Wednesday 26 October 2016

10 things we learned from sport in 2015

Published 31/12/2015 | 21:28

27 September 2015; Briege Corkery, left, and captain Ciara O'Sullivan, Cork, celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after the game. TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
27 September 2015; Briege Corkery, left, and captain Ciara O'Sullivan, Cork, celebrate with the Brendan Martin Cup after the game. TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

While athletics and football battled alleged cheating and corruption, New Zealand ruled the rugby roost, while the Cork ladies footballers and Kilkenny hurlers juggernaut continues.

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Cork ladies footballers and Kilkenny hurlers continue to set the benchmark

The Rebelettes continued their amazing winning streak at GAA headquarters and show no signs of slowing down. Next year they go in search of their 11th All-Ireland in 12 seasons, a scarcely believable run of results from incredibly driven players and backroom team.

On the banks of the Nore, Brian Cody and his charges continue to make light work of all challengers. A raft of retirements, the emergence of Waterford and revival of Galway threatened at different stages, but when it came down to the business end of the season it was the Cats who yet again reigned supreme.

Ireland still a step below the world's rugby elite

It was World Cup that promised so much for Joe Schmidt's side. Some will argue they were desperately unlucky with injuries and suspension, those of a glass half empty persuasion will say it was another case of serious under-performing at the World Cup stage when a first-ever World Cup semi-final was at our fingertips.

The tournament provided a couple of memorable moments, not least defeating France to top the pool, but it was again a case of 'What if?' for our most talented rugby players.

Sport's corruption runs far deeper than anyone ever imagined

Athletics continues to plumb the depths of a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" exposed against Russia by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). Football may spend years unravelling its own scandal, after seven FIFA executives were arrested in in Zurich in May. The FBI indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials on charges of "rampant, systemic and deep-rooted" corruption.

The All Blacks boast rugby union's greatest dynasty

New Zealand's unrivalled rugby dominance was not so much laid bare by their unprecedented second-straight World Cup title but by the manner of the victory march.

Utility back Beauden Barrett's qualities underscore their quest for a squad full of rounded rugby athletes. Naturally a 10 Barrett found himself deployed at wing from the bench. Few if any playmakers elsewhere in the world could lay claim to such adaptability.

Boxing still needs a heavyweight superstar of true talent to reinvigorate the sport

Whatever Tyson Fury's natural-born ringcraft, England's latest heavyweight champion will be hard-pressed to unite boxing. The self-styled Gypsy King pulled off the heist of the century to depose long-term champion Wladimir Klitschko in Germany in November.

The 27-year-old will never have the chance to prove himself a true great unless he can take on and topple rivals at the peak of their powers.

Richie Towell's Dundalk success proves the pay-off for perseverance

The stand-out footballer plying his trade domestically, the free-scoring midfielder will now have the opportunity to prove his undoubted quality at Championship side Brighton.

The midfielder made little secret of his desire to return to England and showed that it is possible to return home, work at your game and return a far better player.

We wish him well in the next chapter of his career.

Even man-manager extraordinaire Jose Mourinho can lose the dressing room

FormerChelsea boss Mourinho branded his medical staff "impulsive and naive" after rushing onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard in his side's eventual 2-2 draw with Swansea on August 8. Dr Eva Carneiro, Chelsea's club medic, eventually left Stamford Bridge amid a blazing row that continues to reverberate.

Chelsea's subsequent descent into the league's lower reaches continue left the Special One out of a job in December.

Dublin may have swollen coffers and the best facilities, but they also have the best set of players

The Dubs will finally play out of Croke Park this summer (thankfully putting that argument into the shade for the foreseeable future), enjoy the benefits of huge sponsorship deals and total buy-in from the their clubs.

There are other arguments you can put forward as to why they have been the most impressive team over the last five years, but the simple fact of the matter is that they have by far and away the best panel of players in the country.

Only a brave punter would back against them in 2016 and their style of play and collection of gifted footballers make them a joy to watch in an era where the primary focus is on prevention rather than creation.

Just when he should be hitting his peak, Wayne Rooney's powers are on the slide

Perhaps 14 years of top-level football is all we can expect of Premier League talents in the age of ultra professionalism. At the age of 30, Rooney has broken Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time England goal-scoring record this year, reaching that craved milestone of 50 international strikes. But despite that history-making, the form and abilities that set Rooney apart seem to have deserted him.

Jamie Vardy a Premier League success story

So much for the theory that failing to make the grade by your early 20s rules out top-level success. Vardy's Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive matches has come at the ripe old age of 28.

Vardy's refusal to give up the ghost shows non-league talent can still shine at the top level.

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