HERE’S HOW IT works. Every week, we choose six of the weekend’s biggest sporting events. Then we ask six of TheScore.ie’s finest minds to have their say. Come Monday, everybody looks and feels a little bit sillier than usual.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Pick 6.
Meet this week’s pickers *drumroll*:
- Tony Cuddihy: studying the finer points of aircraft maintenance
- Niall Kelly: regular popcorn or cheese?
- Paul Fennessy: not related to Steve the Cat
- Gavan Reilly: the new kid on the (Pick 6) block
- Steven O’Rourke: reeling from the commentator’s curse
- Hugh O’Connell: has plans for 16 February, thanks for asking
Heineken Cup: Northampton Saints v Ulster
TC: It may be a hostile atmosphere at Franklin’s Gardens, and Ulster’s toughest test of the group stages, but I still think that Mark Anscombe’s side will have too much for Northampton. Ulster win for me.
NK: Ulster are the new Arsenal. It’ll be tough but Mark Anscombe’s Invincibles will get the job done again.
PF: Probably the most difficult game of the weekend to predict, Ulster are the only unbeaten European side in all competitions, so should have a fair chance, but Northampton have also been doing very well in the Premiership and have some very good players in their side, such as Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden. I expect a tight game, but I think home advantage will enable Northampton to narrowly prevail.
GR: It’s a tricky one – but simply because Ulster’s winning streak has to end some time, and because Franklin’s Gardens can be a horrendous place to go to, I’ll say Northampton will do the job (though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ulster got their losing bonus point.)
SOR: Looking at our own Sean Farrell’s preview, it’s going to take an awful lot to go Ulster’s way if they’re to pick up their 13th consecutive win. That said, Northampton traditionally struggle against Irish sides, losing eight of 12 encounters in this competition. Ulster to make it nine.
Boxing: Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez
TC: Marquez has yet to beat the Filipino, despite much protestation, and despite the fact that Pacquiao is not the fighter of two or three years ago, he’ll take this one too. Win for Pacquiao on points.
NK: My head and heart both say Pacquiao but I’ve got a weird (and totally irrational feeling) that Marquez might finally get the win he’s been chasing for eight years. Betcha it’s controversial.
PF: Previous fights between the two have admittedly been mired in controversy, but Pacquiao still has the better record in their clashes, so I’m tipping him.
GR: Horrendously difficult to call. Even though both of them ought to be spending their Saturday nights with their feet up and a mug of Horlicks, I’m going to plump for Pacquiao simply because it’s unthinkable that the Pac-Man could lose two on the bounce
SOR: Boxing just isn’t very good anymore is it? No decent heavyweights (unless you like the sight of the Klitschko’s jabbing people into submission) and the refusal of Pacquiao and Mayweather to just fight already. Maquez hasn’t beaten the Filipino fighter in four attempts so I expect Pacquiao to do the business again.
HOC: My boxing prediction for Flintoff to be pummeled last week didn’t quite come to pass so my form in this area is not good, but I’m going for Manny.
Premier League: Manchester City v Manchester United
TC: Neither side is particularly on form and have only pulled away at the top of the Premier League because of the inadequacies of others. Both suffered defeats in the middle of the week but United’s was far less damaging, they’ll have Robin van Persie back and he’ll prove the difference between the two sides. United win for me.
NK: Every time I switch on my TV, it seems United go a goal down and come back to win — which is really frustrating when you’re trying to watch The Big Bang Theory. United win.
PF: Both teams’ defending has been less than assured this season, so I can’t seeing this being a 0-0 draw. That said, they both seem fairly evenly matched at the moment, therefore a score draw appears to be the most likely result.
GR: Neither side has set the world alight this year – it’s almost worrying that they’re already so far ahead of third place – but by right, given United’s woeful back line, City ought to win it. Nonetheless, the One United membership card in my wallet tells me to plump for a draw.
SOR: DOI — I’m a Manchester United fan so while I obviously want ‘the big brother‘ to win, I think City need it more. That said, the most probable result is a score draw as City haven’t been anywhere near the team the were at times last year.
HOC: Citeh need a big win and United are far from top form at this moment in time. Home advantage to swing it for the little brother as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is calling them.
Leinster SFC Final: Ballymun v Portlaoise
TC: This one will go to Ballymun.
NK: G’wan the ‘Mun.
PF: Ballymun were seriously impressive in dispatching Sarsfields 1-8 to 0-5, and they’ve good players in their side like James McCarthy and Davy Byrne, so I can’t see any outcome other than them winning.
GR: From what I heard, the Wicklow side that Portlaoise beat in their quarter-final were beyond awful, so the midlanders basically had a free ticket into the semi where they didn’t need to do too much to beat Emmet Og from Longford. Kickhams, on the other side, have ruined decent teams in Mullingar Shamrocks and the Sarsfields. If Ballymun don’t run away with it, I’ll be a bit surprised.
SOR: First off, shout out to my home town of Monasterevin who won the Intermediate Leinster final last week. I don’t think our near neighbours will join them in the celebrations though and the brilliantly named Ballymun Kickhams will come out on top.
Horse Racing: John Durkan Memorial Chase
TC: A seventh consecutive win on the trot for Flemenstar.
NK: For the sake of the internet, Flemenstar’s trainer Peter Casey needs to get back on TV with another one-liner to match “I’ll have f**kin sex tonight and everything.”
PF: Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs are the two most highly touted names here, and given that the former is favourite, I’m tipping him.
GR: Flying blind here, but when in doubt, go for the second-favourite. Sir Des Champs for me.
SOR: On paper, this looks to be a two-horse race (oi oi) between Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs as two of the best chasers around. However, at 7-1, I’ll be putting my €2 on Rubi Light to come back and defend his crown.
Heineken Cup: Clermont Auvergne v Leinster
TC: This is a coin-flip and the voices in my head say that Clermont will finally get revenge for several near misses. I like to ignore those voices, where possible, so I’m going for Leinster win.
NK: Try as I might, it’s impossible to see Leinster pull off another of those unforgettable French raids. A Clermont win will leave it all on the line in the Aviva next week.
PF: Games in the Heineken Cup don’t come much tougher than Clermont Auvergne away, and Leinster have started this season in a somewhat sluggish fashion, so it’ll be closely fought, but the Irish side have yet to peak and won’t play with the intensity that they tend to adopt towards the latter-half of the season. So I’m backing a marginal Clermont win.
GR: Much as I want Leinster to do brilliantly here, I don’t see it happening – for me, jumping that extra gear between lacklustre Pro12 performances and top-it-up-to-11 rampages is not something you can do in a few days. Perhaps the champions will be back to top form in the Aviva return next week, but for now I think Clermont should pinch it. Again, a losing bonus point for Leinster looks like a feasible outcome.
SOR: This is an incredibly difficult task for the Blues but they’re not two-time defending champions for nothing. Put simply, Leinster have to win and, for that reason alone, I think they will.
HOC: Leinster to make it two away wins for Irish teams this weekend.