Twenty-sixteen is going to be a year to remember for sports fans in this country. SuperBowl 50, Cheltenham, the Olympics, the Euros, the All Ireland championships, the Autumn Internationals…. we’re exhausted even thinking about all that is on the horizon, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg!!
In anticipation of a bumper year of sport we’re looking ahead to some of the most hotly anticipated events of 2016, starting with the GAA!
The All Ireland Club Football Final
Outrageously, it’s been FOUR whole years since Crossmaglen Rangers won the blue riband event in club football. Shocking, we know! This year they will attempt to finally draw level with Nemo Rangers at the top of the roll of honour as they go for their seventh Andy Merrigan Cup since 1997. Standing in their way are Castlebar Mitchels who made it all the way to Croke Park in 2013 and dethroned holders Corofin on their way to regaining the Connacht title. On the other side of the draw are Dublin superclub Ballyboden St Enda’s who face off against unexpected Munster champions Clonmel Commercials. Whoever comes out on top on March 17th, they’ll do it the hard way!
Women’s National Football League
The remarkable consistency of the Cork Ladies in winning All Ireland title after All Ireland title since 2004 has been matched by their propensity to pick up NFL titles along the way. Only Mayo and Monaghan have upset the Cork run of league wins since claiming their first in 2005 (a startlingly similar run to the great Kerry Ladies side of the 80’s & early 90’s). However, the loss of legendary manager Eamonn Ryan will present a new challenge to Cork and waiting in the wings will be last year’s runners up Galway – considered by many to be Cork’s main challengers in 2016. Of course Dublin will fancy their chances too as will Cork’s Munster foes Kerry. Mayo too will feel they have a new lease of life after signs of promise in the 2016 championship while the Ulster trio of Tyrone, Monaghan and Armagh have big years in front of them. It promises to be a cracking campaign and could be a watershed year in Ladies football.
Munster Hurling Championship
The annus mirabilis that was 2013 gave way to more prosaic hurling summers since then but 2016 is already crackling with anticipation and nowhere moreso than in Munster. Tipperary, Cork and Limerick have won the last three Munster crowns between them and the traditional kingpins face each other in the quarter-final before the winners meet the Treaty in the last four. Waterford can go back to 2010 for their last title but it’s the last century since Clare climbed to the top of the provincial pile. The two counties face each other in Thurles on June 5th in a game that the whole country is already looking forward to. Amazingly it’s 2005 since a team won Munster and went on to win the Liam McCarthy later in the summer. Will that statistic change in 2016??
The Ulster Football Championship
We’re really going for the unknowns here aren’t we! But seriously, there is something absurdly exciting about every game in Ulster this year. Yes, Munster and the possibility of Tipperary taking on Cork for a place in the Munster Football final is intriguing, and the chance for Cian O’Neill to bring his native county, Kildare to a first Leinster final since 2012 looms in Leinster, while Galway & Roscommon standing in the way of a historic six-in-a-row in Connacht is fascinating, but Ulster is just mouthwatering.
Fermanagh or Antrim will gain momentum to go into a quarter-final with a Donegal side that are capable of anything. Monaghan play a Down side that could be the major dark-horses – will we see a repeat of the Donegal v Monaghan rivalry in the semi-final or can one of the other three produce a major upset?
On the other side Mickey Harte returns for yet another tilt, and Tyrone are a side desperately seeking a first Ulster crown since 2010. They face Derry under Damien Barton, a veteran of the great Oakleaf side of the early 90’s. On their day Derry can still produce moments of greatness.. will it be enough.
Meanwhile the youthful Cavan side, so full of promise face off against an Armagh side still smarting from last year’s humiliation against Donegal. Can Kieran McGeeney rouse them to former glories and first Ulster final appearance in eight attempts?? So much to look forward to!!
All Ireland Camogie championship
A revamped Cork side made it back to back All Ireland titles in September but can they land a first Rebel treble since 1973? With the indomitable Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery back again, alongside Ashling Thompson, Gemma O’Connor, Orla Cotter and co, it would be a brave gambler to bet against the Leesiders repeating. However, defeated finalists Galway will have a thing or two to say about it as they chase a second All Ireland in four years while Kilkenny and Wexford will be waiting in the wings to trip up the holders. The Model County women in particular will feel they have under achieved in recent seasons in no small part due to a plethora of injuries to key players but with the buoyant Oulart the Ballagh crew in harness, don’t be surprised to see them back in the big time. Hopefully for the game also Limerick, 2015 Intermediate champions Waterford, Derry, Tipperary, Clare, Offaly and Dublin continue to progress and challenge the big four.
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