Saturday night’s RTÉ Sport Awards were a moment to take stock of what has been an exceptional year in Irish sport.
In introducing the evening before a star studded guest list in the studio where Ryan Tubridy had recently run The Late Late Toy Show, Head of Sport Declan McBennett spoke of how an original desire to make the shortlist one of ten star had proven impossible and that twelve had to become thirteen once Kellie Harrington had won World Championship Gold in India.
Twelve of the thirteen were present in the studio to share the moments of their magical year, the only exception being Taylor who had the reasonable excuse of a World class fight at Madison Square Garden.
That Johnny Sexton emerged the winner was a fair tribute to his personal success during the year but the victory of the Irish Women’s Hockey team over the Grand Slam winning Men’s Rugby players was perhaps more of a surprise to those watching at home.
It was they who voted though and there was a sense among those closer to the day to day rhythms of sport in its wider context that this would happen.
A twitter poll we conducted last week gave the hockey team a clear lead so it was no surprise to us.
Potentially one of the big questions for @RTEsport awards on Saturday. Who would be your preference for team of the year?
— Sport for Business (@SportforBusines) December 12, 2018
Graham Shaw won the Manager of the Year Award as well to crown a night and a year in which that group of players captured the hearts of the nation.
Now they have to do it all again in 2019 and secure qualification to the 2020 Olympic Games. The tournament to decide that will take place here during the second week of June with eight teams taking part to secure two places on the Road to Tokyo.
No venue has been announced yet but we know the dates will be June 8th to 16th. It promises to be some occasion.
The Young Sportsperson of the year category was just as hard fought as the rest and the quality and potential of those on the list was perhaps the most exciting element of the night.
Rhesidat Adeleke and Sarah Healy spoke with authority as well as enthusiasm as they were interviewed and the winner Rhys McClenaghan is another with Tokyo on his mind after European Gold once he recovers from a shoulder operation. .
Sport is the greatest drama we can produce whether that’s in front of the cameras or away from the spotlight. Saturday proved that yet again and whetted the appetite for so much more to come in the next twelve months.