What's the odds?
Given that it’s a fairly lean time of the year in terms of actual cricket news, CricketEurope’s in-house betting guru has been casting an eye over the forthcoming punting opportunities to see if we can find a way of helping with those festive costs.
The World Cup kicks things off in February and March with Phil Simmons’ boys quoted as 500/1with most bookmakers to win the competition outright. That price is probably missing a zero on the end if we’re being completely honest but it isn’t any more insane than England winning it at 10/1.
If you’re looking for a punt on potential winners, most people will concentrate on the co-hosts as well as South Africa and India. The Aussies have been installed as 5/2 favourites and rightly so as they have everything going for them, especially the key components of home advantage and current form. Like him or loathe him (and unless you’re partial to Fosters and a barbie it is likely to be the latter) they also have David Warner- and him Johnson, Watson, Clarke, Smith and company look a really dangerous unit.
Despite their awful form on the road India’s batting puts them bang in there with a chance. MS Dhoni needs to make up for some shocking poor form before he steps down completely however and their bowling is maybe just a touch light as well. New Zealand are the real dark horses and have been right up there as the most improved team of 2014. Boult and Southee will be a real handful on their own mats but without the enigmatic Ryder, the batting is heavily dependent on Brendon McCullum. At the prices I would begrudgingly have a score on the Proteas at 9/2- as they are the one side most likely to match Australia pound for pound.
On the National scene the third Interprovincial series is likely to be dominated by Leinster Lightning once again. John Mooney’s men are the hare for the hounds as the “Northies” play catch-up and the Dubliners will be around 2/1 to win all three cups. The Knights prevented a clean sweep in 2013 while the Warriors derailed their hat-trick bid this summer so Johnboy will be hoping for third time lucky. Time will tell what sort of side the Belfast outfit fields in 2015 but Graeme McCarter for Johnny Thompson looks the only change for Bobby Rao.
Domestically, this season’s Team of the Year, Carrickfergus, will be in everyone’s sights in the coming summer and will have a massive job on their hands coming close to those standards again. Carrick won everything bar the Feis in 2014 although Ryan Eagleson is a 5/1 shot for the three- handed reel in the Ulster's next month.
In the North West, there is a similar pattern emerging as was the case during the profitable 2013 season. Back then Coleraine had all their business done months in advance meaning they were able to sit quietly in the Spring when many of their opponents were very busy scouting the transfer market.
The Bannsiders’ inactivity meant that they slipped in under the radar when Paddy Power priced up the Premiership title race and more than one person took advantage. After a disappointing time of things last year the Sandel Lodge men have again stolen a march over Christmas.
Because Brigade and Strabane have yet to complete their line-ups it is difficult to weigh things up just yet but if prices were available now I’d be backing Scott Campbell’s men with Ardmore my pick to break into the top four. Other North West sides worthy of consideration are Donemana, Bready and CIYMS.
And what odds a fourth consecutive Brigade v Donemana Danske Bank cup final? The first round draw has been reasonably kind to both so it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the pair could line up at Eglinton in July.
Should the Beechgrove side win it this year spectators will be expecting some speech from Gareth McKeegan given that he’s had a while to practice. Paddy Power price Brigade up at 5/2 to win the cup and go 20/1 that Gareth will recite a poem by Caleb Boomer during his victory celebrations.
The Championship could well be the more competitive of the two senior leagues in 2015 given the quality of the sides in it. William Hill bets 6/4 that Eden Links is actually Hasan Raza in disguise and the same price that he arrives on time in Bonds Street.
Creevedonnell are 6/1 to win the division unless Mo Hanware, the world’s most travelled man, returns in which case they are 7/1. The Foxies will start favourites for a quick return to the Premiership but Newbuildings could be a real fly in the ointment here and if Chris Cooper’s side keep their heads they could be a top three team.
And so as we say goodbye to 2014 here’s hoping that the next 12 months sees Ireland put up a storming show in WC2015, Willie Dwyer continue to say what he sees, Stevie-Lou continue to push for big Bill to be next President and Dotski continue to share his font of knowledge and wisdom with us all. It has been great fun doing it and here’s hoping we get to do it again in the next 12.