Tuesday 18 December 2018

Stephen Hunt: I can't wait for 2018 - the year of the Tiger

As soon as the news came out (of Tiger Woods’ comeback) I was hooked on the game again
As soon as the news came out (of Tiger Woods’ comeback) I was hooked on the game again

Stephen Hunt

I'm sitting in a box in Croke Park at the Waterford-Cork semi-final with Roy Keane down the way and nearby two Galway players, Joe Canning and the captain David Burke.

In the 55th minute, we all knew they would be playing Waterford in the final. I was fist-pumping the life out of it. The lads went very quiet and put up the shield.

I don't know where the balls I had came from, but I remember turning to them and saying: "Good luck. They're gonna get you!" Talk about words coming back to haunt me . . .

The incredible euphoria of that day was followed by the sickening disappointment of the final.

Nothing delighted me more this year than Tiger Woods' comeback. As soon as the news came out, I was hooked on the game again. The tweets with the driver and the stinger proved it was on and they reminded me just how good he was, how much he means to me and millions of golf fans.

I was nervous over every shot in his first competition at the Hero World Challenge and so pleased to see him get through the four days. I want him to get over his injuries. I don't care about his personal life. It's his life. It's private. As long as he doesn't rub his wealth in my face and it doesn't affect his performances and brilliance, or commitment to his sport, I'm not bothered.

I love Tiger Woods, the golfer. I can't wait to see him in action regularly in 2018. The Year of the Tiger.

Conor McGregor has that same X-factor and there is no doubting the hard work he puts in, but you cannot excuse the way he carries himself just because he knocks people out and has taken his sport to a new level. I'm sorry, but it's just not the Irish way. If footballers behaved like him they would be treated like social deviants. And what worries me is the number of young lads I represent who worship him and see this kind of behaviour as some sort of norm.

I understand that boxing and UFC come with a different attitude to promotion of events, but there is still a line that shouldn't be crossed and anyone fortunate enough to be able to afford luxury cars doesn't need to tell the world.

Still, on the night he fought Floyd Mayweather, I was rooting for McGregor, yet when he lost I wasn't disappointed or devastated, as I would have been had Steve Collins lost to Chris Eubank in 1995. If anything, I thought the defeat might put him in his place a little bit. Collins is a legend. McGregor isn't because of the way he carries himself.

From my territory, the sporting achievement of 2017 is Manchester City's remarkable winning run in the league - currently standing at 18 and it might well continue into next year. And if they can keep the run going through January and February, it will reach the point where most of us will be keen to see them carry it on.

It is natural that everyone would like to see a tight and competitive Premier League with as many teams in contention for as long as possible. But Manchester City are going to win the Premier League this season. The rest are playing for second, third and fourth because City are not going to lose five games between now and the end of the season, and even in the unlikely event that they do, their rivals will not be able to sustain a winning run to catch up.

Nobody could have predicted this at the start of the season. And it is the style, the audacity and the way the team plays that make City so wonderful to watch. Pep Guardiola is not arrogant. He knows how to win properly.

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