By Tomás Keating
Despite there being no World Cup, no European Championships, or Olympics, this summer promises to be an enjoyable one. Here are some of the big sporting events:
All-Ireland Senior Football Championship:
This year’s Football Championship is going to be intriguing. Dublin will start their quest to become the first team to ever complete a five in a row. But in this year’s National Football League, the Dubs seem somewhat mortal, they have lost on three occasions; to Monaghan, Kerry, and Tyrone. It is the first time since 2012 that the Division One League Final will not feature Jim Gavin’s side.
It remains to be seen can Galway, Donegal, Tyrone, Monaghan, Kerry or Mayo beat the Dubs in a Championship game in Croke Park because Championship is a completely different ball game to the League. It is usually Mayo that gives Dublin the toughest challenge. They are able to go 15 on 15 with them, and they almost beat them in the 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland Finals. On both occasions they lost by the slimmest of margins, and in 2016 it went to a replay.
Donegal are last the team to defeat Dublin in a Championship match, in the 2014 All-Ireland Semi-Final.
Galway and Tyrone both suffered hammerings to Dublin in the Semi-Finals and Final respectively.
After last summer’s lacklustre Super Eights, it is hoped that this year will have some entertaining matches because it has not captured the fans’ attention at all yet, especially with the fact Dublin have two games in Croke Park.
Nonetheless, it is going to be interesting to see if Dublin can make history. The last team to almost get to the top of the mountain was the 1982 Kerry team but they were defeated by Offaly thanks to a Seamus Darby goal. Who will be this year’s Darby? Dublin’s League form will surely give other teams hope.
All-Ireland Hurling Championship:
Last year’s Hurling Championship was arguably the greatest in living memory. The introduction of a five-team league format for Munster and the Leinster Championships ensured that we had highly competitive and entertaining match-ups. It is very hard to narrow down all the amazing games that were played the All-Ireland Hurling Championship last year, especially in the Munster Championship.
Limerick won the All-Ireland last year, despite coming third in the Munster Championship and bridged a 45 year gap after defeating the then champions Galway 3-16 to 2-18. They will be looking to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup, but they will have stiff competition from within their own province and elsewhere. Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Galway will all fancy their chances, as they have all not been too far away the past few seasons.
It is one of the most eagerly awaited Championships in some time.
The NBA Playoffs began on 13 April and runs right up until June, and it is the most thrilling part of the NBA season. The Playoffs are broken into two conferences, East and West, with eight teams competing in each side. It is seeded 1st v 8th, 2nd v 7th, 3rd v 6th, 4th v 5th, and each match-up is a best of seven. The winners of both conferences face off in the NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors are going for their fourth title in five years (2015, 2017, 2018). Another championship this year would put the Warriors in rarefied air. They would become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s to win a three-in-a-row.
With stars like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and the recently added Demarcus Cousins will make the Dubs hard to beat in the Playoffs. However, many believe it could be their last ride together as it is heavily speculated that upcoming free agent Durant may leave to join the New York Knicks.
The Warriors’ only Finals loss in their run of dominance came to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, who were led by LeBron James. This will probably be the first year since 2005 that the Playoffs will not feature LeBron. Thus, it will break his eight-year streak of getting to the Finals, which was a very impressive feat. But this season’s performance with his new team – the Lakers, has been very disappointing and a lot of it is on LeBron.
It is going to be an interesting Playoffs with no LeBron, particularly in the East. He dominated the East the past few seasons with Miami Heat and the Cavs. The Milwaukee Bucks with their superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, will more than likely get the one-seed with Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics not far behind.
The Raptors have been disappointing in the Playoffs the last few years, but have star Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors will hope that the Two Time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP gives them an edge in the playoffs.
The 76ers are stacked with talent. The only a worry is: can Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, etc. gel together for the Playoffs? From watching the regular season, you still tell there are still some issues with sharing the ball, and who is the go-to man. It is a pity that Simmons does not shoot threes because in the Playoffs, teams are just going to stand off him.
The Celtics have been very disappointing this season for the amount of talent they have. Kyrie Irving has not helped it either with some of the stupid comments he has been making the past few months.
It is a pity that Victor Oladipo is injured because the Pacers could have been serious contenders in the East.
In the West, one would predict that the Warriors will win it out, but they were lucky against the Houston Rockets last season. The Rockets with a red-hot James Harden will not be afraid of the Warriors again this year.
If Paul George keeps playing at the level he is currently playing at, the Oklahoma City Thunder could also be a nightmare match-up for the Warriors.
The surprise package of the season, the Denver Nuggets led by Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray could be a ‘hard-out’ in the Playoffs, and they will definitely give trouble to whoever plays them.
The West is extremely tight this year, like most years. At time of writing, the Thunder, Spurs, the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers are all on the same amount of wins.
It promises to be very exciting summer, and I did not even mention the Galway Races, the Ireland rugby team’s Summer Tests, Wimbledon, NHL Playoffs. So, with the Premier League and Champions League finishing, that should be enough to pick you back up.