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Back to the future 2: our writers look forward to 2012... and reflect on the year just past

Sean O’Brien facts, Trap’s cat is in the sack and Jo Canning bringing sexy back. Join us by the fore for a chat.

Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara in relaxed mood before the Rugby World Cup.
Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara in relaxed mood before the Rugby World Cup.
Image: Inpho

WHAT’S ANOTHER YEAR, reader?

It’s been 12 months full of highs, lows, in-betweens. So what have our readers made of it?

Sean Farrell, the Happy Camper

What has been your sporting highlight of 2011? 20 minutes of Blue Magic — legally I should indicate that the use of the word ‘blue’ here was in no way relating to Dublin GAA — it was Leinster and Jonathan Sexton’s 17 point turnaround in the Heineken Cup final.

Biggest disappointment? Fernando Torres. Even his jersey doesn’t seem to fit the £50m Spaniard these days.

One song from the past 12 months to sum up the sporting year? Shake it out by Florence and the Machine. Not because it is relevant to anything, but it is great montage music.

Who would you give the inaugural TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award to and why? Rory McIlroy, he might bring the missus to the awards ceremony.

One YouYube video – or sporting moment – that stood out? Hmm… apart from Fenton the deer chasing dog? That night in Auckland, Stephen Ferris man-handling Will Genia back across his own 22. What a ripper!

Name someone up-and-coming to look out for in 2012: He’s not young, but if Seanie Johnston can get out of Cavan then he will double any county’s chance at Sam.

Your hopes for 2012? A Triple Crown in the spring followed by summer glory in the Euros as Ireland beat Spain and someone other than Barcelona wins La Liga and the Champions League.

Your expectations for 2012? Spain beat Ireland and win Euro 2012, Barcelona will win all before them (again) and all their boring games are proclaimed the one true faith, a triumph of good over evil…  Yawn, sometimes evil is exciting ya know!

One sports book I should read this Christmas? Engage: The fall and rise of Matt Hampson. Life in a tiny package: tragic, hilarious, unbearable but riveting. Whether you like rugby or hate it, read this book.

Finish this sentence... ‘This time next year… we’ll be beginning to realise just how difficult our World Cup qualification draw is.

Dublin fans celebrate as they leave Hill 16 after the All-Ireland final. (Pic inpho)

Tony Cuddihy, closet Red

What has been your sporting highlight of 2011? I’ll let everyone else in the office go for Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualification and choose Kenny Dalglish’s return as Liverpool manager. A tear may have been shed, mostly out of nostalgia and beer but that’s how most of my tears are shed. Nostalgically and beerfully.

Biggest disappointment? Any player that says they’re leaving the club where they’re a hero to the fans for ‘a new challenge,’ and how it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the money. Same every year. Some honesty would be refreshing – who wouldn’t want to double their wages?

One song from the past 12 months to sum up the sporting year? I try not to listen to popular music. To steal from The Commitments, “Everything’s shite since Roy Orbison died.”

Who would you give the inaugural TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award to and why? Darren Clarke for winning The Open Championship after such great personal tragedy.

One YouYube video – or sporting moment – that stood out? Rory McIlroy’s “happy father’s day” after holing his final put at the US Open.

YouTube credit: hockeyhurlingshinty

Name someone up-and-coming to look out for in 2012: Robbie Brady. The 19-year-old winger is on loan at Hull City from Manchester United and performing brilliantly in the Championship. Steve Bruce was looking to take him on loan before getting sacked, and he could be a surprise inclusion in Poland and the Ukraine.

Your hopes for 2012? Ray Houghton v England. Ronnie Whelan v USSR. Niall Quinn v the Netherlands. Robbie Keane v Germany. It’s all set up…

Your expectations for 2012? For everything to change utterly, before reverting to exactly how it was in the first place. Oh, and for England to go out after drawing all their Euro 2012 group matches 0-0.

One sports book I should read this Christmas? Jonathan Wilson’s Brian Clough: Nobody Ever Says Thank You.

Finish this sentence… ‘This time next year we’ll be wondering… what the hell happened to that nice John Terry boy?’

Neil Cullen, the golf guy

What has been your sporting highlight of 2011? Three moments stand out for me. Ireland beating Australia at Rugby World Cup was very special; Leinster’s Heineken Cup victory was another.

But the one I’m going for is Ireland beating England at the Cricket World Cup. The simple matter of beating England at anything is generally enough to get the heart racing, but it was such an incredible performance, particularly after losing a few early wickets. Kevin O’Brien’s innings must rank among the greatest batting performances of all time in One Day Cricket. David Lloyd and Nasser Hussein were commentating on the game and they called it superbly. I’ll always remember that.

