THERE WAS QUITE a tussle for the best sporting trip to take in 2012 with the Olympics, Paralympics, Ryder Cup and Euro 2012 all vying for our affection.
The usual suspects – All-Irelands, Six Nations, golfing and tennis majors, soccer [home and abroad] and US sports – are still slated for decision but the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia is the stand-out event.
Here are six trips that we are recommending depending on the size of your passion, wallet and fecklessness.
Up the road
If you are a staunch GAA or football supporter, chances are you will already have next season’s fixtures pinned to a wall or saved in your phone. Local teams and counties are keen to welcome back supporters so why not make 2013 the year you get back to cheer on your team.
1). In the Airtricity League, title holders Sligo Rovers travel to the Brandywell to take on Derry City on Friday, 8 March. Five other fixtures take place that night, with Stephen Kenny, now in charge of Dundalk, coming face to face with Shamrock Rovers, the club that sacked him last season.
The National Football League kicks off on Saturday, 2 February and the marquee fixture sees Donegal facing off against Kildare, with Croke Park the confirmed destination. The match will be followed by Dublin v Cork.
‘G’wan Joe.’ (©INPHO/Cathal Noonan)
The outstanding, opening fixtures in the National Hurling League are Cork v Tipperary, on 23 February, and an All-Ireland Final re-match [of sorts] between Galway and Kilkenny.
2). Get yourself a flight to Cardiff, or Bristol, and cheer on Ireland as they look to avenge a run of three successive defeats – and one appalling robbery – against Wales.
The Millennium Stadium is the setting for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against the Welsh and, if Bowe, Kearney, O’Driscoll and O’Connell get fit, Declan Kidney’s men may be able to get another Grand Slam quest off to a winning start.
3). The Open is taking place at Muirfield in Scotland this July and Ernie Els, who won there in 2002, is the defending champion, having clinched victory from Adam Scott at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s. Edinburgh is the closest airport hub but Glasgow is a 90-minute drive away.
A cheaper, but no less start-spangled, option is to book a ticket for Carton House in Kildare to check out the 2013 Irish Open in June.
Miroslav Klose: Loves a goal. (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
4). Watch Ireland play Germany in Cologne as Trapattoni’s boys look to erase the soul-destroying 6-1 defeat meted out at the Aviva Stadium in October. In 10 months time [the game takes place on 11 October 2013] anything is possible.
We could even be raving about the next James McClean or another lad who can throw a ball like Rory Delap.
5). Super Bowl 47 [or XLVII] will be held in the Superdome in New Orleans on 3 February. It will be the first time the city has hosted a Super Bowl since 2002 and will be a welcome boost to the city’s coffers after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The form teams so far this season are the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons. Playoff form is vital though as teams entering on winning runs often upset sides that have love since captured divisional titles.
The New York Giants Super Bowl 46 but their vanquished foes that day, the New England Patriots, are lurking with intent. Beyoncé will be present for half-time frolics too.
Break the bank
6). Feel free to skip the money-spinning start to the British & Irish Lions tour [an exhibition match in Hong Kong]. The real fun starts on 5 June with a game against Western Force in Perth, Australia.
If you cannot afford the antics and air miles of the warm-up fixtures, book yourself a flight into Brisbane and out of Sydney, venues for the first and third tests, and watch the Lions v Wallabies series unfold.
Cheers for coming ROG. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
The Lions have not won a series since the trip to South Africa in 1997 so they will need all the support they can get.
The dates for the three tests are 22 and 29 June, and 6 July.
*What sporting trips will you be taking in 2013?