A New Year and already I have new goals and am excited about what the world of sport might bring to our televisions over the next 12 months.
There is no better start to a year for an old snooker player like myself that to get caught up in such a good tournament as we’ve just had with the UK Masters championship in the Ally Pally over the past week and which ended on Sunday evening with Judd Trump winning the last three frames to lift the trophy against Welshman Mark Williams on a 10-8 margin.
It was the Englishman’s second Masters and this time round he grafted through the earlier rounds before finding his form at exactly the right time to shoot the lights out. There was a great atmosphere over the weeks at the venue and it got my own adrenaline flowing as I commentated on the games for tv.
It also made me commit to practising more and trying my best to get the chance to play in front of big crowds again. There is nothing like it and already the omens are good for us older guys as both Jimmy White and myself have now qualified for the Welsh Open already this month.
The aim now is to go well in that tournament and to qualify for the World Championships. For me, to get the opportunity to cue off in front of the crowd at the Crucible would be a dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to win that blue riband event once 26 years ago so I suppose I should be positive and say it is great to be still going after all those years.
After a bit of a lull over the past decade, it is lovely to see snooker rising in the popularity stakes with television viewers and while Ronnie O’Sullivan’s relatively early knock out was a blow, it goes to show how strong the game is that the attention still was there right through to the final which proved to be a gripping affair right up to the last shot.
Overall this year I have no great plans to see events in other sports. Ideally, I would love to go to Augusta to witness the first golf major of the year but that clashes with our own World Championship so that is a no-no.
At home, I’m hoping I’ll be looking for All Ireland final tickets again as I hope that the return of Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion will help the Dubs reclaim one more Sam Maguire before the majority of that team sails off into the sunset. I thought they were decidedly unlucky with injuries last year and I’m convinced that if Con O’Callaghan had been able to line out against Kerry in the All Ireland semi-final, we would have won instead of going out to Sean O’Shea’s massive last minute free.
It would be a great return game if these two counties make it to the final this year… I’d say you could see Croke Park out twice over if that was the case.
Obviously, regardless of how last night’s match at Crystal Palace, I’ve been delighted with how Erik Ten Hag has got Manchester United playing these past three months. they look like a proper team again, don’t they and his hand has been strengthened, in the greatest of ironies, by getting rid of Ronaldo after his Piers Morgan interview meant he got his wish to leave Old Trafford.
I see they ate 14/1 for the title but realistically that is a big ask. Still, it would be great if they got back into the champions league while Liverpool appear to be struggling in defence, midfield and attack. I always felt the sale of Mane would hit their scoring returns but truthfully I didn’t expect to see them fall down the pecking order so quickly. They have a good manager though and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get them back together to mount a challenge for a top four spot before the season is out.
When you’re a sports fan, life is always throwing up intriguing possibilities, which keeps us interested and counting the days from one big fixture to the next. In my case that means watching Arsenal host United on Sunday and should we manage to upset the form with an away win there, then it might very well put the cat among the kitchens for the rest of the season.