Local sides stay on top of their game as 2010 season reaches finishing line
The first year of the new decade got off to a bit of a false start sports wise. The year started, and looks like ending, with snow as sports grounds across Northern Ireland were frozen.
Local soccer, in particular, was faced with a big fixture backlog.
When the action did get going again, Linfield secured the double, while their rivals Glentoran hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons with the east Belfast club being threatened with administration.
Golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell enjoyed fine seasons.
McDowell became the first European winner of the US Open in 40 years with his victory at Pebble Beach.
The Northern Ireland duo were a formidable pairing in Europe’s Ryder Cup win.
The Down gaelic football team defied the odds to reach the All-Ireland final before narrowly losing to Cork.
However, four Mournemen were named on the Allstar team — Brendan McVeigh, Danny Hughes, Martin Clarke and Benny Coulter.
Elsewhere, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth games team returned from Delhi with an incredible 10 medals, five for boxing.
Despite all the hype and wall-to-wall media coverage — too much for England boss Fabio Capello — the World Cup proved to be something of an anti-climax.
It says a lot for the so-called ‘greatest show on earth’ when Paul the Octopus is the abiding memory of the tournament in South Africa.
May he rest in peace.
Here are just some of the highlights of an action-packed 2010 sporting year.
January — The weather dominates the headlines as local sports fall foul of the heavy snow and several fixtures are postponed.
In rugby, the new year begins with the same old story for Ulster Rugby in the Heineken Cup.
A first win on English soil against Bath is not enough to secure a quarter-final berth for Brain McLaughlin's side despite winning 28-10 at the Rec.
Ulster finish second in Pool Four.
February — Across the water and Manchester United take on Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final.
In the absence of the injured Rio Ferdinand, Johnny Evans from Norn Iron lines out at the heart of the United defence alongside Nemanja Vidic.
Fergie’s men go on to beat Villa 2-1 in front of 88,596 spectators at Wembley Stadium.
March — Glentoran seal a dramatic win in the final of the Co-Operative cup final against Coleraine.
The game at Windsor finishes 2-2 and penalties are needed to separate the sides, with the Glens winning the shootout 4-1.
April — Not to be outdone by their fierce rivals, Linfield secure their 49th league title.
A 1-0 win over their closest challengers Cliftonville sees David Jeffery’s side clinch the Carling Premiership crown.
In Ice Hockey, the Belfast Giants condemned the Cardiff Devils to defeat in the Elite play-off final in Nottingham.
The game finished 2-2 in regulation time.
The hero for the Giants was Evan Cheverie who scored the crucial goal in the second round of penalties.
May — The Blues clinch the double with a 2-1 win over Portadown in the Irish Cup at Windsor Park.
Hollywood golfer Rory McIlroy clinches his first win on the US Tour with victory at the Quail Hollow Championship, setting a new course record with a final round of 62.
June — Local sport takes a back seat as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa takes centre stage.
Sadly, Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland side failed to qualify but that doesn’t stop thousands of local fans joining an estimated television audience of 26 billion to watch the proceedings.
The tournament itself fails to live up to expectation — remember those dam vuvuzelas?
The all-singing, all-dancing, all- kung-fu-kicking Dutch side just came up shy in their attempts to plunder the cup.
A goal from Andres Iniesta after 116 minutes was to separate Holland and Spain in the final and give the Spanish their first World Cup success.
July — In Cricket, North Down secure the Challenge Cup after beating CIYMS by 74 runs.
They go on to seal the Ulster Bank Premier League title in September by two points from Warringstown.
August — The Down Gaelic Footballers reach the All-Ireland senior final with a win over Kildare at Croke Park.
‘Wee’ James McCartan’s side proved that their big quarter-final success over Kerry was not a one-off with a 1-16 to 1-14 victory over the Lilywhites.
However, there were claims that Benny Coulter’s goal for the Ulster side was a ‘square ball’.
I have watched that game a dozen times, but the ball still looks round to me.
The All-Ireland final would prove a step to far, however, as Cork lift the Sam Maguire.
September — Glentoran’s financial troubles hit the headlines.
In a bid to ease their money woes, the east Belfast club announce they are to sell the naming rights of the Oval.
However, rumours that the ground was set to be renamed the ‘Sam's Yer Man For a Bargain Oval’ proved to be untrue.
October — Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth Games team return home from Delhi with a record haul of 10 medals, including three golds for boxers Paddy Barnes, Paddy Gallagher and Eamonn O’Kane.
Golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell star in Europe's Ryder Cup success over the USA at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Hollywood’s McIlroy held his nerve to ‘Cink’ a putt for a hard-earned half-point against his American counterpart.
McDowell seals the win for Monty’s men with a 3&1 win over Hunter Mahan.
November — A ‘star’ of horse-racing comes to the Northern Ireland Festival of Racing at Down Royal racecourse.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star thrills thousands of fans with great performance to win the JNwine.com Champion Chase for the second time with Ruby Walsh on board.
However, the top jockey’s day takes a turn for the worse when he suffers a broken leg when Corrick Bridge tumbles at the final fence later in the card.
Glentoran’s Matty Burrows is nominated for the FIFA Ballon D’Or Puskas award — the world goal of the year.
His injury-time wonder strike against Portadown in October secured his nomination along with the likes of Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben.
December — Boxer Carl Frampton clinches the vacant Celtic Super-bantamweight title by stopping Gavin Reid in the second round of their bout at the Ulster Hall.
Glentoran secure the first silverware of the new season— well it’s actually a big shield made from wood!
Nevertheless, the Paddy Power Co Antrim Shield is won by Scott Young’s side after a 3-1 win over rivals Linfield.
The other major talking point of the month is England losing out to Russia in the bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After the Sunday Times and the BBC’s Panorama programme accuse FIFA executives of being corrupt and taking bribes, the English are dumfounded after only getting two votes — one of which was their own!
Still, it would have been handy for local football fans to travel over to somewhere like Manchester or Liverpool to catch a World Cup game.
Do Easyjet even fly to Kaliningrad? It’s Probably warmer over there at the minute though.
Here is hoping for another great year for local sport in 2011. . .and no more snow!