Games belonged to the British
Sean Counihan reflects on an Olympic year
WE just had one of the great sporting years.
The year 2012 will long be remembered for the wonderful London Olympic Games and, of course, we had our own Olympic heroes in Katie Taylor who lit up a nation and brought home a gold medal, John Joe Nevin who got a silver, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes who brought home bronze medals in the boxing and Cian O'Connor who took bronze in the show jumping, but it was the British who had a great home Olympics. Their athletic team had their best games ever.
Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and others did the British proud. Sebastian Coe was a proud man for helping to achieve his lifelong ambition in bringing the Games to London. And, of course, the British cycling team did very well even though they failed to get the individual gold medal for Mark Cavendish. This was the game plan after Bradley Wiggins became the first British Tour of France winner. The BBC sports personality of the year had a great year on the bike, in a year that cycling was brought into disrepute with the stripping of Lance Armstrong of his seven tour wins.
But if the British enjoyed a great Games, if Katie Taylor lit up the Irish nation in the boxing ring, the athletic arena was lit up by that great Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt. He entertained as well as delivering on the track. Bolt had the Olympic Stadium eating out of his hands. Of course, there were many other great performances in what was a memorable summer.
The world of golf too threw up a tremendous Ryder Cup. In fact it was one of the best ever. Medinah will live long in the memory of golf fans and (while we had no one except a non-playing captain in Paul McGinley from this side of the island, the first time that happened in a long time) nevertheless golf fans watched out for McIlroy and McDowell, but the player of the tournament had to be Ian Poulter.
Martin Kaymer sank the winning putt, but few would deny that the team would not have won without Poulter's desire for victory. The Masters was won by Bubba Watson, while McIlroy won the America Open and finishes 2012 as World's No.1. The great Ernie Els held out to win the British after Adam Scott made a poor finish, virtually handing the title to Els.
In the world of rugby the Leinster team won the Heineken Cup. This was welcome as the Irish International team had a season they would want to forget. The same could be said of the national soccer team. Trapattoni and his men had a bad European experience even if the Irish supporters once again proved that they are the best tourist ambassadors this country has. To be fair to the soccer lads, for an island like ours to qualify for tournaments like the European or World Cup is a huge achievement.
In the world of horse-racing we saw the great Frankel retire unbeaten. We have seen great horses before like Shergar, Nijinsky and others, but this Frankel was something else. Henry Cecil, his trainer, said he was the best he ever saw and Henry has seen some good ones. The National Hunt will be the one to look forward to early in the New Year as there are some good horses in training.
So on the home football side it has been a great year for Dr Crokes, retaining all championship cups they competed in and they will look forward to the New Year. The Kerry Juniors were the only All-Ireland winners for Kerry this year. Jack O'Connor stepped down after defeat to eventual All-Ireland winners Donegal and the arrival of the new Gaelic Messiah, Jim McGuinness. Cork came up way short even though they won the National League.
Kilkenny won the hurling where Tipp were disappointing. Now I have just scratched the surface in what was a great sporting year. There have been other great days in the world of sport and we will hope that next year will be as good. We in Kerry will watch with interest Eamonn Fitzmaurice as his team set out in their journey in the McGrath Cup in a few weeks' time and watch progress and dream of Croke Park in September - sure don't we do it every year.
Good wishes to all for the New Year.