Eight things that Jumpthefence took pleasure in throughout the past year…
1 Euro 08
Probably the best football tournament we can remember as regards consistent quality of football offered up by so many different teams and we hate to say it, but that was made more enjoyable for the absence of Ireland's and England’s dourness. So many top games or performances – Turkey 3 Czech Rep 2, Croatia 2 Germany 1, Holland 3 Italy 0, Portugal 2 Germany 3, Croatia 1 Turkey 1, Holland 1 Russia 3 – to name just a few, even if it maybe lacked one real classic defining contest.
Yep, probably the best olympics of jumpthefence’s lifetime also. Michael Phelps dominated the first week. Usain Bolt left us in awe the second. Throw in plenty brave Irish performances (though were the boxers’ displays slightly overrated?) and a heap of interesting finals and stories and it kept us entertained for a fortnight.
3 Munster rugby
Sometimes we’re inclined to think we big up this crowd too much for a competition that in many ways English/ French sides care little enough about, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Munster have produced some wonderful displays and days and performers and 2008’s Heinken Cup odyssey was no less epic – wins away at Gloucester and Saracens before seeing off top dogs Toulouse.
4 Kilkenny hurlers
There’s not much left to say about this gang. Special is an overused word in sport but this team are that. Awesome is as overutilised but they deserved that tag for the final display over Waterford. We could watch them hook, block, tackle, strike, score and work all day long. All of the skills and professionalism without the crap hyping themselves up – others take note.
5 Padraig Harrington
We’ve already posted here that he well deserved the Irish sportsperson of the year award. Four majors – two titles is the sort of take that earns genuine top golfer status, and much as many will argue no, he probably needed the US PGA to really claim that he could go across the pond and do the business. Now he can earn greatness by continuing that sort of form.
6 Cristiano Ronaldo
Ah, come off it begrudgers. There’s a hell of a lot that’s unlikable about the man (see our list of disappointments to come) but Jumpthefence won’t listen to anyone who tried to argue this guy didn’t have a career season. Was the most influential player (31 goals) in the best league in the world and played a huge role – he was MOTM in the Champs Lge final for those who claim he can’t handle the big occasion – in winning the Champs Lge (8 goals) also. Brilliantly effective.
7 Stephen Ireland
Okay, he’s not playing for Ireland right now. But Ireland has turned himself around from the potential everybody could see to a real top premier league midfielder and surely a candidate for Young Player of the season across the water. We argued a couple of years ago that he was the most technically gifted Irish footballer we’d seen and he’s shown that with his form - scoring goals, creating goals, influencing games with his passing range, presence and fitness (the two worries previously) and ability on the ball.
8 Il Trap
Hard to believe that it was only this year that the FAI somehow managed to pull off a serious coup by dragging a genuine football legend from the hat when we were all expecting a Terry Venables or Graeme Souness. And he’s brought a feelgood factor back to Irish football, some decent results, an actual plan and shape of what he’s about (unlike our previous two managers) and we head towards 2009 in good spirits. We’d have taken that this time last year.