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31st Dec 2015

16 for ’16 – The big dates for your sporting diary

What a year ahead...

Gareth Makim

Euro 2016, the Olympic Games, McGregor and more – it’s shaping up to be another huge 12 months of sport.

There’s so much to look forward to – here are the key dates for your calendar:

1. Liverpool v Manchester United, Anfield, January 17

Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League

Jurgen Klopp’s first taste of the biggest rivalry in English football is sure to be a crucial one for both sides in the most unpredictable Premier League to date. It will also be a chance for the ex-Dortmund boss to renew acquaintances with former Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal, whom he faced in four editions of Der Klassiker, winning two and losing two.

2. Ireland v Wales, Aviva Stadium, February 7

Wales v Ireland - RBS Six Nations

There’s a bit of a pall hanging over Irish rugby right now, but things are sure to pick up again when the Six Nations rolls around. Ireland are going for a record three titles in a row but will have their ambitions tested from the off as Wales visit Dublin to round off the opening weekend.

3. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, February 7

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks

The first Sunday in February is a real sports-fest, with the best of the best in American football squaring off in Santa Clara, California to see who takes home the Lombardi Trophy. There’s also a half-time show from Coldplay, if you’re into that sort of thing.

4. Frampton v Quigg, Manchester, February 27

The hottest ticket in boxing, as Belfast’s IBF super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton’s bid to add Scott Quigg’s WBA belt sold out in a matter of minutes.

5. Cheltenham Festival, Prestbury Park, March 15

Fairyhouse Races

The four-day festival of racing always begins with a bang and 2016 should be no different. Willie Mullins had three winners out of five Irish victories, but was left to rue Annie Power’s stunning final hurdle fall. However, the mare will hopefully be back this year, while Champion Hurdler Faugheen will look to kick off another successful week for Irish punters.

6. The Masters, Augusta, April 7

Rory McIlroy in search of that elusive green jacket. Jordan Spieth back at the scene of his breakthrough triumph. Jason Day full of confidence after getting that major monkey off his back. And that’s just three of the stars eyeing the opening golf major of the year.

7. Tipperary v Cork, Semple Stadium, May 22

The first huge match-up of the Championship summer sees the latest fixture in a storied Munster hurling rivalry.

8. Ireland v Sweden, Stade de France, June 13

Ireland’s opening group match at Euro 2016 is also our most winnable – Martin O’Neill’s men simply have to get something from the clash with Zlatan and company and the 81,000-seater stadium in Paris is sure to be packed full of boys in green cheering them on.

9. Ireland v Sri Lanka, Malahide, June 16

The first of an unprecedented six one-day internationals for Ireland’s cricketers in the summer of 2016 – they play the Sri Lankans again two days later before two further home games against Pakistan on August 18 and 20 and matches against South Africa and Australia in South Africa in September.

10. Women’s rugby sevens Olympic repechage, UCD, June 25/26

Ireland were awarded the right to host the final Olympic qualifying competition but still face a tough task to outlast 15 other teams to win the final place at the Rio Games. The men must also go through a final qualification tournament in Monaco a week earlier.

11. UFC 200, Las Vegas, July 9

Conor McGregor’s camp maintains he doesn’t want to wait until July to fight again, and the new featherweight champ could be back in the Octagon at UFC 198 in April, but injury permitting the Notorious will almost certainly have his name in lights for the promotion’s milestone card. Expect Rousey-Holm II and a host of other big names to feature as well.

12. Tour de France Stage 12, Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, July 14

The famous summit finish atop the Ventoux is back on the Tour route after a two-year absence. In a race filled with arduous mountains, there are sure to be fireworks here as French riders looks to throw the cat amongst the pigeons on Bastille Day.

13. Olympic Games – men’s 100m final, August 14

The showpiece event of the Games – can Usain Bolt continue his reign as the world’s fastest man and win a third gold or will Justin Gatlin or some other contender emerge to dethrone the Jamaican hero

14. Olympic Games – women’s lightweight boxing final, August 19

Olympics Day 13 - Boxing

Hopefully Katie Taylor will have won through to defend the title she memorably won in London in 2012. Another Taylor victory could be the start of a potentially magnificent weekend for Irish boxers, with Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes both more than capable of getting to the bantamweight and flyweight finals on the 20th and 21st respectively.

15. Ryder Cup Singles, Hazeltine, Minnesota, October 2

Darren Clarke captains Europe as they go for an unprecedented fourth victory in a row over the Americans, and the final day’s singles matches are sure to be dripping with drama once again.

16. Ireland v New Zealand, Soldier Field, Chicago, November 5

The All Blacks arrive in Dublin at part of the November international series, but Joe Schmidt’s will reportedly have another crack at ending their winless record against the world champions at the home of the Chicago Bears two weeks earlier.