The year of 2014 was packed with ups and down, thrills and spills as sportsmen and women from across our region continued to shine on a global scale. Here, three of our Telegraph writers take a look back at a superb sporting year for Sheffield.
Sheffield sides once again found life tough going in the Yorkshire League, with Sheffield United finishing rock bottom after just one complete win. Sheffield Collegiate, inspired by the likes of all-rounder Billy Root and spinner Josh Varley, finished sixth.
There was better news just up the road in Leeds as Yorkshire Academy won the Yorkshire League title, capping a year which saw the first team win their first County Championship title since 2001. Joe Root, replacing the suspended Andrew Gale, had the honour of lifting the trophy - which put the gloss on a fine individual year for the Sheffield batsman. He scored 777 Test runs for England and hit three ODI hundreds, cementing his reputation as one of the world’s brighest young talents.
The South Yorkshire League and the Alliance League also merged, to form an historic ‘super-league’ with over 100 teams from 56 clubs.
The year was a largely disappointing one for Sheffield Eagles, who fell short of winning a hat-trick of Championship titles by losing to a strong Leigh outfit in the play-off semi-finals. Mark Aston’s men never really adapted to the narrow pitch at Owlerton Stadium, which didn’t suit their expansive game and will be hoping that a one-season ‘ground-share’ with Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium will improve their fortunes.
Aston has made some strong off-season signings, especially in the forward pack. And with a move to their new ground set for 2016, the future looks bright for the Eagles.
The Sheffield Steelers, play-off champions 2013/14, go into the Christmas period top of the Elite Ice Hockey League after a 4-3 road win against the Hull Stingrays on Sunday evening, to cap a four-point weekend for Gerad Adams’ men. They next face rivals Nottingham Panthers, with the home leg at the Motorpoint Arena on Boxing Day. Adams, who took over Steelers in February and led them to play-off glory, said: “Our players are good with their strict diets and the way they take care of themselves. Christmas isn’t the best time of the year for hockey players, especially the imports being away from their families. But I can’t say enough about the players and that is all down to self-discipline.”
Sheffield Hatters reached next month’s inaugural WBBL Trophy Final with an 87-77 victory at Leicester Riders last weekend. Over at the Sharks, a injury for star man BJ Holmes saw them narrowly fail to reach their own cup-final, as the Newcastle Eagles snatched victory in the dying seconds of the semi-final. As our Sharks columnist Yuri Matischen wrote in these pages last week, the Sharks remain a threat to any opponent and have a habit of pulling sensational seasons out of a hat... So who knows what could happen in 2014!
How could we forget the Tour de France? Even though the powers that be seem to have forgotten the stunning show that Sheffield put on for the world’s biggest sporting event, when they announced the stages for the 2015 return, the scenes around the Steel City to greet the great and good of the cycling world? Sheffielders did the city proud that day, as we turned out in our thousands to watch glimpses of these athletes flash past in seconds. But the chance to be part of history didn’t go to waste and the sight of eventual winner Alberto Contador and the rest making a break up the impossibly-steep Jenkin Hill will live long in the memory.
Chinese star Ding Junhui, who trains at the Star Snooker Academy at Sheffield United’s Shirecliffe Academy, became only the 11th world number one since the rankings started in 1976 - and the first player from Asia to achieve the feat.
It has been a stellar year on and off court for Nick Matthew. Just five weeks after recovering knee surgery, the 34-year-old became the first man to retain the Commonwealth Games singles squash title after beating James Willstrop in Glasgow. The Sheffield ace, who carried the England flag at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, also won silver in the doubles with Adrian Grant.
In September, Matthew celebrated becoming a dad for the first time. After taking a break from the sport, he reached the semi-finals of the US Open and World Championships before capping off a memorable year by securing the British Squash Grand Prix title.
Ambitious Sheffield Hallam coach Vicky Joel wants the good times to come back to Abbeydale - and, across the city, Sheffield Bankers believe they have the potential to match the success of their city rivals.
Hallam are well placed in the Men’s Conference North and Joel said: “Our aim is to get back up in the next couple of years. Everyone at the club wants to be up there playing with the best.”
And Hallam player Will Hearne, who also coaches the Bankers’ women, said: “It’s very exciting at the club and I want to be here helping the ladies. We have the right vision and drive needed to have something amazing here.”
Sheffield now has two golfers flying the flag on the European Tour after Matt Fitzpatrick’s heroics in the qualifying school last month.
And the future looks bright for the 20-year-old, who brought to an end a highly-successful amateur career by turning professional following the US Open. He has some way to go to emulate the success this year of fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett, who concluded a consistent 2014 by winning his second Tour event to top the leaderboard at the start of the new season.
Kell Brook finally got his chance at a world title and he grasped it with both hands, seeing off Shawn Porter in a brawl to win the IBF welterweight title. A planned December defence in his home city was cancelled after Brook suffered terrible stab wounds in an attack in Tenerife but he set to return in March.
Gym mate Kid Galahad won the Commonwealth, European and IBF Youth super bantamnweight titles and is now on the hunt for world glory. And Ross Burkinshaw was a surprise winner of the Commonwealth bantamweight crown.
It’s been a very productive end of 2014 for both the city’s rugby clubs, Sheffield RUFC and Sheffield Tigers. Currently one division apart, Sheffield will end the year top of the North One East table under skipper Jimmy Pearson, while his cousin, Nick, has led Tigers to fourth in the National Three North standings. After eight years of playing in separate leagues, Jimmy said: “We want to go up against Tigers so we’re desperate for that promotion.”