The World Cup summer is going to hurt like hell without Ireland in South Africa. The manner of the defeat in Paris and the cheek of Thierry Henry’s handball will be debated forever, but the reality is that Ireland had the chances to win the game long before extra-time, and had they played throughout the group as they did in France then they’d have qualified automatically.
2. Darren Sutherland’s Tragic Death
People called the World Cup defeat to France a tragedy, but the real tragedy in Irish sport this year was the decision by world title contender Darren Sutherland to take his own life just over a year after he won the heart of the nation with one of three boxing medals at the Beijing Olympics.
3. Ireland’s Grand Slam
Sport allows us to overcome the hurt of recession and the failure of our political leaders to maintain a just society, and never was the power of sport to thrill more evident than in March when Declan Kidney and Brian O’Driscoll led Ireland to a quite sensational Grand Slam win on a Cardiff afternoon never to be forgotten.
4. Kilkenny’s Four in a Row
Brian Cody is God as far as Kilkenny folk are concerned, and it is easy to understand why after this most understated of men guided the Cats to a quite incredible fourth straight All-Ireland hurling title in September. Don’t be surprised if he makes it five in a row in 2010.
5. Paul Galvin’s Salvation
A year ago he was the biggest villain on Planet GAA after slapping that referee’s notebook out of his hand, but every man deserves a second chance and the rejuvenated Galvin was the footballer of the season as Kerry came back from the dead to win Sam Maguire again.
6. Bernard Dunne’s World Title Fights
He won one and he lost one, but Bernard Dunne reminded us all that he has the heart of a true champion as he came back from some serious knockdowns to beat Cordoba in March, but could do nothing against the power of Kraetingdaenggym in September.
7. Leinster’s Heineken Cup Campaign
They won the European title with a quite deserved win over the Leicester Tigers in May, but for many Leinster fans the highlight of their year was the Croke Park annihilation of their bitterest rivals Munster in a never to be forgotten semifinal.
8. Roy Keane’s Rants
He started the year as Sunderland manager in the Premier League and ended it in charge of Ipswich Town in the Championship, and in between had some wonderful rants at his old mates in the FAI when much of what he said was true and accurate!
9. Sea the Stars
The Horse of the Year is now out to stud and jockey Mick Kinane has retired on a high, but what a year for this supreme animal and trainer John Oxx as they won six Grade A races on the flat, including a brilliant Arc-Derby-Guineas treble.
10. John O’Shea’s Premier League Medal
Manchester United’s current woes haven’t been helped by the injury O’Shea picked up in Paris at the end of what was his most consistent and impressive season yet with the Premier League champions.