Wednesday 21 November 2018

The Sports Bucket List: 15 sporting trips to try before you die!

Sport's hottest tickets

A general view of the Nou Camp stadium. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
A general view of the Nou Camp stadium. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Jerseys in the dressing room at Croke Park
Bundee Aki... when he had his medal
2012 London Olympic Games : Diving Men's 10m Semifinal. Photo by Leo Mason/Corbis via Getty Images
Lionel Messi goes between Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo during El Clasico in 2015. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Conor McGregor in Las Vegas (composite image).
Cheltenham 2016, England. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
2015 Tour de France. Photo by HASLIN Frederic/Corbis via Getty Images
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND, 2009: The All Blacks perform the Haka before a test match against Ireland. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Like sport? Love travel? Get ready for the trip of a lifetime with out sports travel bucket list...

1. El Clásico, Spain

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Lionel Messi goes between Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo during El Clasico in 2015. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Golden balls in El Clasico...

It’s the juiciest soccer fixture of them all. Barcelona v Real Madrid is more than just a football game. It’s Messi v Ronaldo, Catalunya versus Spain and every game adds to the legend (remember Barca’s 5-0 win in 2010, or Real Madrid’s dressing room photo in 2016… complete with a flexing Ronaldo in his tighty-whiteys?). It could well be sport’s hottest ticket - see it live at least once in your life.

Mine’s a… caña of beer at Barcelona’s La Boqueria.

If you like that, try this: The Nou Camp stadium tour and museum.

Need to know: realmadrid.com; fcbarcelona.com

2. Ireland v The All Blacks

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND, 2009: The All Blacks perform the Haka before a test match against Ireland. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

I'll get my coat...

It’s the one rugby win that escapes us. In 28 games stretching back to 1905, Ireland has lost 27 times to New Zealand, only once claiming a draw – a squeaky-bum-time 10-10 at Lansdowne Road in 1973. This year, Joe Schmidt & Co. have two cracks at their bogey team – including one tantalising away game at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. From The Bean to Wicker Park and Bucktown, Chicago is one of the great American cities, with beers that put even Irish crafties to shame.

Mine’s a… margarita at Big Star in Wicker Park.

If you like that, try this: The 2017 Lions Tour of New Zealand.

Need to know: Ireland play the all Blacks at the Rugby Weekend in Chicago on November 5 (therugbyweekend.com; tickets from $33).

More: Chicago: 19 things to do, see and eat in The Windy City

3. Croke Park Stadium Tour & Museum

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Jerseys in the dressing room at Croke Park

Ask not what your county can do for you...

We all know the big days out at Croker. But did you know Ireland’s sporting cathedral does a mean Stadium Tour too? The tunnels, dressing rooms, pitch, stands and hospitality areas are all on the route for a backstage experience that genuinely rivals those at the Nou Camp and Old Trafford. The guides are passionate GAA fans, and the GAA Museum includes a pair of Muhammad Ali’s shorts. Sorted.

Mine’s a… swift one at Phil Ryan’s or The Big Tree.

If you like that, try this: Munster Rugby Museum & Stadium Tour.

Need to know: Croke Park tours cost €13pp, including access to the GAA Museum (crokepark.ie). The Etihad Skyline Tour costs €20pp.

More: Croke Park: Dublin's stadium tour to beat the Nou Camp

4. Tour de France

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2015 Tour de France. Photo by HASLIN Frederic/Corbis via Getty Images

Some gentle encouragement on the mountains...

Let’s get one thing straight. Unless you have a private helicopter, you’re not going to ‘see’ the Tour De France. At best, you’ll get there early, pick a corner spot, and watch the peloton whizz by within a few seconds. But the world’s largest annual spectator event is unlike any other – from the publicity caravan to the cheering crowds, the mountain landscapes to the city sprints. Just don’t mention Lance.

Mine’s a… stinking great glass of red.

If you like that, try this: Giro d’Italia.

Need to know: letour.com; giroditalia.it.

5. Put your foot down at Silverstone, UK

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory during the 2015 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester on Sunday (David Davies/PA Wire)

Could you be the next Lewis Hamilton?

