It’s that time of year; Christmas parties, yuletide joy and all sorts of Top 10/Top 5 lists of the year. A Top 10 list may have diluted the quality somewhat, so here are James Clancy’s Top 5 Irish Sporting Moments of 2013:
5. Conor McGregor keeps unbeaten UFC record intact
Dubliner McGregor had just two fights during 2013 but they were both emphatic wins as the 25 year-old retained his Cage Warriors FC Lightweight Championship. 2014 should be a bigger year for him as he bids to improve on his 14 and 2 record- and now having won 10 UFC fights in a row.
4. Irish women win first ever Six Nations Grand Slam
Ireland’s women claimed the Six Nations Grand Slam after a 6-3 win over Italy in Milan on St. Patrick’s Day.
Niamh Briggs’ two penalties won the game, and the tournament, for the jubilant visitors, whose stellar performances in this year’s competition has been in marked contrast to the miserable form of their male counterparts.
Women’s rugby’s profile continues to rise as for the first time ever the Irish women’s team will play a game at the Aviva Stadium in 2014 as they face Italy at Irish rugby’s headquarter after their male counterparts face the same opponents.
3. Martin O’Neill appointed Republic of Ireland football manager
For many Irish football fans, the appointment of almost anyone would have been an improvement on the previous incumbent, Giovanni Trapattoni. For too long the Italian had taken advantage of the FAI’s failure to monitor his work rate. His difficulties understanding English after five years in the job as well as only very sporadically attending relevant club games were merely two of the ways the Milanese native fell down.
O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane, appear to have breathed new life into the Irish set up already. Gone are the shackled days of defensive counter attacking football endured under Trapattoni’s reign. Yes it has only been two meaningless friendly games of the new regime, but Irish players appear to be playing with a new found joie de vivre. Long may that continue.
2. Rob Heffernan wins World Championship gold
After so many near misses (including fourth place at the 2012 Olympic Games), Cork’s Rob Heffernan finally shed his “nearly man” tag by winning gold over 50km at the World Athletics Championship.
Having finished fourth at five previous major tournaments, this year’s breakthrough, in a time three minutes faster than any other this year, was truly special for the 35 year-old.
1. AP McCoy completes 4,000 first class wins
No milestone in safer sports such as football, golf or tennis could surpass McCoy’s remarkable 4,000 wins over hurdles. Uninsurable, AP is also unsurpassable.
Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), rugby and motor racing are comparable in terms of down right physical stubbornness. But over 15,000 races and 1,000 falls – after 18 consecutive jockey’s titles and 24 years in the saddle – McCoy is number one when it comes to the courage stakes and also number one on so many other levels.
Pundit Arena, James Clancy.