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The top sports news stories of 2011 - lots of thrills and a few chills

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Tipp, with Declan Ryan in charge for his first decider, were slight favorites going into the match but they were also acutely aware that hurling knows no scorn like a wounded Cat.

And so it proved as Brian Cody’s team recorded a four point win, 2-17 to 1-16, with a victory that was far more emphatic than the scoreline might suggest.

It was Kilkenny’s fifth All-Ireland title in six years and probably the sweetest of them all. Don’t bet against the Cats and Tipp dominating the championship again next year.

Katie Taylor’s Olympic Promise

Katie Taylor


YOU have to be fairly crafty in the ring to win the World Female Boxer of the Year title once. To win it for a second time, as Bray girl Katie Taylor did this year, tells you all you need to know about the Wicklow wonder.

Katie is Ireland’s big gold medal hope going to the London Olympics in 2012 and rightly so. She won a fifth European lightweight title in a row in Rotterdam also took another European Union title in Poland.
The 25-year-old is gearing everything towards a big push in England next year when there should be gold on the streets of London for the affable fighter.
  
Ireland Beat England – at Cricket!

THE Indian city of Bangalore was the unlikely setting as Ireland took on England in World Cup cricket -- and beat them in one of sport’s biggest shocks of the year.

Not since Ireland’s win over Pakistan four years earlier did the nation pay so much attention to the sport but this was a victory to savor over the nation that invented the game.

Kevin O’Brien assured himself a place in Irish sporting folklore with the fastest ever World Cup century off just 50 balls.

They tell me that is some feat -- like the rest of the country I just celebrated the fact that we had beaten England. That Ireland won at cricket just made it all the sweeter.  

Rovers and Europe

MICHAEL O’Leary left his job as manager of Shamrock Rovers last week, but not before guiding the Hoops to a second successive League of Ireland title.

O’Neill is now the favorite to take over as manager of his native Northern Ireland, a role made all the more plausible by his remarkable success in Europe this season.

Rovers didn’t win a game in six attempts at Europa League football, but the fact they got to the group stages of a European competition, the first ever Irish side to do so, is to be applauded. Their stunning win away to Partizan Belgrade, the result that got them to the group stages, is to be savored.

Irish Rule Cheltenham

Ruby Walsh


THE recession was forgotten for four glory filled days in March when the Cotswolds belonged to the Irish and there wasn’t a dry glass in the house. A record 13 winners crossed the Irish Sea for the Olympics of National Hunt racing and what a week it was for the visitors.

The previous record of 10 wins, achieved in 2006, was gone by the Thursday, smashed in no small manner by an astonishing six Irish winners from seven races on the Wednesday card.

Ruby Walsh secured another leading rider award with five victories, Willie Mullins trained four winners over the week and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary was leading owner with three of his Gigginstown Stud horses first past the post.

Only the Gold Cup – won in spectacular fashion by Long Run – spoilt the party. Everything else was green, white and gold.

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