Duke's New Year predictions
A new year and a new dawn which means it’s prediction time again! Each year I can only hope that people forget the predictions I make about sport but every year I am reminded just how wrong I have been! It is a bit of fun though and I have to say that I am really looking forward to the new year in so many sports. So here goes…
Unless there is a dramatic collapse, Dublin should become the first team to win five in a row All-Ireland senior football titles. I can’t see anyone there to beat them. Kerry will be back in time, but Tyrone, Donegal, Mayo or Galway don’t look well enough equipped to dethrone them. I hope it’s a better championship than the one we saw in 2018. If there is no improvement in the quality of the football then the inter-county game will be in serious trouble.
Here in Roscommon it would be a huge achievement if our senior footballers survive in Division One, and with a really tough draw in Connacht it could be a tough year ahead for Anthony Cunningham and his players. Hopefully there will be a few good wins along the way. Expectations will be low and the fans will have to have patience.
On the club scene, Clann na nGael will be the team to beat once again, but if they have all their players available, it might be Roscommon Gaels’ year. They have been the bridesmaids on several occasions in recent years and after 15 years without a title it could be their turn in 2019.
In ladies’ football there is no reason why Roscommon cannot repeat their 2018 success in Connacht. It is very positive that Michael Finneran is still there as manager. An All-Ireland final appearance is very possible for this talented bunch of players. On the national scene, Dublin look set for three in a row of senior titles.
Hurling and Camogie
The biggest problem that hurling has is that the championship of 2019 could never be as good as 2018 – or could it? There are at least six teams that can win the MacCarthy Cup in 2019. I have a fancy for Cork this time. They were really unlucky in 2018 and they have a marvellous squad of players. Limerick will have something to say about that and with Liam Sheedy back at the helm, Tipp will surely be a factor and you can never write off Galway. But it’s Cork for me in 2019.
It’s a positive step that Ciaran Comerford is back again as Roscommon senior manager. Hopefully they can make progress in league and championship.
On the club scene, Four Roads will always be there but Athleague for back-to-back titles in 2019. If their players retain their enthusiasm they can do it under Seamus Qualter.
On the camogie scene the performance of Four Roads in the recent junior club All-Ireland final will give the game in the county great hope. Hopefully there will be a major title coming back to the county this year.
On the international scene, the Mick McCarthy reign part two will begin and there is sure to be a bounce in results as a consequence but I’m not so sure if it will be the solution to our problems. The facts are that the quality of player is simply not there any more. Qualification for the Euros in 2020 would be a great achievement. Our chances are 50/50.
It looks like Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a Premier League title will come to an end in May. I know I predicted earlier in the season that City would win it easily.
Regardless of the result of the game tonight between City and The ‘Pool, there is a swagger and purpose to Liverpool’s play this year that we haven’t seen before. If Van Dijk and Salah stay fit it’s their title this time around. United fans will have to emigrate in May as it looks like Leeds United will be back in the Premier League too!
Here at home it will be interesting to see how Dundalk react to the loss of Stephen Kenny as manager. I met Johnny Caulfield at the weekend and he told me he is working hard recruiting players in the close season for Cork City. It looks like the title will be between those two again.
It’s a terrible pity that the World Cup was not in September and October of 2018 because Ireland looked at their peak at that stage. The big question is can they keep their flying form up in 2019? A lot can happen in the space of 12 months. Key players can get injured or lose their form. All we can do is hope.
We have Joe Schmidt as manager and that’s a plus in anyone’s book. It’s vital we play well in the Six Nations, and when we get to Japan it is very important that we win the group we are in. If we do then we can get to a semi-final and anything is possible after that.
Leinster are looking good again in Europe, however their lack of discipline last weekend against Munster will be a worry for Leo Cullen going forward. Connacht have a great chance in the Challenge Cup and Pro14. There could be silverware coming the The Sportsground this year.
Speaking of silverware, Creggs are looking good too and they have a superb team at the moment. They are going well in the league and a title would crown a great season.
Despite the thrilling win for Tiger Woods in the Tour Championship at East Lake, 2018 was the year of Brooks Koepka who won two majors and was in contention in another. The big question is whether Tiger can win another major this year. On the evidence of his improving form in 2018 the answer has to be yes. He was in contention in three majors in 2018 and another small improvement will see him get over the line this year.
It’s a huge year for Rory McIlroy. He has undoubted talent but he needs to win a major soon or he will slip down the rankings. Hopefully Shane Lowry can be more consistent in 2019. He has the game to be at the very top.
Hopefully 2019 will be the year of Katie Taylor and Michael Conlon. Katie Taylor produced her best performance as a professional in her latest title defence before Christmas and hopefully she can win more titles in 2019. Michael Conlon is also making the progress that many predicted he would make in the paid ranks. Hopefully he will get a shot at a world title in 2019.
In horse racing Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott look like they will dominate Cheltenham once again although it would be nice to see an Irish winner of one of the big races which did not happen in 2018. Aidan O’Brien is sure to be back on top on the flat again too.
Here in the county, we are looking forward to another great year at Roscommon races and the opening of the new facilities which are under construction at Lenebane at the moment.
The World Swimming Championships would never have been of much interest here over the years but now there are several top class swimmers in Ireland and the possibility of medals at the championships are now high.
In hockey, hopefully the Irish women’s team can build on their remarkable success in 2018. In cricket (yes cricket!), Ireland are now a full member at the very top level of the game and this summer they play England in a full test match for the very first time.
Finally in Athletics, the World Championships will be in September in Doha and potential medallists like Thomas Barr will be hoping to do well in those championships.