Jumpthefence has gazed into the crystal ball and seen...
1 Ireland to take second in our World Cup qualifying group; play-off despair to followPlease God this won’t come true, we could do with the shot in the arm of qualification. I fancy us to squeeze second if Bulgaria continue their dire form – I genuinely feel first is beyond us – but then it depends on the draw. Croatia, Denmark, Russia, Switzerland, Poland, Serbia, Turkey are the sort of teams you’re talking.
2 Another rather lacklustre Six Nations campaign for Irish rugby, losing twice, finishing 3rd
Time will tell if Declan Kidney can bring a Munster-type grinding of wins to an Irish team that’s desperately low in confidence. Either way, I can’t see us coming through England and France at home/Wales away without losing at least twice right now.
3 Man Utd to overtake nervy Liverpool on road to Prem Lge glory, Robbie Keane not to improve his form or finishing
Oh, this could come back to bite Jumpthefence. United haven’t clicked into gear at all and Liverpool are just showing signs of doing so. But I fancy United to put some run of eight or nine wins in a row together and still think Liverpool will snatch too many draws from winnable games. And Robbie didn’t look promising at Preston last weekend.
4 Kerry to take advantage of Tyrone’s second-year syndrome (we won’t even waste a prediction on Kilkenny)
Jack O’Connor having more bite than Pat O’Se, the pressure of 3-in-a-row off, points to prove from Donaghy, Galvin, Cooper and more, new talents like Walsh, Moran, O’Shea. All reasons for Kerry. Mayo and Meath to have decent showings. Hurling = Kilkenny with Galway and Tipp making gos of it.
5 Andy Murray to win a major; possibly, horrendously for us, even WimbledonAnother Tim Henman, Murray is not. Seems to have the ability and drive, he’s now beaten both Nadal and Federer reasonably regularly. The test will be the expectation at Wimbledon. I’d put my house on him doing it some day, it could even be this year.
6 Stephen Ireland to come back and be worth it, Andy Reid to come back and be underwhelming, Shay Given to take a leap of faith and finally move to a big clubDestiny tells us Andy Reid will somehow, somewhere get a chance under Trap and mess it up. Stephen Ireland’s too good to mess his shot up. Our big hope is that Given gets his shot at an Arsenal or someone similar.
7 Lance Armstrong’s comeback to be an anti-climax; Tiger Woods’ to be anything but
Much as Armstong will bring some drama and story to Le Tour, it’s damn hard to see him winning it after years away from the saddle. On the other hand, we expect Tiger to confirm his greatness by taking up Harrington’s challenge and winning at least two majors.
8 John Duddy, Andy Lee and Bernard Dunne will all get some form of title shots; only one, at most, will win
All these Irish fighters are going into career-defining years. All need big wins over decent opponents to prove they’re worth the hype. Duddy and Lee have been away for over six months but might come back refreshed. Dunne has a lot to prove yet. Interesting times.
9 Lionel Messi to blow Cristiano Ronaldo away in the race for ‘best player in the world’ as Barcelona win La Liga/ Champions League
Jumpthefence has made the point before that we’d consider Messi (and Kaka, by the by) superior players but that Ronaldo had been more effective than either for eighteen months. Barca are now really turning it on and Messi is leading the charge – that hat-trick and ovation against Atletico, sensational away at Sevilla.