You don’t have to be Lewis Hamilton to put pedal to metal at Silverstone. The home of British motor racing also runs driving experiences and track days, getting F1 wannabes out of the Ford Mondeos and into the Ferraris. From £99/€116pp, you can take a Ferrari F430 or Aston Martin V8 Vantage for a spin, or £249/€292 will buy you a stunt driving experience developed with Top Gear Stunt driver, Paul Swift.

Mine’s a… Smashing Pale Ale from the local Maule Brewery.

If you like that, try this: Driving experiences at Germany’s Nürburgring.

Need to Know: See silverstone.co.uk for info. The track is just 15 miles from Leinster’s Champions Cup pool-mates, Northampton Saints, too.

6. The Lions in New Zealand

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A streaker uses his mobile phone as he is tackled by a policeman during the rugby tour match between the British and Irish Lions and Manawatu in Palmerston North, in this 2005 file photo

What goes on a Lions tour...

The British & Irish Lions beat Australia last time round, but everyone knows the ultimate challenge lies in the Pacific’s last bus stop: New Zealand. 2017’s 10-match schedule culminates in a three-test showdown (June 24, July 1 & 8). It ain’t cheap – Trevor Brennan Rugby Tours’ least expensive package, a two-test, ‘Hobbit Tour’, costs €7,295pp, but it could be the trip of a lifetime.

Mine’s a… bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.

If you like that, try this: Rugby World Cup 2019 (Japan).

Need to know: See lionsrugby.com and rugbytravelireland.com for more info. Killester Travel (killestertravel.com) also has packages.

7. Splash the cash at Cheltenham

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Cheltenham 2016, England. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The going is good at Cheltenham...

Cheltenham is the home of jump racing, with hundreds of thousands of giddy spectators splashing millions on the gee-gees. Fancy joining the Irish invasion? Of course you do. If you win big, book a table at Le Champignon Sauvage, the best restaurant in town. If you don’t, the pub grub’s good at The Tavern on Royal Well Place. Cheltenham is strangely great for Indian food, too…

Mine’s a… bottle of Bollinger.

If you like that, try this: The Kentucky Derby.

Need to know: See visitcheltenham.com; lechampignonsauvage.com and thetaverncheltenham.com for more info.

8. Notorious UFC in Sin City

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Conor McGregor in Las Vegas (composite image).

It’s the biggest indoor sporting circus on the planet right now - a mix of street fighting, bling, sledging and all-round Sin City shenanigans that has left boxing punch-drunk. After his epic UFC202 win over Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor is once again the King of MMA, so why not book a trip to Vegas for his next bout? Just remember - what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Mine’s a… free drink at the blackjack table afterwards.

If you like that, try this: Fight night at Madison Square Garden.

Need to know: ufc.com; mgmgrand.com; thegarden.com.

More: Top 10: Things to do in Las Vegas

9. The Monaco Grand Prix

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The Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo. Photo: JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images

Monte Carlo... accept no substitutes.

Accept no substitutes. The jewel in the Formula 1 crown sees F1 legends racing through the streets of Monte Carlo itself, dealing with elevation changes and treacherously tight corners on a circuit Nelson Piquet once said was like riding a bike through your house. At just 1.96 square kilometres, coastal Monaco is quite the setting… although rather difficult to do on a budget.

Mine’s a… cocktail at the Fairmount.

If you like that, try this: NASCAR. Well, ok, maybe not.

Need to know: See monaco-grand-prix.com and formula1.com for more info. Grandstand tickets from around €405pp on race Sundays.

10. Baseball at Fenway Park, Boston

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Jacoby Ellsbury #46 of the Boston Red Sox cannot catch the hit by Brian Roberts #1 of the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park June 10, 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts. Two runs were scored on the play

Jacoby Ellsbury feels the curse...

Fenway Park, dating from 1912, is the home of the Boston Red Sox. It launched Babe Ruth into the stratosphere, starred in Field of Dreams, Fever Pitch and Moneyball, and remains one of the great amphitheatres in which to experience baseball. Games go on for hours – if the perfect excuse for a bout of beer and hot dog guzzling – and afterwards, the city of Boston is your oyster (or clam chowder).

