Saturday 25 November 2017

A to Z of the year: From All Blacks to Zlatan

Shane Long celebrates after scoring against Germany in the Aviva Stadium
Shane Long celebrates after scoring against Germany in the Aviva Stadium

All Blacks: New Zealand successfully defended their Rugby World Cup crown when beating 34-17 in the final after an entertaining tournament. However, the year was tinged with sadness for the champions with the loss of former greats Jerry Collins and Jonah Lomu.

Boxing: To say it's been an up and down year for Irish boxing would be an understatement, particularly in the amateur ranks. From the sickening low of the terrible treatment of Billy Walsh to the incredible high of Michael Conlan winning World Championship gold.

Chelsea: Few could have predicted that the Londoners would go from champs to chumps in such a short space of time. With the Jose Mourinho soap opera at an end the club will be hoping to regain some stability.

Dublin: Love them or hate them there's no denying that the Dublin footballers had a brilliant 2015. They won all before them and although the All-Ireland final was far from a classic the Dubs won't give a damn, especially as old rivals Kerry were on the receiving end in the decider.

England: England suffered the embarrassment of not making it through their pool in the World Cup. Admittedly they were dealt a tough draw, with Wales and Australia in their group, but being the first hosts not to reach the last eight was a bitter pill to swallow.

Fifa: Football's governing body seemed to be involved in one scandal after another during 2015, with Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini the most high-profile protagonists.

Georgia: Georgia did Ireland a massive favour by beating Scotland 1-0 to put us back in the shake-up. To their credit the Boys in Green grabbed the opportunity with both hands and we now have Euro 2016 in France to look forward to next summer.

Hockey: After winning bronze in the European Champonships in August the Irish men's hockey team then made history by qualifying for the Olympics in Rio. It's the first time since 1908 that an Irish hockey team will appear at the games.

Irish rugby team: After producing one of the highlights of the year when clinching the Six Nations title in a nailbiting finale they then gave us the biggest disappointment of the year by, yet again, failing to get past the quarter-final stage of the World Cup.

Jonathan Walters: Walters was the man of the year for me. Not the most skilful footballer on the planet but he gives his all and what more could you ask for? Passion, more than anything else, dragged Ireland through and nobody typifies that spirit more than the Stoke man.

Kilkenny: Henry Shefflin may have called it a day earlier in the year but the Cats showed that the conveyor belt just keeps on rolling by capturing another All-Ireland crown.

Long: Shane Long's winning goal against Germany will be remembered for generations to come, like Houghton against the English and Italians and McAteer against the Dutch. Go on ya good thing!

Martin O'Neill: Many questioned O'Neill's team selections and methods during the qualifying campaign but he got us there in the end. His man management skills, passion and determination are qualities which couldn't be questioned.

Notorious: Conor McGregor made his mark when he beat Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds. Hopefully his next fight will be a better spectacle for fans.

Old Trafford: The famous stadium has gone from the Theatre of Dreams to the stuff of nightmares for Man United supporters as boring football and poor results have become the norm for fans who had become too used to winning.

Paul O'Connell: The inspirational Irish captain's international career ended in disappointing fashion as he was stretchered off the field just before half-time during Ireland's rousing 24-9 World Cup win over France.

Quality: Something which was sadly lacking in the majority of GAA championship games in the summer, in both codes. The epic hurling semi-final between Galway and Tipperary, which ended 0-26 to 3-16 in favour of the Tribesmen, was one of the few to rise above the mundane.

Richie Towell: The midfielder netted 25 league goals for champions Dundalk and helped them to the double before switching to Championship high-fliers Brighton.

Shock: Japan provided one of the biggest upsets in the history of sport when they toppled the mighty South Africa 34-32 in their Rugby World Cup pool game.

Tony McCoy: After winning an incredible 20 jockeys championship titles on the trot iron man McCoy retired from the saddle earlier this year. It's safe to say, we will never see his likes again.

Usain Bolt: The Jamaican wiped the smile off Justin Gatlin's face when he put the American in his place by winning the 100 and 200 metres finals at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Vardy: Jamie Vardy has set the Premier League alight as Leicester City continue to surprise all by leading the way in the top flight. The striker beat Ruud van Nistelrooy's record by scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games.

Willie Mullins: The Carlow trainer broke records at home and across the water, saddling an incredible eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival. With a string of talented horses in his yard it looks like 2016 could be even better.

Xavi: The supremely talented Spanish midfielder signed off from Barcelona by helping them to a thrilling Champions League win over Juventus.

Youths: Wexford Youths won the SSE Airtricity League First Division in style, booking their place in the top flight for next season. The ladies' team also enjoyed a year to remember, winning the league and cup and performing well in the Champions League.

Zlatan: The mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be very much on Irish minds after the Republic were drawn in a tricky Euro 2016 group with Sweden, Belgium and Italy. Bring it on!

Wexford People

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