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8 unlikely sporting predictions that will almost certainly pan out in 2016

Can Ireland cause a shock at the European championships?

2015 WAS YET another riveting year of sport but it is time to consign the last 12 months to the memory bank and start anew for 2016. What does this calendar year have in store of all of us passionate sports fans?

The42 decided to read the tea leaves and throw a few strands of grass into the wind in order to come up with eight sporting predictions that we feel certain will turn out to be true in the year ahead.

Ireland will make the last 16 of Euro 2016

Robbie Brady celebrates scoring their first goal Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The new 24-team format for the European Championships means that four of the six third place teams in each group will advance to the last 16 along with the 12 teams who finish in the top two.

Four points would give Ireland a good chance of getting out of the group and the defensive doggedness and ruthless taking of chances shown towards the end of the qualifying campaign bodes well for a knockout tournament.

Granted, the group of Belgium, Italy and Sweden is very tough but a win in our opening game against Zlatan’s boys would give Ireland a great chance.

We have to believe!

England to win the Six Nations Grand Slam

England have upgraded at head coach by bringing in Eddie Jones, have a good young core of players and the fixtures favour them (Ireland and Wales at home).

If Jones can get back to the attacking style that served England so well during last year’s tournament, there is no reason why they can’t complete their first clean sweep since 2003. A backline built around the Bath contingent of George Ford, Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson will give any team trouble.

Barcelona to win their second straight treble

Spain Soccer Copa del Rey Source: Associated Press

This Barcelona team might not be their best ever side but strangely, they might be the hardest to beat. How is any defence possibly meant to contain the most potent three-headed attacking monster in club football history?

Messi, Suarez and Neymar made Pep Guardiola’s Rolls Royce of a Bayern Munich side look like a Sunday League team and worryingly for the rest of Europe, the Bavarians look to be the only obstacle in the way of Luis Enrique’s men completing ANOTHER treble.

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Shane Lowry to do an Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup

Doesn’t the Offalyman seem like the perfect character to thrive at a Ryder Cup? He has that perfect mix of golfing ability, bullishness and personality that seems to lend itself to the matchplay tournament. If you can put money down on a player to make the winning putt, why wouldn’t you back Lowry?

Jim McGuinness to be given a manager’s job in professional football

Jim McGuinness Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In the process of getting all the necessary coaching badges, it is surely only a matter of time before a football club turns their team over to the Donegal mastermind. Would he really do any worse than the job Ronny Delia is doing at the moment? ‘The System’ will be coming to a football ground near you* in 2016.

*You may need to watch on TV.

Ireland to have their most successful ever Olympics*

The most medals Ireland have ever won at a single games is five (a gold, a silver and three bronzes at Melbourne 1956 and London 2012) but the record is going to be broken in Rio. Boxers Katie Taylor, Michael Conlon, Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward could all step onto the podium while race walker Rob Heffernan could also come home with a medal. That would give Ireland a quintet of medals once more, so someone else will need to step up to ensure the nation enjoys its finest ever Olympics.

*Not counting Michelle Smith’s 1996 performance in Atlanta

Connacht to win the Pro12

Bundee Aki scores his side's second try despite Andrew Conway Source: James Crombie/INPHO

What a story this would be. Pat Lam has gotten the westerners playing an exciting brand of rugby and the manner that they raided Thomond Park at the end of November showed that Connacht is the coming province in Ireland. If they ever want to win the league, this is their best chance with most of their rivals going through a season of transition.

Mayo will finally end their drought

The Mayo footballers got their wish with the ousting of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly and new manager Stephen Rochford has surrounded himself with a very capable management team that should give Mayo a real edge this year.

Just like 2013, the draw is good for Mayo and were they to win their sixth Connacht title in-a-row they could potentially avoid Kerry and Dublin until an All-Ireland final. They were agonisingly close to claiming the Sam Maguire under similar circumstances in 2013 and this could be the year where Mayo finally banish their demons and collect the ultimate prize.

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