2017 saw another packed year in the football calendar, with any number of records broken and Ireland’s World Cup hopes torn apart at the Aviva.
The Champions League was retained for the first time in its current format, the transfer record was shattered and Lionel Messi’s ongoing battle with Cristiano Ronaldo to be crowned the best player ever continued.
At home, meanwhile, Cork City won 21 of their first 22 games on their way to being crowned League of Ireland Premier Division champions for the first time since 2005, before going on to complete the league and cup double in November.
Below are some images from some of the most significant football stories as we close out 2017.
The Ecstasy and the Agony of Ireland’s World Cup Campaign:
James McClean was the hero in Cardiff as Ireland defied the odds to defeat Wales 1-0 in October, sealing a place in the playoffs for the Boys in Green.
However, after a 0-0 draw against Denmark in Copenhagen in November, a 5-1 hammering in Dublin meant that Ireland’s hopes of ending their 16-year World Cup exile went up in smoke.
Cork City Dominate the League of Ireland
Cork City finally emerged from Dundalk’s shadow to claim the Premier Division title in 2017, going on a deeply impressive unbeaten run to effectively have the league wrapped up in the summer. To put the icing on the cake, they saw off the challenge of Dundalk in an FAI Cup final penalty shootout to complete the double.
Derry City Lose a Legend
Tragedy struck Derry City this year when club captain Ryan McBride sadly passed away in March. The 27-year-old, a Derry man through and through, died less than 24 hours after putting in a typically fine performance against Drogheda United in the Premier Division. His absence is, and always will be, felt around Derry City and the first game back at the Brandywell in 2018 will be a poignant affair.
Conte’s Chelsea Return to the Summit of the Premier League
Antonio Conte marked his first season in English football by bringing the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. In a season that was expected to be dominated by new Manchester rivals Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, Chelsea stole a march on the chasing pack and the trophy rarely looked like it was heading anywhere else. That being said, as of now they look highly unlikely to retain their title next May.
Arsenal Win The FA Cup to Deny Chelsea a League and Cup Double
Arsenal have made something of a habit of winning the FA Cup in recent years – but after missing out on a place in the top four last season, their 2017 victory is their most significant in years. Chelsea were strong favourites to complete the double, but the Gunners pulled a big performance out of the bag to end the campaign on a high.
Jose Mourinho Wins Two Trophies in his First Season at Manchester United
Jose Mourinho won his first trophy as Manchester United manager in February, and it’s a cup he knows well. A late Zlatan Ibrahimovic winner broke Southampton hearts at Wembley, a frantic 3-2 victory enough to mean that Mourinho claimed the League Cup for the fourth time.
Man United’s season would get even better in May, when goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were enough to win the Europa League in a 2-0 victory against Ajax at the Friends Arena in Solna.
Zidane Creates History with Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid ruled the roost in Europe once again in May, becoming the first team to retain the Champions League title in its current format (and the first double European champions since AC Milan in 1990). A second-half rout in Cardiff gave Zidane’s side a 4-1 victory over Juventus, and their 12th European Cup trophy.
Paris Saint-German Shatter the World Transfer Record
As they had long threatened to do, Paris Saint-Germain finally laid down a serious statement of intent by poaching one of the ‘superclubs” star players. In August, PSG, obliterated Paul Pogba’s €105m transfer record by activating Neymar’s €222m release clause to prise him away from Barcelona. He has since struck up a potent partnership with Edinson Cavani and fellow signing Kylian Mbappe as the French side look to claim that elusive Champions League title.
Some of the Game’s Greats Said Called Time on Their Careers
2017 saw a number of the games brightest stars take to the pitch competitively for the final time. Francesco Totti, Andrea Pirlo, Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso and Kaka, with a bucketload of honours, medals and international caps between them, all said goodbye this year to the acclaim that they deserved.
Ronaldo Equals Messi’s Ballon d’Or Record
December saw Cristiano Ronaldo claim his fifth Ballon d’Or, taking him level with Lionel Messi’s record. The Real Madrid forward played a key role in his side retaining the Champions League title this year, as well as winning La Liga for the first time since 2012.