It has the makings of a classic David and Goliath. The battle for the RTÉ Sports Team of the Year will be fought out in public and is likely to be decided by which group of supporters is the more determined.
In the green corner you have the giants of the Irish Men’s Rugby team. Grand Slam Champions and conquerors of New Zealand within the short term memory of the public. Watched by over one million and in front of a full house Aviva Stadium. This is a team whose history is woven into the collective sporting psyche.
And in the other green corner there is the Irish Women’s Hockey team. The first ever collective group to make it to a World Cup Final. A team who over achieved and who did so with a smile. An infectious smile at that and a group who brought unexpected joy as they outpaced England, the USA, India and Spain en route to their biggest ever triumph and a Silver World Cup medal.
Both have been outstanding ambassadors for Ireland and both have the promise of more to come on their own World Cup and Olympic stages.
But sport is about winners and there will be only one when the vote opens during the programme of the RTÉ Sport Awards on Saturday night. It will not take a vote from everybody who watched their triumphs to win this one and there is a sense that a committed and organised Hockey ‘family’ might be able to pull off one more upset.
It would be against the odds though, and of course there are others equally deserving of the accolade. The history making Limerick Hurlers, Dublin Footballers across both Men and Women, the Leinster Rugby or the Dundalk Football team that completed their doubles. It was some year.
The shortlist was revealed last night for the Team of the Year which will be decided by public vote and the Young Sports person of the year which will be determined by an RTÉ Judging panel. Here are the candidates, in no particular order as they might say on TV shows where the public have voted…
The shortlisted nominees for the RTÉ Sport Awards 2018 Team of the Year are:
The Cork Camogie team made it two-in-a-row with an injury time winner against Kilkenny, winning their fourth O’Duffy Cup in five years.
Dundalk were the dominant force in domestic soccer this year, winning the League of Ireland for the fourth time in five years and completing the double with victory over rivals Cork City in the FAI Cup Final.
The Irish Eventing team claimed silver at the World Equestrian Games to become the first ever Irish team to win a medal at the event. Their victory also meant that they secured qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Dublin continued their dominance of Gaelic Football in 2018, winning the National Football League, Leinster Championship and a record equalling fourth All-Ireland in-a-row.
Limerick ended a 45-year wait for Liam McCarthy in a dramatic final to become All-Ireland Champions for the first time since 1973.
DUBLIN LADIES FOOTBALL
Dublin Ladies beat Cork to put together back-to-back All-Ireland titles, earlier in the year they claimed a National League for the first time in their history.
IRISH PARALYMPIC ATHLETICS TEAM
It was an incredible week for the Irish Paralympic Team at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin, returning home with nine medals from seven different athletes, including six golds.
PAUL & GARY O’DONOVAN
Gary and Paul O’Donovan took the gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in the men’s lightweight double sculls, having secured a silver medal at the European Championships a month earlier.
IRELAND RUGBY TEAM
In a phenomenal year in Irish rugby, the national team won only their third ever Grand Slam, plus a first Southern Hemisphere series win since 1979 with victory over Australia. They completed the year by beating New Zealand for the first time on home soil.
LEINSTER RUGBY TEAM
At club level the rugby silverware continued to flow as Leinster claimed an unprecedented European Champions Cup and Pro 14 double.
IRELAND WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM
Our Irish women’s hockey team created a piece of history becoming the first ever Irish team to reach a World Cup Final when they finished silver medallists at the Women’s Hockey World Cup.
The RTÉ Sport Team of the Year will be voted for by a public vote, full details will be made available during the awards show on RTÉ One this Saturday night at 9.20pm.
The shortlisted nominees for RTÉ Sport Awards 2018 Young Sportsperson of the Year are:
16-year-old Rhasidat Adeleke secured a gold medal in the 200m final at the European U18 Championships with a resounding victory in Hungry. She was also a member of the silver medal winning 4x100m relay team at this year’s U20 World Championships.
The Young Footballer of the Year lived up to his minor promise by having a stand out season for the Kingdom, especially in the Super-8s, where he scored a tally of 4-13.
17-year-old Dubliner Niamh Coyne won a silver medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke final at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
SEÁN McCARTHY CREAN
Seán McCarthy Crean followed up his European Karate silver medal in February with a bronze at the Youth Olympic Games.
Cyclist Lara Gillespie had a year to remember, the 17-year-old added gold in the Junior Women’s Points Race at the UEC European Track Championships to the silver she won in the Individual Pursuit.
The Kildimo Pallaskenry man stepped up with a Man of the Match performance in Limerick’s All-Ireland Hurling win; he was also named ‘Young Hurler of the Year’ at the PwC All Star Awards.
The rise of 17-year-old Sarah Healy continued as the enormously talented Blackrock runner stormed to European Athletics U18 Championships double gold, winning the 3000m and setting a new record in her 1500m victory.
The Finn Valley athlete jumped 1.90m to take silver at the Under-20 World Championships in the Women’s High Jump.
The 19-year-old followed up his gold medal at the Commonwealth Games to become the first ever Irish gymnast to claim a European gymnastics medal by winning gold on the pummel horse in Glasgow.
The 17-year-old Enniskerry boxer outclassed and outboxed her Russian opponent in the final of the 48kg division to secure gold at the European Youth Championships in Italy.
On the back of a stellar season that saw him ride his first Classic winners in Ireland and England, Donnacha O’Brien was named Champion Flat Jockey, riding over a hundred winners.
16-year-old Nicole Turner lit up Dublin’s National Aquatic Centre at this year’s European Para Swimming Championships, claiming a silver medal in the S6 50m Butterfly.
Featherweight boxer Dearbhla Rooney had a year to remember, winning silver at the Youth European Championships and bronze at the Youth Olympics.
What a pair of line ups. What a night it promises to be at RTÉ on Saturday night.
The RTÉ Sport Awards 2018 airs this Saturday 15 December at 9.20pm on RTÉ One