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Tough choice for 2012 top Irish sporting highlights and heroes - the Ryder Cup, GAA finals, UEFA Cup and the Olympics

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European Ryder Cup team
European Ryder Cup team
There was a fascinating debate in the Irish Sun offices on Monday afternoon, at that time of the day when the hard work is threatening to arrive but hasn’t got there just yet.

As the dust settled on Europe’s quite incredible Ryder Cup win, the Miracle at Medinah as it is now known, talk turned to the sporting year thus far.

On Sunday alone we all watched in awe as Kilkenny made it nine All-Ireland wins for their talismanic playmaker Henry Shefflin.

The Cats were barely on the road back to Gowran when the drama began to unfold in Chicago and Europe had started to claw back a seemingly unassailable American lead.

By Monday afternoon, we were still in awe of Europe’s win as they pulled the Ryder Cup back from the brink.

And that’s when we attempted to put their revival into perspective. Was it as good as Liverpool’s famous European Cup final comeback in Istanbul?

Did it rank with the Manchester United turnaround in Barcelona all those years ago?

How did it compare to Meath against Dublin or Offaly against Kerry for last minute drama?

The truth, of course, is that all of those comebacks were quite special in their own way, quite brilliant in sporting terms.

What was just as interesting over the cup of tea on Monday was the debate over the outcome of this year’s Sports Personality of the Year award in Ireland.

Already in 2012 we have marveled at the Olympic heroics of Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Donlan and Cian O’Connor.
The Irish Olympic team led by Katie Taylor
The Irish Olympic team led by Katie Taylor

We have witnessed Leinster’s Heineken Cup heroics, Donegal’s All-Ireland football triumph and McIlroy’s win at the U.S. PGA Championship.

Any of the above would rightly qualify as worthy recipients of an award at the end of the calendar year but who will win the overall award – that is the question.

I don’t think Europe’s Ryder Cup will beat Taylor’s gold medal achievement in the eyes of the Irish public, but they did set our television screens alight on Sunday night.

They also gave us a reason – for once – to rejoice in the fact that we are all united under the European flag.

At a time of bank bail-outs and debt relief, it was good to have a reason to support European unity for a change.   

The fact that two of the players and two of the vice-captains are Irish – Messrs McIlroy, McDowell, Clarke and McGinley – added to the sense of achievement.

It’s just a pity there were no Tricolors to be seen when the European team celebrated after the final chaotic drama on Sunday evening. But that’s a story for another day.

Sideline Views

GOLF: Much has been made of Rory McIlroy’s late show at the Ryder Cup on Sunday, but one of the funniest sights of the weekend came after the final putt of the day when captain Jose Maria Olazabal presented him with a giant alarm clock. He won’t be late again.

Speaking of golf, Irishmen Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke are the favorites to lead Europe when they defend the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland two years from now. The good money is on McGinley.

SOCCER:
Aiden McGeady claimed in Moscow on Monday that his $15 million move from Celtic to Spartak probably paid for Neil Lennon’s current team. He may well have a point, but the suggestion from a Russian journalist that they should erect a statue in McGeady’s honor outside Parkhead was rightly laughed out of court by Lennon at the press conference before Tuesday’s meeting between the two teams.

HURLING: Youngster Walter Walsh marked his Kilkenny debut with a goal and three points and the man of the match award – in the All-Ireland final. But just in case Walsh gets carried away with his new found fame, Cats boss Brian Cody brought him down to earth afterwards when he asked Walsh if he’d be all right for Walsh Cup action in January!

GOLF: Typical line from a BBC correspondent at the Ryder Cup when he asked Keegan Hansen Bradley’s parents if they had named their son after Liverpool greats Kevin Keegan and Alan Hansen.

Turns out they had never heard of Liverpool Football Club, never mind two of their best players!

HURLING: Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was booed when he joined the All-Ireland winning Kilkenny hurling team for their welcome home in his native county on Monday night. That’s what happens in rural Ireland when you introduce a household tax and a septic tank charge.

SOCCER: Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson is clearly a Batman fan – he mixed up Spurs defender Gareth Bale with Christian Bale on Saturday. Little wonder his team lost 3-2 to Spurs at Old Trafford – and the Dark Knight scored!

SOCCER: Mick McCarthy and Brian Kerr shared the TV3 studio for Champions League analysis on Tuesday night. One of them is now the favorite to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni as Ireland manager – and it’s not Brian.

HERO OF THE WEEK


Europe stole the honors at the Ryder Cup in Medinah – dubbed the best Ryde ever by my news colleagues – but Henry Shefflin was the stand out sports story of an incredible win. He’s now King Henry IX after a ninth All-Ireland medal and probably the greatest hurler of all time.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK

The Manchester City and Argentina strike Sergio Aguero clamed on Sunday that foreign players get unfair treatment from English referees in the Premier League. That could have something to do with the fact that foreign players dive and roll around the place more than those from this part of the world, Sergio.

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