April 2017 was, for me, a terrible month for sport. All of the teams and individuals that I follow fared badly. Kilkenny’s hurling team failed to make the League Final. Leeds United FC, after spending many months in the top 6 of the Championship, dropped to 7th and failed to make the play-offs. Cambridge lost the boat race, and Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out early in the World Snooker Championship. There is more detail about it in this piece, if only to remind me of what happened. There wasn’t even the consolation of a Cambridge win in the “University Challenge” Grand Final. Wolfson lost to Balliol Oxford, as I noted in the Trivia round-up for that month.
So far, just 11 days into April, this has already been a better month for sport, though the timings have been different. Last year the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race took place early in April. This year it was in March (on Saturday 24th) and Cambridge won all four races (men’s and women’s first eights, men’s and women’s reserves). That’s never happened before. Last weekend I passed a pleasant couple of hours in a local bar with my 13-year-old son watching Kilkenny beat Tipperary to win the Hurling League Final for the first time since 2014. It was a surprisingly comfortable victory. We are some weeks away from the World Snooker Championship finals, so I can still hope for another title for Ronnie O’Sullivan. After a strong start (top of the Championship last September) Leeds United opted for mid-table obscurity many weeks ago rather than flirting with the play-offs, so the feeling of disappointment is far less than last season.
The “University Challenge” season finale is nearly two weeks later than last year, scheduled for Monday 23 April. St John’s Cambridge won their semi-final last Monday and I expect Merton Oxford to win theirs next week, to set up another Oxford-Cambridge meeting in the final. They have been the best two sides in the competition, and I predicted some months ago that they would meet in the decider. It would be good to see St John’s win, but unlike last year I won’t be looking for it as a consolation for other results going badly. The Cambridge rowers and Kilkenny hurlers, led by the exceptionally talented TJ Reid, have already brightened my mood this spring. I am easily pleased.