partner. He is a double world champion in the single sculls and a twice world champion in double sculls. Irish medals - four.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
Thinking France but will go Belgium to win. If they do it’s their first major trophy, having lost the final in 1980 to West Germany. One of the most talented squads in the world, an injury free Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to finally make this golden generation count. Non? Golden boot Lukaku.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
Gerrymandering the county on account of some people getting nervous about Dublin dominating forever should not be part of the GAA psyche. It’s a terrible idea. A better way is to soften the rules for county allegiances. Would a top player prefer to play with Dublin ‘B’ or Meath, or Donegal.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
McIlroy was 10 behind Dustin Johnson after the 2020 first round. Three days later he was eight shots back and came fourth. Chill those jets. If he doesn’t blow a round and gets putting better than streaky a Slam awaits. So yes, he will win.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Selfishly, to go to The Masters as a journalist, have the name pulled out of the hat to play the course on the Monday. But there’s too much of the lottery in that so the Tokyo Olympic Games. All the Irish interest with possible medals, lives on hold and the dramas of ordinary people doing great things.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Golf courses were closed down unnecessarily. Two or four people walking around a 300 acre piece of turf at eight or 10 minute intervals and socially distanced with each other. A game made for a pandemic. You rock up in the car, hit the ball and go find it. Safer than walking Dun Laoghaire pier.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Teenage cyclist Lara Gillespie has delivered on all of her early promise since becoming the 2018 European Junior Track champion. Now 19 she won the 2020 senior National Road Championships and competed at the Cycling World Championships in Berlin. All pointing one way.

Malachy Clerkin

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Assuming Rory McIlroy is still up for going - and there has been no word to the contrary - he will be playing in a 60-strong field where half of them are virtual no-hopers. Between him, Rhys McClenaghan, Natalya Coyle, Annalise Murphy and the rowers, there should be at least three medals, maybe four.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
The players are going to be so flogged by the time the tournament comes around that the possibilities for a Denmark/Greece outsider must be real. So maybe someone like Poland - the combination of a miserly defence and, of course, Robert Lewandowski filling his boots in attack. He’ll be top scorer, either way.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
Absolutely not. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to amalgamate smaller counties. Ultimately, it leads to teams made up of regions and, sure as night follows day, professionalism. Anyway, if you think it’s bad now, wait until it’s Dublin North v Dublin South in the All-Ireland final. Ugh.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
He can, obviously. November showed that as he yet again made a fine art out of being the best player in the field the day after he had played himself out of the tournament. Jon Rahm always looks to me like he will end his career with four green jackets so he’d want to start on the first one soon enough.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Anything with a crowd. All-Ireland finals in empty stadiums are very poor facsimiles of the real thing. Give me a match or a horse race or a fight or anything. Just give me a crowd to go with it, lost in it like it matters, roaring and jabbering and effing and blinding.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Moved to France after the first lockdown and follow Sam Bennett around the place. His green jersey was such a monumental achievement, it’s a shame it got a bit lost in all the misery of 2020.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Tyrone under Brian Dooher and Fergal Logan could be a serious force, especially if they can get a forward line of Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna and Darragh Canavan in sync with each other. Also, Presenting Percy for the Grand National.

Ian O’Riordan

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Reaction to the postponement has varied: Rhys McClenaghan appears more focused than ever, the additional year likely to benefit the gymnast; perhaps less so for rower Sanita Puspure, who still has a great medal chance. Youth is on the side of Jack Woolley in taekwondo, and the equestrian team, if they get there, they certainly have the experience. Two medals?

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
May depend on where or even how it’s played out, though in either case I’m going to row in behind England. Cristiano Ronaldo is still scoring lots of goals isn’t he?

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
Impossible to imagine how to even begin splitting the county into two, so that’s no short-term option, though the women’s game may well be better balanced than the men’s game.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I fear a little for McIlroy at Augusta, though like the needle in the haystack, his form is in there somewhere. Dustin Johnson appears to have set down a marker.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Still the Giro d’Italia after all these years . . . .

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Where to begin? Still much to be thankful for, although the day they finally postponed the Tokyo Olympics was a real ‘oh no’ moment. Of all the four-year cycles everything seemed so perfectly well prepared.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Not often recognised for what he’s already done so watch out for Stephen Scullion to (officially) break the Irish men’s marathon record.

Malachy Logan

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Although 39, rower Sanita Puspure should be on the podium, maybe with a gold medal , as Ireland perhaps win three medals in total.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
France to reign and Kylian Mpabbe to be the goalscorer who leads the way.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
No, not at all. It would be an insult to other top counties, who will get the greatest of pleasure eventually knocking the Dubs off their perch and would also see it as a retrograde move. And what about Dublin hurling? You couldn’t have two football teams and one hurling representing Dublin. It wouldn’t work.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?

Could 2021 be the year for Rory McIlroy? File photograph: Getty Images
Could 2021 be the year for Rory McIlroy? File photograph: Getty Images

He will complete the Grand Slam at some point and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be this year. If it’s not him, my money would be on Dustin Johnson to do it again

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Any ticket at the moment would be appreciated but I would happily settle to be in Croke Park for an All Ireland football or hurling final along with 10s of thousands of others.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
I would hibernate in March, 2020 and set my clock until the summer of 2021.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
The new FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill.

