IN GAA terms 2013 was a wonderful year. The best hurling championship in living memory and an excellent football campaign with Dublin as champions and their massive following filling the coffers. Controversy reared its head on only the odd occasion and by and large the season rolled by like a well-oiled machine. What can we expect from 2014?
The New Year was welcomed in with violent storms, severe gusts and driving rain. A prelude for the year ahead? Hopefully not. There's no doubt, the new black card system will take time to bed in.
However, the predicted first weekend of chaos and mayhem failed to materialise. Forty teams competed in twenty games across the four provinces yet only 19 players fell foul of the new rule including our own Brian White and Richard Brennan. More sensible refereeing and better player education means we didn't see a repeat of the mass sin-binnings that occurred back on the opening day of the 2005 season but the full impact of the rule change will not be clear until probably the end of the National League.
The New Year did not begin brightly for Louth with a comprehensive defeat to college side DCU in the opening O'Byrne Cup game. Worryingly Aidan O'Rourke's side were the only county team to lose to a college team last weekend. There are mitigating circumstances of course with large numbers missing through injury but I'm not totally convinced that the panel is stronger than at the same period 12 months ago.
Louth face two tough battles in the coming week with Westmeath in Drogheda on Sunday and more worryingly Dublin in Parnell Park tomorrow (Wednesday) night. In reality, nothing is really won or lost at this time of year and pre-season results count for very little come league or championship but a losing trend can sometimes be difficult to reverse.
On a positive note, it's good to see some younger players getting an opportunity as that's what this competition is designed for. Let's hope for better in the week ahead.
Crystal ball time
Although most New Year's resolutions are probably already broken, early January is also a time for sporting predictions for the year ahead. For obvious reasons, I don't often look back at the previous year's column to see how they turned out but just for the fun of it, hear goes.
Dublin to win Leinster (their eighth out of the last nine), Donegal to re-emerge in Ulster and Mayo to continue their dominance in the West - but it still won't be their year. I think Kerry will win out in Munster and regain the All-Ireland.
Newtown Blues to retain their Louth senior crown, St Josephs to go all the way in Intermediate and Oliver Plunketts to capture Junior silverware.
Kilkenny to win Leinster but Cork to triumph in Munster and go one step further than last year and lift Liam McCarthy.
Pearse Óg to make it three-in-a-row in Louth.
Toulon to take the Heineken Cup and, although it pains me to say it, England to win the Six Nations and possibly the Grand Slam also if they triumph in their
opening game in Paris.
Man City to win the Premiership providing they can start showing up away from Eastlands. St Pats to retain their Airtricity title. Barcelona for the Champions League and who else but Brazil in Rio on July 13th.
Both Tiger Woods and Adam Scott to add to their Majors tally in 2014 and maybe Henrik Stenson to come good also. And finally, at the end of September, Paul McGinley to lift the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles.
The early year storm clouds are dissipating and sunshine is breaking through. The painter Van Gogh once wrote 'I never get tired of the blue sky'. Me neither, Vincent! I look forward to a great sporting year ahead.