Only a Game? - 2012 could be Ireland’s and Derry’s year

Presseye Photography - Northern Ireland 5th July 2011'Derry Senior GAA players and management pictured at Owenbeg centre of excellence in Dungiven as they prepare for the Ulster Final.' Paddy Bradley.'Picture Stephen Hamilton
Presseye Photography - Northern Ireland 5th July 2011'Derry Senior GAA players and management pictured at Owenbeg centre of excellence in Dungiven as they prepare for the Ulster Final.' Paddy Bradley.'Picture Stephen Hamilton

The 2012 Airtricity Premier League season is just over two months away. With ‘the King is dead, love live the King’ apt after the departure of Stephen Kenny to Shamrock Rovers it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Derry City Board of Directors appoint a manager capable of taking Derry City to the next level.

In terms of sport, the next 12 months are going to be a bit like visiting a city like Rome, Paris or New York; there’s just so much to see and do that unless you possess the the power of omnipresence you’ll be forced to make some hard choices.

The 2012 Airtricity Premier League season is just over two months away. With ‘the King is dead, love live the King’ apt after the departure of Stephen Kenny to Shamrock Rovers it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Derry City Board of Directors appoint a manager capable of taking Derry City to the next level.

The Board have wasted no time and set out their stall earlier this week by convincing goalkeeper Gerard Doherty and midfielder Ruaidhri Higgins to sign contract extensions.

No one is doubting just how different things at Brandywell will be in 2012 but as fans of the Candy Stripes know, with great change can come great excitement.

Derry were relegated in 2009 after financial irregularities but it didn’t hinder the class and ability of young players likes James McClean, Patrick McEleney, Daniel Lafferty and Ryan McBride.

Perhaps 2012 will unveil a exciting band of young local players who will turn plenty of heads; fingers crossed.

Earlier this year, Derry’s senior footballers went close to winning their first Ulster title since 1998. They were well beaten by Donegal in the final at Clones but with the return of Bradley brothers Eoin and Paddy 2012 could be the year that John Brennan’s men realise their true potential and bring home some silverware.

It’s hard to think about 2012 without mentioning the Olympic Games in London.

I know that the Olympics is to everyone’s taste but it’s hard to knock the excitement that the track and field events bring with it.

The credibility, or lack thereof, of some of sports at this year’s Olympics is something that requires no introduction but there’s no doubt that watching Usain Bolt run the 100m in record breaking time is as pure a sporting event you are likely to see this year.

Derry triathlete Aileen Morrison has qualified for the London Games and if successful she could join a list of well known Derry Olympians. Aileen has been training tirelessly in Lisburn for the last while and she’ll certainly not be going along to this summer’s showpiece to merely make up the numbers.

The coming months will also impact upon the career of Dungiven boxer Paul McCloskey. McCloskey will look back at 2011 with mixed emotions; he controversially lost out to Amir Khan in April but got his dream of another world title shot back on track when he beat Columbian Briedis Prescott in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast in September.

The 32 year-old Southpaw is still current European light-welterweight champion but nothing less than a shot at world title crown will suffice in 2012. It’s been hinted that Argentine Marcos Maidana would be open to the possibility of defending his WBA light welterweight in Ireland but nothing has been confirmed. A world title fight in Ireland is something that ‘Dudey’ has dreamt about for quite sometime but if he has to travel to America to realise this dream then there’s no better man. Here’s hoping that Dungiven has its first ever boxing world champion in 2012.

The new year is of particular interest to all Republic of Ireland supporters as it represents the first time they will compete at a major tournament since the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

Ireland will compete in Group B of the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine with Spain, Italy and Croatia.

Many believe that there’s more chance of Bertie Ahern being asked to solve the Euro crisis than there is of Ireland progressing to the quarter-finals but as anyone who watched Ray Houghton score against the English in 1988 will testify, miracles can happen.

If the aforementioned wasn’t enough to get even the most lethargic and apathetic sports fans doing the Poznan then there’s also all the usual event to look forward.

The Australian Open starts in a few weeks time and then in later this month there’s the African Cup of Nations, which will take place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, to contend with.

There’s the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open to look forward to also. World number one Novak Djokovic looks unstoppable at the moment and 2012 could be the year that he becomes a serious contender to the grand slam crowns held by Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.

If the next 12 months of sport deliver it will be one of the best year’s for sport in recent memory. The cherry on top would be Derry City to win their first treble since 1989, Ireland to beat England in the final of the European Championships and for Irish man Connor Niland to beat Rafa Nadal in the Men’s Wimbledon Final in five sets - well, I’ve always been described as a bit of a dreamer.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewequinn