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Iceland, Fiji and Dundalk: 12 months of standout teams

We chose one team that stood out every month. Do you agree with our selection?

LOOKING BACK ON 2016 makes you realise that it was a sporting year that wasn’t short of incredible teams; both the old reliables that do the business year in year out, but also teams that caused major shocks and upsets.

We took a look through some of the teams that really caught our eye this year.

January

Denver Broncos

Super Bowl 50 - San Francisco Source: David J. Phillip

Although the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl title in February, they were most definitely one of January’s standout teams. To book their Super Bowl 50 date with the Carolina Panthers, the Broncos had to win two playoff games in January and convincingly beat both the Patriots and the Steelers. Very few people gave the Broncos a chance against the Patriots, the 2015 Super Bowl champions, but the Denver defence stepped up big time to secure a coveted Super Bowl spot.

February

Mary Immaculate College 

Mary Immaculate's team celebrate with the Fitzgibbon Cup Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Mary I made history as they won the Fitzgibbon Cup for the first time in February. The final was forced to extra-time, but Eamon Cregan’s side caused a major upset and beat 2015 champions and Limerick rivals UL 1-30 to 3-22. Three years after losing in their first final appearance, the small college finally made amends with an incredibly gutsy performance.

March

Ballyboden St Enda’s

The Ballyboden team celebrate Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Ballyboden St Enda’s claimed their first AIB All-Ireland senior club football title on St Patrick’s Day. They achieved that feat in serious style in Croke Park as they saw off Mayo’s Castlebar Mitchels by 13 points.

Prior to that, Boden pulled off a shock in the Dublin championship, dethroning St Vincent’s to claim a first county title in six years. The Firhouse Road outfit were forced to show true character several times throughout the year, snatching victory at the death in the Leinster final and defeating Clonmel Commercials in extra-time of the All-Ireland semi-final.

April

Leicester City

Champions League Newcomers Source: Matt Dunham

Although they didn’t lift the Premier League trophy until May, Leicester were a standout team during the month of April. They pretty much ensured that they would be crowned champions as they went the month unbeaten. Ranieri’s side demolished Swansea City 4-0, and beat Sunderland and Southampton, with the only blot in their copybook coming in the form of a 2-2 draw with West Ham United.

May

Connacht

John Muldoon lift the Guinness Pro12 Trophy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Despite Leicester City actually being crowned Premier League champions, May was the month of Connacht. 28 May 2016 was probably the province’s greatest day ever as they saw off Leinster to win the Pro12 final and their first-ever trophy. And deservedly so – they were undoubtedly the best side over the course of the Pro12 season, even though Leinster topped the table.

June

Iceland

England v Iceland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Round of 16 - Stade de Nice Source: Nick Potts

It can’t be denied that Iceland were the surprise package of Euro 2016. They kicked off their campaign with a 1-1 draw against eventual winners Portugal. They grabbed another point against Hungary and beat Austria 2-1 to qualify from Group F for the round of 16. There, they stunned England, coming from behind to win 2-1. Their dream ended in July however, as hosts France knocked them out after a 5-2 quarter-final defeat.

July

Portugal

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2016 - Final - Stade de France Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Ultimately, Portugal were the surprise winners of Euro 2016. Even as dark horses go, they entered the tournament very much unfancied.

It was their organisation and defensive dominance that they’ll be remembered for, rather than their attacking flair and magical moments. After so many near-misses, they finally hold an international trophy thanks to Eder’s extra-time strike and a 1-0 win in the final over hosts France.

August

Fiji Sevens

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Six Source: Robert F. Bukaty

The Fiji rugby sevens team historically claimed their country’s first Olympic medal when they hammered Great Britain 43-7 in the final. They were outstanding throughout the competition, and one of the highlights of Rio 2016. Fiji produced a brand of thrilling and exciting rugby, which entertained a new audience.

September

Cork ladies 

Briege Corkery Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

September was one of the toughest months to call, with many teams impressing: Dublin retaining the All-Ireland title, Tipp winning Liam MacCarthy for the first time since 2010, and Ann Downey’s Kilkenny lifting the camogie title for the first time since 1994. It was hard to look past the Cork ladies however, who clinched their sixth All-Ireland title in-a-row and their 11th title in 12 years. In May, they also won their fourth consecutive league title.

October

Dundalk FC

Stephen O'Donnell lifts the SSE Airtricity League trophy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dundalk secured their third consecutive SSE Airtricity League title at the end of October – their 12th in total.

The club showed that they’re a pretty special group of players this year with their sterling form both domestically and in Europe. They performed well in the Europa League, drawing with AZ Alkmaar and beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv in September, before three consecutive losses not helped by fatigue at the end of a hectic League of Ireland season. They also booked their place in the FAI Cup final, but lost out to Cork City in November.

November

Ireland

The Ireland team and management celebrate winning Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

How could you forget that historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago? The Ireland rugby team were unquestionably the standout team in November. Further home wins over Canada and the Wallabies made it an incredibly successful November Test Series, in which Ireland will reap the benefits of going forward.

December

Shelbourne ladies

Peamount United v Shelbourne FC - Continental Tyres Women's National League Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

At the end of an unbeaten campaign, Shelbourne were crowned Women’s National League champions in early December to win the double. It was the first time Shelbourne, who merged with former champions Raheny United in 2015, have lifted the WNL trophy. Their triumph also ended Wexford Youths two-year WNL reign, whom they beat in the Women’s FAI Cup final 5-0 in November.

And if the double wasn’t enough, they also won last season’s WNL Cup final in May making for an unforgettable 2016.

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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