Look ahead to 2021 - where brighter days of Irish sport certainly lie

Look ahead to 2021 - where brighter days of Irish sport certainly lie

THE Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out. There are two other vaccines on the way. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

In this miserable year where the sporting calendar has been disrupted like never before, news that the pandemic’s end is within sight came as an early Christmas present for sport and sports fans.

Indeed, due to rescheduling of cancelled events from this year and the arrival of a vaccine, 2021 is shaping up to be one of the best years for not just sport in general but Irish sport particularly.

So, forget 2020 and think of what lies ahead in the coming months.

Beginning in spring next year, we will see the return of the Grand National.

Can Irish trained Tiger Roll match Red Rum’s record of three wins from the 1970s?

After the event was cancelled this year, all eyes will be on Aintree in April to see whether history can be made.

Can Tiger Roll (pictured) match Red Rum's record in 2021?

Moving to football, in between March and November, Stephen Kenny’s Ireland will compete in their qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

World Cup qualifiers are always massive matches but the fact The Boys in Green have been drawn to play against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal whets the appetite even more.

If that’s not enough, next summer and autumn is where we will be really spoiled.

In June and July, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin is set to host European Championship football matches for the first time ever.

Soon after, in early July, the British and Irish Lions will begin their rugby tour against world champions, South Africa.

That will be followed later in the month by the start of the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo, where there is plenty of Irish interest.

Can Cork brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan win a gold medal this time, after picking up silver for rowing in 2016?

Olympic hopefuls Paul and Gary O'Donovan

Or will the women’s Irish hockey team, who got to the final of the World Cup in 2018 and qualified for these Games for the first time ever, win a medal?

Alongside Rory McIlroy representing the country’s golf team, it will be intriguing to see how these Irish Olympians fare.

In September, the Ryder Cup will take place, with Europe facing the USA at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The European team, of course, will be captained by Irish golfing legend and Dubliner Padraig Harrington.

Rory McIlroy is set to feature in the 2021 Ryder Cup

McIlroy’s place in the side is pretty much a certainty, but Shane Lowry, after his Open win in 2019, has a good chance of qualifying to further the Irish interest.

If the vaccine process continues smoothly, we will also, fingers crossed, see a fuller calendar for GAA both in Ireland and Britain at some point in 2021.

Meanwhile, let’s hope fans will return across all sports because, as we’ve witnessed so far, sport without spectators can be a pretty soulless experience.

The sight of a full Croke Park or Aviva Stadium next year would certainly be one to behold.