With the Olympics and the Euros added to the usual mix, 2012 is already shaping up to be a vintage one in sporting circles. Here are five match-ups we're dying to see in the year ahead.
Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao
Now that the authorities have graciously deferred Mayweather’s prison sentence and Money himself called out Pacquiao on Twitter, it seems there is little obstacle preventing the clash between the two best pound-for-pound boxers of the last decade.
While it would undoubtedly be the biggest boxing event in ages and possibly the sporting spectacle of the year, this fight should probably have happened years ago when both were at their peak, but such are the political manoeuvrings in boxing that have turned many off the sport.
Considering the status of both men and the contrast in their boxing styles, it will still make for one hell of a fight, provided there are no hiccups over the next few months. Mark May 5 in the calendar folks, this is one not to miss.
Ireland v England in Euro 2012
Twenty four years on from that famous meeting in Stuttgart, nothing more would stir the hearts of Irish fans in Polkraine this summer than a meeting with the auld enemy, who it should be pointed out, we have never lost to in a major tournament. The record reads one win and one draw so far, leading us to the obvious conclusion that the English simply run scared at the sight of a green jersey.
What’s more, a meeting with England this summer is no mere pipe dream. If Ireland can achieve the nigh on impossible and finish in the runners up spot in Group C and England come out on top of a definitely winnable Group D, the stage would be set for a showdown in Donetsk on June 23. Hell, we might even roll out Ray Houghton for old time’s sake.
Usain Bolt v Yohan Blake
Not since the Jamaican bobsled team did their thing in Calgary in ’88 will there be as much Jamaican interest in a sporting event as the Olympic 100 metres final this summer when, barring a miracle, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake go head to head.
Usain Bolt reminisces to Yohan Blake about the experience of meeting the Kerry football team
Blake was the benefactor of Bolt’s controversial false start at the World Championships last summer and picked up the gold, while he was also the fastest man in the world over 200 metres last year.
Bolt will still be the man to beat in London, but Blake’s presence in the field should mean that there will be no repeat of the chest-beating cakewalk of Beijing four years ago. It’s a good thing that race should be competitive, because with Asafa Powell in the mix, the 4x100 metres relay should be a breeze for the Jamaicans, man.
Leinster v Munster, Heineken Cup Final
A meeting between two giants at any stage of the knockout phase would be welcome, but could you imagine the hype if they were to come face to face in the final at Twickenham? Both sides are in healthy positions so far and if they can get through this weekend unscathed, the prospect of a third Heineken Cup clash in seven years moves ever closer.
The game would also enable one of the two sides to have the definitive upper hand in what has become a magnificent rivalry. In 2006, Munster humiliated Leinster in the old Lansdowne, in 2009, it was Leinster’s turn to dish out a beating at GAA headquarters.
The sight of Irish players battering the hell out of each other mightn't bear thinking about so close to the Six Nations, but once that's over with, it's all fair in love and war once again. Please let this happen.
Dublin v Kerry, episode 2
The depth of the rivalry between the sides meant that there was unbelievable expectation leading up to last year’s All-Ireland Final, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. Rarely, in fact has there been a more dramatic and enthralling end to an All-Ireland throughout its history and unless Stephen Cluxton can do it all over again, it is nearly certain that a goalkeeper will never again land the winning score.
It’s a big ask for Dublin to repeat a triumph they hadn’t managed for 16 years prior to last year, but they have the squad to do it and a manager than can cope with the pressure.
Despite an ageing panel, it would be foolish to write off Kerry given the talent at their disposal and although the likes of Cork and Donegal might have something to say about it, they look best placed to give the Dubs a run for their money. It’s not quite up the standard of the rivalry of the 70s yet, but give it another couple of episodes and it won't be far off.