It’s been a wonderful year of sport both here and abroad. There have been many highlights from an Irish point of view with a second Six Nations championship in a row for Joe Schmidt’s Boys in Green, O’Neill’s army qualifying for Euro 2016 and Conor McGregor truly taking over in the UFC. We asked some of our contributors on Action Replay to give us their favourite sporting moments and sports person of the year. To hear more about what the panel thought of this year, check out our end of year quiz here.
Moment: It was a year with a lot of great sporting highlights. A few come to mind in particularly the Chile win over Argentina over the summer, Wimbledon was pretty good this year but I’m going to go with the Irish win over France in the World Cup. We did crash and burn out of the tournament however that game did bring us some joy. Seeing Ian Madigan crying at the end of the game nearly brought a tear to my eye. It was a very good, exciting match with two great tries scored. There was that very intense first half and it was made all the more dramatic with Johnny Sexton and Paul O’Connell taken off.
Personality: I had two for this but ultimately I’m going to go for Michael Chieka. The second person I picked was Eddie Jones who is now the England coach so I can’t possibly pick him. I picked Chieka because last year and for the last few years the Wallabies were going through some hard times, some controversial times and Chieka has just changed the side around completely. He’s only been coach for the last 12 months and he’s gotten them to a World Cup final. He’s changed the team around and I love the decisions he’s made. He’s very humble, a great coach and a great man for the team.
Moment: For me, it comes down to three really, Japan beating South Africa in the World Cup, Ireland beating Germany in the European Qualifier and Ireland beating France in the World Cup. It has to go to Shane Long’s goal. It was probably the best footballing moment as an Irish fan for me. Growing up, you always dream about moments like that.
Personality: I’m going to give it to Neymar for his performances this year. I think he’s really starting to impose himself on the Barcelona team and I think he could be challenging Ronaldo and Messi for the Ballon D’Or this year.
Moment: Again, it comes down to three, Waterford coming back to eat at the top table of hurling, they’re not their yet but they’re getting there. That League win was phenomenal with all the injuries on the way. There’s Chelsea winning the Premier League in May after Jose’s second spell, we won’t talk about present day. But it has to go to Shane Long. I can’t think of anything else that has got me off my seat, shouting and roaring at the telly as much as that. It was absolutely phenomenal and it’s going to be in Irish hearts for a long time to come.
Personality: This has to go to Jordan Spieth. He’s 21 years of age, a year older than myself and what he’s achieved at his young age is just mind boggling. The Masters, the US Open, he could have won four majors. On two other weekend’s he would have won the two that got away. Although I do think Rory McIlroy will take back his crown, what Speith has done with his putting and wonderful performances and his old head on young shoulders, he’s my sports person of the year.
Moment: Now, this might be a controversial one because it ultimately flopped but seeing Manny Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather in May was phenomenal. Seeing the two greatest boxers of the last ten years, a fight that’s was scheduled for the last five years, we never thought we’d see it happen. But it did happen with Mayweather coming out on top. The fight itself was disappointing from a spectator’s point of view but it was just a technical masterclass from Mayweather.
Personality: This is a tough one because I’d like to give it to Dan Carter and Conor McGregor but I’m going to give it to McGregor. He rallied a whole nation behind him. He managed to get 4 million people to invest in a sport that previously had no traction in this country whatsoever. So that’s why he’s my sports person of the year.
Moment: I’m going to have to give it to Shane Long as well. I don’t think any man has caused me to hug so many strangers in my life. To get away from the Irish perspective, I’m going for a strange one here with the Icelandic football team. They’ve qualified top of their group for the Euros, they’ve knocked out the Netherlands, beaten Turkey which isn’t bad going for a country with the population of Cork. They have to be the most overachieving team in football at the moment.
Personality: I’m gonna give it to Jonny Walters because of the crucial goals he scored in this campaign. The most important being the first goal against Scotland and the winner against Georgia which contributed to Shane Long sending us all into hysteria.
Moment: My sporting moment was also at the Rugby World Cup but it was England getting knocked out and becoming the first home nation to do so. Not just because it was England but because that group was such a pompous arrogant bunch. It was really good to see them go out. I was over in England for it as well so that made it that bit sweeter. So yeah, them crashing out and failing to live up to expectation was great to see.
Personality: Steph Curry in basketball, he’s been absolutely amazing. MVP last year and leading the Golden State Warriors to the title. He’s been absolutely ridiculous this season. He’s putting up Jordan-esque numbers, he makes three point shots that you don’t think he’ll even get off nevermind score and he’s absolutely stunning to watch as a basketball player.
Moment: There’s only been two moments that have had me jumping out of my seat. One was the Japan try against South Africa and the McGregor/Mendes fight. I have to give it to the fight. All the hype leading up to it and all the doubts with the last minute change of opponent. McGregor still came through and everyone in the country was delighted for him. That moment when he won was a great moment for an Irish fan.
Personality: You can’t go too wrong with the one man goal party that is Jamie Vardy. With the year he’s had in the Leicester shirt, scoring goals for fun, top of the table in the Premier League. He’s only getting better and with the story behind him it’s been wonderful for him.
Moment: Well, my moment actually follows the moment we’ve all talked about at that is standing outside on Harcourt Street, singing with a horde of strangers all celebrating Ireland’s passage to the Euro’s was just something I’ll never forget. To be pretty much dead and buried in this group and to go on the run that we did, beating Germany and getting the bit of luck we needed with Scotland losing, it’s exactly what this country needed. It lifted the whole place and it’s only going to get better next year.
Personality: Huge bit of bias here but I’m going to pick Jurgen Klopp. He’s come in and totally changed the team and that performance against Southampton was some of the best football I’ve ever seen a Liverpool team play. A few speedbumps here and there but it looks like there’s good times ahead.