Saturday 24 March 2018

Rachael Wyse: Katie delivers 2012 knockout

Taylor’s gold in London among best memories in one of sport’s greatest years

Rachael Wyse

To say 2012 was a sporting year to remember is perhaps the biggest understatement of the past 12 months. It brought unprecedented achievement and success – it had absolutely everything.

It will forever be synonymous with the London Olympics. The eyes of the world were on a former industrial estate in Stratford in East London, which had been transformed to host the greatest show on earth.

Many doubted London would deliver. How wrong they were. Danny Boyle's incredible opening ceremony set the tone for 17 days of pure sporting theatre.

From the medal success of our Irish athletes to countless other inspiring performances, the country united behind sport and was immersed in an Olympics that will go down as one of the best ever.

For me there were two special memories. Usain Bolt winning the 100 metres was one of those 'I was there moments' – and, yes, I was fortunate to be present in the Olympic Stadium that night.

The other was the afternoon when it looked like the whole of Ireland had taken over the Excel Arena to watch Katie Taylor win boxing gold.

Over the last year I've worked with Katie through the Sky Sports' Scholarship Scheme and can safely say that it's been one of the highlights of my career to have been involved with someone that's not only incredibly successful, but equally humble and genuine.

If Ireland had never seen a sporting event like the Olympics, then it is also true to say that soccer had never experienced a season like it either.

Two goals in stoppage time, or so-called 'Fergie time', won Manchester City their first title in 44 years on an afternoon in May that almost defied belief.

Manchester United seemed destined to be champions again until 93 minutes 20 seconds into City's final match of the season when a little man from Argentina picked up the ball and left Sky's Martin Tyler to scream: "Agueroooooooooo! I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it. Drink it in."

Chelsea came close just six days later. A team who had sacked their manager in February and had scored twice with 10 men to knock out Barcelona in the Nou Camp, found themselves in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich IN Munich. Now English clubs rarely win penalty shoot-outs, especially against the Germans and never in Germany. In this remarkable sporting year, we all know what happened.

Gary Neville's commentary that night, after Didier Drogba's winning penalty, was: "UEFA, FIFA, stop football." In his eyes, he had never seen anything better and more dramatic than the climax to both the Premier League and Champions League seasons.

The freak that was Frankel dominated the sport of kings in 2012. He raced 14 times in his three-year career, won 10 Group Ones and retired to stud unbeaten. Many believe he is the best thoroughbred to have ever raced. No more words are needed. Take a bow Henry Cecil.

Elsewhere the Irish-trained Camelot came within three-quarters of a length of winning the English Triple Crown and emulating the great Nijinsky. Sadly, the St Leger was a bridge too far. But he remains in training next year and it will be exciting to discover if the colt can fulfil connections' expectations.


October 15 is a day to live long in the memory for jockey Richard Hughes as he equalled Frankie Dettori's feat of riding seven winners on the same card. It was a highlight in a wonderful season for the Irish man as he was crowned champion jockey with 172 winners. Over jumps it was the year we saw Kauto Star race for a final time. His jockey Ruby Walsh described him as a horse of a lifetime. He will be missed.

Cheltenham was dominated by Nicky Henderson and Meath jockey Barry Geraghty. We saw new champions crowned when Hurricane Fly gave way to Rock on Ruby over hurdles and AP McCoy cajoled Synchronised home in the Gold Cup.

After four-and-a-half miles and 29 fences, the Grand National at Aintree was decided in a photo-finish, with Neptune Collonges taking the spoils by a nose. His victory was the biggest career win for his Wexford-born jockey Daryl Jacob and it decided the trainer's championship in favour of Paul Nicholls.

At home, Willie Mullins continued to dominate, while his son Patrick achieved the outstanding feat of equalling the 97-year-old record for the number of victories in a calendar year by an amateur jockey.

The hurling year was Kilkenny's again, but not before a wobble in Leinster when Galway delivered what they so often have promised. When September arrived normal business was resumed. Captained by James Stephens man Eoin Larkin, Kilkenny claimed their 34th senior title.

The same day Henry Shefflin won a record ninth medal on the field of play. For good measure, Kilkenny also claimed the National League title in May when dismantling a young Cork team in Semple Stadium.

Galway's progression in 2012 made the hurling championship far more interesting than most predicted. Under the guidance of Anthony Cunningham (left), they were a team with a definite unity and sense of purpose. Such was their progression they managed to bring the best out of Kilkenny on the biggest stage.

Sam Maguire travelled an unfamiliar route as the men from Donegal bridged a 20-year gap to bring home the county's second senior All-Ireland title. The people of Donegal travelled in huge numbers to Croke Park and their players duly delivered. They had, in fact, delivered all year and were worthy champions. Manager Jim McGuinness never wavered from his beliefs and his talent was to be later recognised by Celtic FC.


Two early goals in the final all but ended Mayo's chances of success and, while they fought courageously to the end, victory proved to be an impossible task after gifting such an early lead.

Donegal's style of play delivered the goods and, perhaps, much more. Championship 2013 will reveal all.

There was a second Major golf title for Rory McIlroy. He became the youngest player to win the US PGA Championship and win he did in style – by a 'Tigeresque' eight shots – to underline his status as world No 1.

McIlroy also played a leading role in the highlight of the golfing year – the Ryder Cup in Medinah. An event which sees Europe unite for three gruelling days of golfing rivalry against the Americans. It was nearly all over after just two. Trailing 10-5 with McIlroy and Ian Poulter playing the final Saturday four-ball, Europe were desperate for a point.

As Poulter was lining up his putt to win the match on 18, I remember hearing a shout from the gallery: "Don't miss it Poults." What was that American guy thinking? Poulter never misses in the Ryder Cup. He never flinched. The 16-foot putt was duly sunk. The familiar fist-pumping, eye-bulging celebration followed and Europe had a chance.

Like the Olympics, the climax to the Premier League and Champions League – what followed on that Sunday evening was sporting theatre at its best. A huge momentum shift. The scoreboard turned blue. Putts were being holed by Europeans all over the course.

The American galleries silenced. It came down to Martin Kaymer's eight-foot winning putt on 18 in the penultimate match. The greatest and most unlikely ever European Ryder Cup comeback was complete.

Jose Maria Olazabal said his team "played in the spirit of Seve without ever giving up." How Seve would have enjoyed looking down on the Miracle that was Medinah.

This year has seen many great champions, many great heroes, many great success stories – there are too many to mention today.

It's been a truly vintage sporting year. A year to cherish, applaud and inspire. Thanks for the moments, 2012. Thanks for the memories. l Rachel Wyse can be seen presenting Sky Sports News

Irish Independent

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