YouTube Credit: alanmadden74

Biggest disappointment? Usain Bolt’s false start in the 100m final at the World Champs. He’s such an incredible athlete and it’s so rare that we get to see him perform.

One song from the past 12 months to sum up the sporting year? Bon Iver – Perth. Absolutely no logic to this other than it’s a song released this year that I really like and Perth is in Australia, who we beat in the Rugby World Cup.

YouTube Credit: KillMrFist

Who would you give the inaugural TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award to and why? It can only be Rory McIlroy in my opinion. The final-day collapse at the US Masters must have been an unbelievably difficult experience to stomach and then process emotionally. To then go and win the next Major, and not just win, but blow the rest of the field out of the water, showed incredible strength of character and self-belief. What makes it even more impressive is that he only turned 22 in May.

One YouYube video – or sporting moment – that stood out? You don’t mess with that.

YouTube Credit: KristianComey

Name someone up-and-coming to look out for in 2012: Justin Bieber – I don’t know who this kid is or where he came from, but apparently he’s the next big thing in basketball. He’s still only 17, so it might be another while before he makes it in the NBA, but going on this video he seems like he’s got it all.

YouTube Credit: indrytilaar

Your hopes for 2012? Personally, I’d really like to see Tiger Woods win a Major next year. It may be very wishful thinking, but I’ve found myself rooting for him more than ever recently. Let the hype begin! Failing that, I suppose Ireland getting out of the group in Euro 2012 would be pretty amazing. Let’s not forget the Olympics in London as well. I think we can rely on the boxers for a medal or two but it would be nice to get an unexpected one somewhere else also.

Your expectations for 2012? That sport will produce something beyond anything we could ever reasonably expect.

One sports book I should read this Christmas? More people will probably see the movie than will have read the book, but even if you have seen it on the big screen, Michael Lewis’ Moneyball is well worth it.

Finish this sentence… ‘This time next year we’ll be… on the brink of an unprecedented economic boom brought about single-handedly by Ireland’s performance at the European Championships.

Niamh O’Mahony

What has been your sporting highlight of 2011? For me personally, it was Graeme Cummins’ 94th minute winner against Shelbourne at Tolka Park – a goal that saw Cork City win the First Division title and gain promotion back to the Premier Division.

(In case you missed it:

YouTube credit opti76 )

… and, yes, it was that hysterical… )

Other highlights include Ireland’s win over Australia at the Rugby World Cup, Ronan O’Gara’s winning drop kick against Northampton – the man is incredible – Cork’s Ladies football team showing they are far from past it by winning another All-Ireland title, Rory McIlroy’s win at the US Open after what happened at the Masters and Barcelona’s Champions League win… in fact almost anytime they played football this year.

Biggest disappointment? Ireland’s defeat to Wales at the World Cup. The Welsh are an incredible rugby team at the moment, and they, simply, didn’t allow Ireland into the quarter-final contest at all.

They were immense, and that I can respect. Unfortunately for Brian O’Driscoll, O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and the like, their World Cup swansong was not a true reflection on their abilities or the contribution they made to the tournament. The same group is also unlikely to be around in four years time.

Two other things come to mind: David Haye’s awful fight against Wladimir Klitschko – after all the talk, I expected and hoped for so much more – and Blackpool’s relegation from the Premier League, the latter because they went out there and did things their own way in spite of the consequences.

One song from the past 12 months to sum up the sporting year? ‘Price Tag’ Jessie J. Sport is too much about the money these days, especially when it’s not what really matters in those vital, awe-inspiring magic moments. 2011 saw super spenders Manchester City end their 35-year trophy drought by claiming the FA Cup and though they were out of the title race earlier than expected, much like the money bank that is Chelsea, it would seem only a matter of time before the blue side of Manchester get their hands on a league title.

Thankfully, the success of their city rivals – achieved over a long, sustained period – will be a bigger test for owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s pockets… as Roman Abramovich has been finding out.

However, 2011 was also a year when some Arsenal supporters questioned their club’s policy of making financial stability a priority over funding a successful senior team. We are seeing a time in the Premier League when a club’s potential is measured by how deep its owner(s) financial reserves are.

As Jessie J’s lyrics go: ‘Why is everybody so obsessed? Money can’t buy us happiness’. Let’s hope Uefa stand firm on their new Financial Fair Play proposals before the beautiful game is steps even closer to the brink.

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Who would you give the inaugural TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award to and why? Mario Balotelli – from the grass allergy, to the bib incident, to the fireworks to THAT t-shirt. In a time when football is becoming too cleansed and perfect, the sport needs a lad like this!

One YouYube video – or sporting moment – that stood out? This was a tricky one, so I’ve picked three.

