Celebrating the Sportswomen of 2017

Today we will be at one of our favourite lunches and events of the year, the Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards in the Shelbourne Hotel.

It is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been good in the year gone by for women making their way across a wide variety of sports.

Sinead Aherne who led Dublin to redemption and victory in the TG4 All Ireland Football Final, previous winner Rena Buckley who added to her record hall of 18 All Ireland medals by captaining Cork to the Liberty Insurance All Ireland Camogie Final and Aoife Cassidy from the plucky Slaughtniel who won the AIB All Ireland Club Camogie Title are three of the monthly winners representing Gaelic Games.

In soccer, where so much is promised for 2018 from our national team bidding to qualify for their first major tournament we will herald Katie McCabe and Leanne Kiernan.

Double World Champions Eve McCrystal and Katie-George Dunlevy added more lustre to their reputation in para-cycling this year after Gold and Silver at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016.

Grainne Dwyer in Basketball, Chloe Magee in Badminton and Leona Maguire in Golf showed the grit that is needed to stay at the top having got there by returning to the list of monthly award winners after fine achievements in their sports.

Paula Fitzpatrick was Rugby’s sole representative in the monthly winners in a year where the hope had been there could be more.  Time there to reset and come back again with a new crop of players inspired by those who have gone before.

Katie Taylor, a multiple winner in years gone by was the October winner following her World Championship win.

Youth has come through with Mona McSharry in the swimming pool and Gina Akpe-Moses winning Gold at the European U20 Championships suggest we will have plenty more to cheer when it comes to big occasions in individual sport for many years to come.

And last but certainly not least it will be a day to celebrate experience as well.  Jessica Harrington turned three score years and ten in February of this year.  Within a month of that milestone, she won the blue riband of National Hunt racing with Sizing John.

A month after that she landed her first Irish Grand National as a trainer with Our Duke.  In a career spanning decades, she has represented Ireland at show jumping and reached the pinnacle of success at a time when more are looking to a quieter life than to keep on pushing to greater glory.

Any of the magnificent dozen would be worthy winners of the overall annual award, to follow in the footsteps of  Taylor, Buckley, Fiona Coghlan, and last years winner Annalise Murphy.

If we had to pick our one among them though I think it would be to celebrate a lifetime of achievement that has been crowned in magnificent fashion this year and give the nod by the slenderest of margins to Jessica Harrington.

Image Credit Inpho Photography

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