Looking forward to an exciting year of sporting action in 2009
‘INSIDE RIGHT’ is back in action after the festive season and feeling a little worse for wear.
After over-indulging on turkey, crisps, chocolates and of course the evil alcohol, we should be heading to the sports fields ourselves to shake off the excesses, but for now we’ll stick to the armchair punditry as we look forward to what should be another bumper sporting year.
As the dust is blown off the crystal ball we keep on the desk for just such an occasion, the first picture that comes into focus is Manchester United players dancing around the Premier League trophy after retaining their crown following a mammoth struggle.
Liverpool will stay in the race until April but they’ll get the jitters when the winning line is in sight, while Chelsea seem to lack the consistency and killer instinct of a couple of years back, leaving United to saunter their way past the winning post to collect the title with the lowest winning points tally ever.
United fans won’t have a Champions League win to celebrate though, as Barcelona’s name is already written on that one, with the mesmerising Lionel Messi sure to show that he’s the best player in the world, leaving a certain Mr. Ronaldo in the shade.
We’ll then get to see just who is the better player as the two go head to head next season, when Ronaldo moves to his beloved Real Madrid with wads of cash in hand.
On the home front, God only knows who’s going to triumph in our domestic league. The way things are going Carrick United could win it, with so many teams unsure of their long term or even short term future.
The Irish team will defy the critics by qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa, with Stephen Ireland heading home the crucial goal that sends us through from a pinpoint Andy Reid cross.
In Gaelic games, Kilkenny will again cruise to a facile All-Ireland success, while we’re expecting a Cork team made up of water carriers, tea ladies and a few lads they dragged away from the bar at the local to give it a good lash in the Munster championship.
In football, Dublin will finally make the long-awaited breakthrough to the All-Ireland final but will end the summer broken-hearted again as they’re out-battled by fellow bottlers Mayo.
Both sides will do everything in their power to lose the game but the westerners will eventually fall over the line to deny the downtrodden Dubs.
Continuing our merry jaunt in cloud cuckooland, we can see the Irish rugby team winning all before them in 2009.
Things mightn’t have looked too rosy as Ireland struggled to play with any cohesion in the recent autumn internationals, but the one crumb of comfort we do have is that our European counterparts in the main were equally inept in the recent tests. In our favour we do have England and France at Croke Park and Wales blow as hot and cold as a Sahara snowstorm, so hope springs eternal.
In horse racing, it doesn’t look like the Irish will have a particularly strong hand at Cheltenham, well at least in the main championship races.
In the Champion Hurdle, ‘Binocular’ looks like he just has to turn up and jockey Tony McCoy will most likely need a pair to see his rivals, they’ll be so far back.
The Gold Cup again looks to be a straight shoot-out between the Paul Nicholls duo, ‘Denman’ and ‘Kauto Star’, with the latter looking to be back to somewhere near his best in the King George, and if the former is in good fettle after his health scare we could have the titanic battle we hoped for last March.
Another Nicholls inmate, ‘Master Minded’, looks untouchable in the Champion Chase, and the Nicky Henderson-trained ‘Punchestowns’ looks like the staying star that will mop up the World Hurdle prize.
The Irish will probably have to content themselves with a handicap or two and a Willie Mullinstrained bumper winner.
Elsewhere, we’re predicting that Pádraig Harrington will make history by winning three British Opens in a row, although a hobbling Tiger Woods, just on the road to rehabil- itation, could run him close. Usain Bolt will knock another tenth of a second off his 100 metres world record whilst running to the toilet after a spicy curry, and Ronnie O’Sullivan will storm to the world snooker title after finding peace with himself and immediately announce his retirement from the game.
Anyway, enough of what lies ahead. ‘Inside Right’ is starting to get a headache from squinting at this damned crystal ball.
Back into the drawer with you for another year.
Stephen Ireland will score the goal that sends Ireland into the World Cup in South Africa.
Master Minded will romp home in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Eoin Larkin and Kilkenny will make it four-in-a-row.
Usain Bolt will continue to break records.