Katie Taylor pictured, left, with opponent Eva Wahlstrom before their fight at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15.
As is usual at this time of year, we prefer to look forward rather than to look back. Like greedy children beseeching parents over the past month, we would like to ask the sporting gods to give us everything under the sun over the next year. However, just like the smarter kids in the build-up to Christmas, we already know that we won’t always get all or even some of what we ask for. But this is sport. It brings out the inner child in all of us so we persist in making outlandish requests. With that said, here are the sporting wishes we hope come true in 2019.
That Mick McCarthy gets Ireland back playing on the front foot and with a bit of style. The frightened, cagey approach of Martin O’Neill’s side in the latter half of his reign was awful to watch. It looks like this Irish squad will need a couple of years to improve and nobody is really expecting much. Against that background, they might as well lose playing an attacking brand of football that offers some sort of value for money. The relationship between the team and the supporters needs that badly.
That the GAA establish a stadiums truth and reconciliation commission where all county boards that have overspent on facilities and been less than truthful about it can confess their sins. The goings-on in Cork and in Galway in December have shown us the capacity for these enormous projects to drain the coffers in a way that will, despite what the authorities claim, impact on the promotion and coaching of the games in those counties. With a €40 million overspend on Pairc Ui Chaoimh and government money involvement, it may be the Committee for Public Accounts in the Dáil that gets involved before long.
That the Irish rugby fans and media can come up with a new word for legend. See, if, as we have been told so often over the past few months, Joe Schmidt’s team wins the World Cup in Japan, how can they be only called legends? After all, by my estimate, and I do keep a close eye on these things, every single Munster or Leinster player who has retired over the past few years has been deemed a legend by those in the stands and in the press box. If every lock or center who once had a half-decent European Cup campaign is a legend, what then would that make a team of World Cup champions?
That we can enjoy Katie Taylor’s performances without her promoter Eddie Hearn trying to convince us that every fight she takes is against a world-beater. Even in a sport where hyperbole has always been the default setting, this constant desire to convince us each fresh Taylor contest is the distaff equivalent of Ali-Frazier is getting tiresome. She’s one of the greatest athletes Ireland has ever produced but, unfortunately, the paucity of quality female fighters in the professional ranks makes it difficult to be over-impressed with her achievements these days.
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That we can stop worrying about the Dublin footballers and start enjoying them. I’ve spoken before in this space about their aesthetically pleasing style of play but the more we learn about their off-field activities, the easier they are to admire. Whether it’s Philly McMahon writing a beautiful book about growing tough a tome that had very little to do with Gaelic football, or Michael Darragh Macauley working with kids in Dublin’s north inner city, this team are showing they are an extraordinarily well-rounded bunch as they close in on five in a row.
That Rory Mcllroy ends his “famine” and wins his first major since 2014. Yes, we know that we put this one down last year, and the year before, and the year before that. We can’t really believe that we have to request this again but here we are. It’s a commentary on the immensity of his talent and the way in which he has spoilt us as golf fans that we are demanding an Irishman win his fifth major when he hasn’t even turned 30 yet. From those to whom more is given more is expected. It would be churlish to demand the major is the one that takes place in April and involves a green jacket so we’ll just leave it at any major at all.
That the Cork hurlers and footballers do the double next summer. Okay, I’ll be realistic and try that again. That the hurlers win Liam McCarthy and Ronan McCarthy’s charges build on last year and bring us further down the road to respectability by reaching the Super Eights. This might be a wish list but expecting any more from the footballers in the red jerseys would be turning it into a dream factory.