Madeline Perry still excelling and rising after all these years

Squash player is unique in that December 2013 monthly award is her ninth since 2004

Madeline Perry: On Saturday week she takes on world number three Raneem El Welily of Egypt in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal, New York. Photograph: Inpho

Madeline Perry: On Saturday week she takes on world number three Raneem El Welily of Egypt in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal, New York. Photograph: Inpho

Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 20:24

We’re off again, just a few weeks after Fiona Coghlan was crowned Sportswoman of the Year for a memorable Six Nations campaign in which she captained the Irish rugby team to the Grand Slam, we’re beginning the quest to find her successor.

Coghlan, a wonderful ambassador for her sport, as evidenced again by her remarks on receiving her award in Dublin, joined a roll of honour that includes jockey Cathy Gannon (2004), Camogie and Gaelic football’s Briege Corkery (2005), athlete Derval O’Rourke (2006), boxer Katie Taylor (2007 and 2008), athlete Olive Loughnane (2009), swimmer Gráinne Murphy (2010), jockey Nina Carberry (2011) and, in 2012, Taylor once again.

For her consistency and excellence through the years in professional squash, Madeline Perry’s name would not look out of place on that list, the 36-year-old from Banbridge one of the leading women in her sport for over a decade.

Indeed, at a time when it might be expected that she’d be drifting down the rankings, she rose from 10th to seventh in the world list this month. Her highest ranking ever was number three in the world.

Rise in list
And last year was yet another productive one for Perry, hence her rise in that list, reaching the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions and Cleveland Classic and picking up her 10th and 11th tour titles at the Irish and Texas Opens.

In December, Perry won her 14th national title, a year after relinquishing her crown to Irish team-mate Aisling Blake, any notion that her days as Irish champion might be done emphatically dispelled by her straight games victory in the final over another international colleague, Laura Mylotte.

No more than Coghlan and her team-mates before 2013, Perry’ achievements are, largely, unheralded, squash not a sport that receives an abundance of attention – and, frustratingly, still to gain entry to the Olympic programme. Although Blake, as president of the International Women’s Squash Association and a member of the sport’s executive committee for its Olympic bid, is doing her bit in the campaign to beat off the challenge of wrestling and baseball/softball for inclusion in the 2020 Games.

Outstanding performers
That, presumably – although with Madeline Perry you’d never know – will be too late for the Ulster woman, but, regardless, she remains one of Irish sport’s most consistently outstanding performers, excelling through the years, this her ninth monthly award since they began in 2004 – more than any other sportswoman.

A quiet start to the year? Well, no. On Saturday week she takes on world number three Raneem El Welily of Egypt in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal, New York. Only 16 players qualified for the event, Perry was one.

Still quietly excelling, after all these years.