Emmet Malone

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Sanita Puspure must be our best bet for gold but there does seem to be some optimism on other fronts. I see talk of six medals but outside of London, four in Atlanta is as good as it’s got since Melbourne in ‘56 and, well, you know. So I’ll go with four, which would double our tally last time out.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
It’s a really open tournament with the multi-city format probably making it that bit harder to call. I’d quite like to see Belgium win a big title before the likes Hazard (30), De Bruyne (29) and Alderwireld (31) get too old . . . but I’ll go for Spain to win it and Robert Lewandowski to have bagged enough goals before Poland go out.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
I think it’s a last resort and that a serious search for other ways of levelling things up should be exhausted first. But the notion that other counties should be merged before Dublin is divided strikes me as laughable and, as sport gets ever better at exploiting advantages of numbers and resources, I do suspect it’s sort of inevitable.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
I might have a more insightful take on this as the leaders go through 16 on day four but I’ll go with no and, on the basis of his improvement over a few years and the fact the nobodies don’t seem to win the Masters much, I’ll go for Justin Thomas.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
I’ve always wanted to go to an Olympics but couldn’t make it over to London and I loved Tokyo when I was there for the World Cup in 2002. So, if money was no object, I’d be bidding sayonara to my family for a spell this summer, for sure.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Have the Irish senior teams score more goals, the men in Slovakia, the women in Ukraine. Not qualifying for Euro2020 is clearly a particular disappointment and the games in Dublin are going to feel strange knowing that we might have been playing.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Jason Knight is a really exciting prospect and the Derby County midfielder has attracted interest from some very big English clubs so he may have some critical decisions to make over the coming weeks/months. He’s only 19 and could be a much bigger name in the months ahead.

Brian O’Connor

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
I’ll still go for Sanita Puspure. She’s a proven world champion in the single scull and deserves Olympic gold. Four to five medals in all.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
The French are proven champions but it often pays to side with the up and comer: the Dutch can confirm their status back at the top table.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s. Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
It should be about splitting money rather than territory. If the GAA family does value all its children equally then it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of a voluntary organisation to divvy up a central sponsorship pool. The GAA is supposed to be about more than just the market. And it’s not like a million people in Dublin are all GAA fanatics either.

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
Yes, why not? Though Brooks Koepka could be just the kind of tough-guy to shade it at the end.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Behind closed doors racing is an ideal TV sport vehicle these days. But it is a particularly soulless experience on the ground. The whole point of the Galway festival for instance is people. So let’s hope we’re able to curse the traffic again at Ballybrit in July!

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
Racing took a reputational hit by not staging the Cheltenham festival behind closed doors. It would have required leadership and vision to not take advantage of British government ineptitude. But the reputational cost of such expediency is still being totted.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .
Envoi Allen might be the most exciting young talent seen over fences for years. He won’t make anyone rich odds-wise but looks a rare natural talent.

Gerry Thornley

Who is Ireland’s best gold medal prospect at the Olympics in Tokyo? How many medals in total will Ireland claim?
Sanita Puspure. It would be a great story too, a 39-year-old Latvian-born rower who has lived in Ireland for 14 tears and raised her two children here. I think four medals.

The deferred Euro 2020 soccer championships take place through June and July. Which team will lift the Henri Delauny Cup? Who will emerge as the top goal scorer in the tournament?
France have a tough draw in the same pool as Germany and Portugal but they are the new superpower of world football. Of the last 11 World Cups or Euros they have reached five finals, winning three of them. On the premise France have an extended run, it’s time Kylian Mbappe assumed the Messi/Ronaldo mantle.

Dublin are chasing a seventh straight win in the men’s All-Ireland football championship and a fifth straight success in the women’s? Do you think it is time to split the county into two?
Hmm . . . for the rugby correspondent to infiltrate this debate I’d probably need to leave the car engine running . . . straight to the airport. 

Can Rory McIlroy finally complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters tournament at Augusta National? Who do you think will win?
If he can get himself mentally right for the first round then yes. The stats on his combined first round and cumulative last three rounds in majors over the past few years tell the tale. One fervently hopes so. If not, then Jon Rahm.

What would be your dream ticket to a sporting event in 2021?
Wimbledon final, with Roger Federer playing in it naturally.

If you were to press the rewind button on 2020, what would you do?
What? Wept. I’d probably just as quickly hit the fast forward button.

One to watch for the year ahead . . .

Munster’s talented young scrumhalf Craig Casey during a training session. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Munster’s talented young scrumhalf Craig Casey during a training session. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho


Harder than ever to say, given young, potential breakthrough players have hardly had any game time since March save for Gavin Coombes and Craig Casey. There’s also a posse of fine outhalves at Munster, but Jack Crowley does look to have plenty about him. Ciaran Frawley has the ability to play for Ireland too. Sorry, that’s four!

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