In honour of Mario Balotelli winning (my) TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award, I had to go dig out the bib clip. It’s still funny – nine months later.

YouTube credit: ESPNsoccernet

When I first saw the next video, I was convinced it couldn’t be genuine. Kiwis tend to like the word awesome and this is nothing but…

YouTube credit: AllBlacksSkills

TheScore covered Johnny Black’s cracking goal for Coleraine back in September – putting the Irish League in the headlines for all the right reasons.

Name someone up-and-coming to look out for in 2012: James McClean – the former Derry City starlet made his Premier League debut for Sunderland earlier this month and had an instant impact on his side’s game with Blackburn. With some luck and Martin O’Neill’s favour, the Black Cats and the Republic of Ireland should benefit over the next 12 months.

Peter O’Mahony – It has never been easy to break into the Munster starting XV, even more so when you’re a forward. The Cork Con man has done just that in recent months though, and has started the new season in good form. One to watch in 2012!

Paul di Resta – The Scot had an impressive debut season in Formula 1 in 2011, so expect more of the same next year as Force India continue to mix it with the big boys of the sport.

Your hopes for 2012? A successful return to the Premier Division for Cork City, another Heineken Cup title for Munster, an Olympic medal for Katie Taylor – the women undoubtedly has the talent, I just hope she achieves what she has worked so hard for – a good showing (and some decent football) from the Republic of Ireland at the European Championships, a return to form of sorts for Padraig Harrington, a strong All-Ireland challenge from Cork (in all four senior codes), a competitive Formula 1 championship that goes down to the wire and to beat my brother in Fantasy Football! Not much really.

Your expectations for 2012? Realistic expectations are a little different of course. 2012 will be all about the European Championships and Olympics, and hopefully we’ll get to witness some great sporting action.

Ireland being involved in a major tournament means fretting over possible injuries every week between now and May (no country ever gets to bring all their first-choice players do they?), wondering if Trap has the means to get more cats in respective sacks and being REALLY tempted to make the trip out the Poland.

The Olympic Games has been on the horizon for some time now too and while Ireland will travel to London with the potential to claim several medals (boxing, show jumping, possibly athletics and swimming for starters), achieving the goals is always easier said than done. Sonia O’Sullivan in Atlanta anyone?

One sports book I should read this Christmas: ‘Engage’ by Paul Kimmage is an excellent read. However, if there is one item I would label a ‘Must See’, it’s ‘Senna’. Asif Kapadia’s documentary gives an outstanding insight into the life and tragic death of Ayrton Senna and you honestly don’t need to be a racing fan to appreciate the story it tells either. A masterpiece of film.

Finish this sentence: ‘This time next year we’ll be…. celebrating at least one Olympic medal, reflecting on more club success for Irish rugby (not saying which one right now!) and looking forward to brighter times in international football having proven to be a tough team to beat at the European Championships. Maybe a Premier Division title for Cork City? That might be pushing it….

Adrian Russell

What has been your sporting highlight of 2011? Possibly the last 10 minutes of the second leg against Estonia in Lansdowne Road as the new stadium celebrated qualification for a major tournament.

Though the battle was won in places like Moscow and Yerevan, sitting there as the Aviva rocked felt like you were in the first scene of a Roddy Doyle book, yet to be written.

Biggest disappointment? The clocks going back/forward in New Zealand during the Rugby World Cup. Couldn’t they have held off – it was hard enough getting up when they were 11 hours ahead?

One song from the past 12 months to sum up the sporting year? Kanye West and Runaway – because it’s really long and full of ballerinas obviously.

Who would you give the inaugural TheScore Sports Personality of The Year Award to and why? It’s between Katie Taylor and Richard Dunne and Taylor wins in a fight every time.

One YouYube video – or sporting moment – that stood out? Joe Canning brings sexy back to the All-Ireland qualifiers with his hand-pass. There, I said it.

YouTube credit: jdtvideo

Your hopes for 2012: Katie Taylor winning gold is top of my list of priorities – along with a successful European championships campaign. Like all of us, I need to get organised and make sure I witness at least one of those new chapters in Ireland’s football history – preferably against Iniesta and Spain. A double for Cork would be welcome too, admittedly.

Your expectations for 2012: Katie to take gold. Ireland to perform admirably but qualification from a group with three of the world’s best 10 teams looks a little bit too much of an ask, Jeff. Cork to win a senior double, obviously.

One sports book I should read this Christmas? I got stuck into Michael Duignan’s recent autobiography Life, Death and Hurling. It lives up to the brave title.

Finish this sentence… ‘This time next year we’ll be… Looking back on a job well done in London and Poland – reading the newest installment of Riding the Blue Wave from the Dublin County Board. Also: Back to the Future-type hoverboards will be commonplace.

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