The meeting between John Delaney and Roy Keane. The pair sat down with Martin O’Neill when they set out their plans for the next two years as Ireland’s management ticket. Was there talk of car parks, islands in the south Pacific, various barbs about ‘that man’ in the intervening years and, more importantly, who picked up the bill?
South Africa v All Blacks. I’m sure this is the game most rugby folk wish they had been able to watch in the flesh this year. Easily one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, the skill level and physicality were out of this world.
There were too many brilliant tries to choose one favourite, while Nigel Owens was excellent as referee. The All Blacks showed their world-class mental strength, while the ‘Boks demonstrated that they have the athletes to compete at RWC2015.
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The hype about Ronaldo v Zlatan overshadowed the fact that two countries were vying to reach the World Cup in their playoff in November. The first leg was a damp squib but the second leg in Stockholm rose to the expectations. In 29 second-half minutes, two of the world’s greatest footballers divvied up five goals in a blaze of drama. It was magnificent stuff with Ronaldo the winner at the finish.
Pic: Steven Governo/Atlantico/Press Association Images
When Andy Murray finally put the ghost of Wimbledon’s past to bed. The power of his performance and the strength he pulled from somewhere not to collapse after losing three match points proves he’s a force to be reckoned with – mentally and physically.
And he’s only 26 years old. He has shrugged off a lot of the on-court antics over the last couple of years, making him a player you want to root for – and want to see in many a Grand Slam final.
Every so often the Irish team brings such intensity to a rugby match that we look like we can beat anyone. Australia and England in 2011, Wales in 2013. We almost proved that to be the case by beating arguably the best sports team on the planet in the All Blacks. Almost.
Ireland v New Zealand – Granted, it is somewhat sad that I dream of attending a game that Ireland eventually lost in the cruellest circumstances imaginable. However aside from its depressing climax, there were plenty of reasons why I regretted not being at the game on the day. The atmosphere at the Aviva had been criticised in the past, but none of those complaints applied on this occasion.
In contrast with the lacklustre spectacle at the previous two November Tests, against the almighty All Blacks, the supporters’ fervent passion was starkly evident even from the relative distance of a TV screen. The phrase ‘nothing beats being there’ is an over-used cliché, but this was one of the rare occasions where it genuinely applied.
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
Lions Test Series. I got a one-on-one interview with Leigh Halfpenny out at Carton House before the Lions flew out to Hong Kong and Australia. The Welshman came across as incredibly humble and dedicated to his profession.
He has kept up a childhood routine of going down to his local field to practice kicks for a couple of hours on Christmas Day each year. The time spent on that field paid off as he kicked the Lions to success against the Wallabies. Nothing could beat the drama of that First Test — Folau’s double, North’s wonder try and Beale’s late slip — I just wish I was there to see it unfold.
When Ryan Crotty raced into the corner to break Irish hearts, I was thousands of miles away watching over breakfast in a Manhattan bar. Even at that distance, the energy and passion that was flowing down from the Aviva stands was clear to see.
As the second half wore on and Ireland kept battling against the All Blacks’ onslaught, there seemed to be a moment of unanimous belief – this was actually going to happen. Despite the result, I don’t think anyone who was there will ever forget it.
My brother’s stag weekend meant that I missed the All-Ireland hurling final replay. But, it meant that I got to watch the game with 20 Cork men in a pub in Cardiff. The atmosphere was unreal as the goals rained in. In the end, Cork lost, but where would you rather be on All Ireland final Sunday than HQ?
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
Tomorrow on TheScore.ie: ‘I was there’, the best sporting events of 2013