The Irish Youth Foundation held its annual Sports Excellence Awards in Dublin last night before a room full of heroes from Irish sport this year and in years gone by.
Padraig Harrington was the host for the evening and his personal involvement helped in attracting stars from Ronnie Delaney and Eamon Coughlan in Athletics through to Jim Gavin and Dean Rock from the Dublin Football team, Mike Gibson and Robbie Henshaw across the generations of rugby and a roll call of Irish sporting history.
The awards also covered multiple sports with Jumbo Patience Gula and Ciara Neville first up on stage to mark their success as part of the 100-metre sprint relay team that won Silver at the U20 World Athletics Championships over the summer.
Ellen Keane shone while recalling her summer of success at the Allianz European Para-Swimming Championships held here in Dublin. It was an appropriate award on the International Day of people with a Disability and Keane had spoken earlier on twitter saying “Your disability is yours. It belongs to you. You get to decide how you feel about it, not others. Own it. Embrace it, Use it to your advantage. It’s not your complete identity but it’s part of it. It can also be your superpower!”
Powerful words of inspiration from one of Ireland’s strongest advocates and most impressive sports people.
Keane was followed on stage by Seamus Gallagher representing the Limerick Hurlers, He referenced listening to a Tommy Walsh interview on Newstalk about not letting a big occasion pass you by as part of the inspiration for his own barnstorming performance throughout the Championship season.
Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan – O’Keeffe were recognised for their outstanding World Cup Silver and Gold this year and perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came for Deirdre Duke, Hannah Matthews and Graham Shaw as they relived the magic of the Irish Women’s Hockey team getting to their World Cup Final in August.
Des Smyth with the Cecil Whelan Lifetime Contribution Awards and the gongs were rounded out by a double triumph for Rugby with Mick Dawson accepting on behalf of Leinster Rugby and Robbie Henshaw doing likewise for Irish Rugby.
A great night paying due recognition for a special year in sport, hosted expertly by Joanne Cantwell who is building up herself for a big year in 2019 taking over the anchor duty on the Sunday Game Live. “I try not to think about it too much then I’ll hear a blast of the theme music and it makes it all very real,” she told me last night.
Thanks to Titan Experience for hosting us at their star-studded table and to Ireland’s sporting stars for giving us such fine memories.