Mine’s a… erm, beer and hot dog.

If you like that, try this: The Superbowl.

Need to know: Single game tickets for Fenway Park (boston.redsox.mlb.com) range from around $22 to $75, depending on the seating area.

11. Dive from an Olympic Board, London

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2012 London Olympic Games : Diving Men's 10m Semifinal. Photo by Leo Mason/Corbis via Getty Images

Don't try this at home...

Forget green diving pools in Rio. There’s a spanking Olympic diving pool much closer to home, and it does public ‘Dive for All’ sessions too. The London Aquatics Centre is in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (the Stratford Underground is a 10-minute walk away). You can book swims in the 50m-competition pool too.

Mine’s a… refreshing glass or water. Or a stiff Dodd’s gin.

If you like that, try: La Plagne’s Olympic Bobsleigh track.

Need to know: londonaquaticscentre.co.uk

12. Run the New York marathon

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Tennis player Caroline Wozniacki raises her hands after getting a medal for completing the New York City Marathon in New York. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

 Caroline Wozniacki serves up a NYC marathon...

Like travel? Love punishment? Get your application in for the New York Marathon, a 26-mile and 385-yard schlep through all five boroughs of the Big Apple. The run takes place in November, with entry guaranteed only for those who meet qualifying standards set out by age. Men aged 18-34 need a time of 2.53, for example, while those in the 35-39 bracket have a much more forgiving 2.55.

Mine’s a… squeezy plastic bottle of water. Seriously.

If you like that, try this: The Paris Marathon.

Need to know: tcsnycmarathon.org; schneiderelectricparismarathon.com

13. Tee off at a Majors Golf Course

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Rory McIlroy plays from the rough at the 2nd hole during round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 2, 2014. See PA story GOLF Dunhill. Photo credit should read: Kenny Smith/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

Rory at Carnoustie...

Golf revolves around the four Majors. If you're a fan, why not get off the couch and go see, or even play, one of the courses? Ok, Augusta ain’t easy (the quickest route to a tee-off time is to know a member, and play as a guest), but the US Open, PGA Championship and British Open are played at many different locations. Visitors are welcome at Royal Birkdale, for example – venue for the 2017 British Open. All you need to do is book in advance, and fork out from £155/€182 per round.

Mine’s a… refreshing bottle of beer in the Spike Bar.

If you like that, try this: Carnoustie, Scotland.

Need to know: See royalbirkdale.com (45 minutes from Liverpool’s John Lennon International Airport); carnoustiegolflinks.co.uk.

14. The Wimbledon wow factor, London

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Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman arrive on day six of the Wimbledon Championships.

Strawberries and champagne, anyone?

Strawberries and bubbles? A seat at centre court? Wimbledon (July 3-16, 2017) is perhaps the iconic English sporting event – with all-white gear, a ban on gaudy advertising, immaculately-behaved ball boys and girls and of course, God’s gifts to the sport all contributing to an experience that just couldn’t happen outside of Southwest London. Bottoms up!

Mine’s a… Pimm’s.

If you like that, try this: Cricket at Lords.

Need to know: Wimbledon.com; tickets are available by ballot, queuing on the day (Gate 3 turnstiles) and on the day before play at ticketmaster.co.uk.

15. Visit the Sportsground, Galway

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Bundee Aki... when he had his medal

2015/16: The season of the underdog

And sure why not? Connacht’s home stadium is the worst rugby facility of the four provinces, but the atmosphere is electric – as visitors during last year’s Pro 12 will attest. The home side has drawn Toulouse and Wasps in this year’s Champions Cup - games that could kick off some famous nights out west. Galway Races aside, we’ve never really thought of this as a sporting city. That’s about to change.

Mine’s a… Galway Hooker (behave).

If you like that, try this: Thomond Park, the RDS or Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium.

Need to know: connachtrugby.ie; @galwaygaillimh on Twitter.

More: 10 great reasons to visit Galway

NB: All prices subject to availability/change.

Read more:

The Irish Bucket List: 30 things to do in Ireland before you die The Dublin Bucket List: 30 things to do in the city before you die

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