Steven Beacom's top 10 sport moments to treasure in 2014
You will have your own favourite memories of the last 12 months. Here's my top 10... in chronological order.
Brendan gunning for glory (February 8): When Liverpool, under Brendan Rodgers, hammered Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield last season, they produced the most dynamic display of football ever witnessed in the opening 20 minutes of a Premier League game, scoring FOUR goals and ripping the Gunners to shreds. Form has obviously dipped dramatically this season, but seeing an Ulsterman leading a thrilling title charge, that just fell short, for a club as big as Liverpool was quite the experience.
Kelly strikes gold (March 10): Before Kelly Gallagher travelled to Sochi she told me about her dream to create history at the Paralympics. A few weeks later it had become reality when the Bangor woman won Team GB's first ever gold medal at the Winter Paralympics. Visually impaired Kelly, along with her guide Charlotte Evans, finished first in the Super G discipline. The sheer delight on their faces as they received their prizes made the whole country smile.
In with the new (May 2): The official opening of the new 18,000 capacity Ravenhill was a fabulous occasion. All that was missing was the right result as Ulster lost in a compelling PRO12 fixture to Leinster, who included Brian O'Driscoll playing his final game in Belfast. Now called the Kingspan stadium, that night in May showed millions of pounds of public money had been put to good use. Can't wait to see the new Windsor Park when it is completed.
Giro checks in (May 9-11): We were all in the pink when the second biggest cycling event in the world came to our doorstep. The feelgood factor oozed out of us as we watched the riders whizz by towns and cities across the country. The people of Northern Ireland turned out in their thousands, lifting all those taking part, never more so when riding up the hill at Stormont. Those three days in May when the Giro checked in were a joy.
Lisa sparks medal rush (July 24): There are few more decent sports stars than Lisa Kearney, the brilliant judo star from Belfast. That's why it was so pleasing to see her win a bronze at the Commonwealth Games. It was the first medal in Glasgow for Team Northern Ireland and sparked a podium parade with our bowlers and boxers soon following suit.
Super Saturday in Glasgow (August 2): Lucky enough to be inside the Olympic Stadium for London's 'Super Saturday', I was there for Glasgow's version when boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan won gold at the Commonwealth Games. The Belfast boys were superb in their respective finals. Class acts, the pair of them.
Valhalla victory (August 10): The Open Championship win for Rory McIlroy was superb, but I enjoyed his thrilling US PGA victory at Valhalla more. In the final round he surged from behind and then held his nerve to claim a fourth Major triumph. For me, this was the tournament in which Rory moved to a new level.
Carl's big night out (September 6): Around 16,000 fans turned up at the Titanic Slipways on a bitterly cold evening and were rewarded when Carl Frampton entered the ring and a highly accomplished 12 rounds later left it as world champion after beating Kiko Martinez.
Paddy's big day out (September 27): You are 19, your team are struggling and you make your debut and play exceptionally well, helping them to a vital win. That was Ballyclare kid Paddy McNair for Manchester United against West Ham. Incredible stuff.
Our Greek gods (October 14): Greece 0 Northern Ireland 2. Quite simply the finest away performance I have seen from the national team for years.