Wednesday 28 September 2016

Off The Ball: Hail small fish who made a big splash

Michael McCarthy

Published 23/12/2015 | 02:30

Jamie Vardy's goals have fuelled Leicester City's stunning rise (Reuters)
Jamie Vardy's goals have fuelled Leicester City's stunning rise (Reuters)

As 2015 comes to a close, you'll read plenty of review pieces on our qualification for France, and almost as many on another failed Rugby World Cup. But there are some other teams from the past year that are just as worthy of our attention.

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Leicester City

Leicester were the team that kept on giving in 2015. Starting the year at the bottom of the Premier League, we had then manager Nigel Pearson to keep us entertained for the second half of last season.

His cranky press conferences and banning of journalists would have been fine, but they were also winning games, and ended up finishing in 14th.

This Christmas, they are top of the table, have a far more likeable manager, are playing exciting, attacking football and have lit up the entire Premier League season.

And if that wasn't enough, there were also the three players sacked, including Pearson's son, for what the papers described as a "racist orgy" in Thailand on what the club had dubbed a "goodwill tour".

Japan

A few months on, it's hard to believe that Japan actually beat South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. It was the biggest shock in the history of the tournament, and was done in an exhilarating way. They were arguably cost qualification for the quarter-finals only by the unfair schedule which meant they had to play Scotland just four days after they humiliated the Springboks.

Golden State Warriors

They've been on the cusp for a couple of years, but this year the Golden State Warriors jumped to the next level and won the NBA title.

They've started this season even better, remarkably winning their first 24 games. They are led by the NBA's latest superstar Steph Curry, already considered the greatest three-point shooter in history.

The team also play an exciting brand of basketball we haven't see before and are thrilling crowds all over America. 2015 looks like likely to just be the start of something special for the Warriors.

Cork Ladies footballers

The Rebelettes won their tenth All-Ireland in 11 years. Combined with a camogie title, the likes of Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley became household names this year, and it's about time.

Their achievements under manager Eamonn Ryan, who now departs to join the men's team, are just phenomenal, and they must surely rank up there with the likes of Cody's Kilkenny and O'Dwyer's Kerry as one of the greatest GAA teams ever.

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