From Katie Taylor to Amber Barrett: The top 25 moments of the year in women’s sport

From Glasgow to Munich, from Croke Park to Madison Square Garden, Irish women kept reaching for unprecedented heights

Ireland’s Amber Barrett celebrates her goal by showing her black armband worn in memory of the victims of the Creeslough tragedy. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

1. Ireland qualify for the World Cup

October 11th, Glasgow, Scotland

Amber Barrett (Ireland goalscorer)

“I had come into camp with a bit of a niggle but I had a great conversation with Vera [Pauw] early on, and she told me to think of Tuesday and not to worry. So when I came on, I was in the right frame of mind. I knew I was there to get a goal and to trust whatever striker’s instinct I have when the chance comes. When Denise [O’Sullivan] gave me the pass, it felt like 10 or 15 seconds went by before I had the shot. In reality it could only have been three or four.

“Our video analysis is so pinpoint when we prepare for games. Like, for Courtney [Brosnan]’s penalty save in the first half, I was sitting on the bench beside the two sub-goalkeepers and, as Caroline Weir stepped up to take it, they were both saying: ‘Low to the left, low to the left.’ Courtney had to still make a brilliant save but the video analysis gave her that advantage.


“And it was the same with my goal. The one thing our goalkeeping coach had been saying to us during the week was that the video analysis showed that the Scottish keeper was quite hesitant to come off her line. So as soon as I got on the ball, all that was in my head was to bring the ball in as far as possible because she wasn’t going to come rushing out too far to meet me. Once I got in close, it was a matter of getting the ball away from me as quick as I could before I overthought it. It worked!

“I’ll never be able to think about the goal or that game without thinking of Creeslough. I spoke to my mother in the build-up to the game and really, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to play. I was grateful that I did obviously and when the goal came, I was grateful for how I reacted. There was no thought put into the celebration, I just did what felt natural.

“But I think what I liked most about it was Katie [McCabe]’s reaction to my reaction. She knew straight away what was going through my mind and she stood back for a second and then came over and gave me a kiss on the head. That tells you so much about this team. We know it’s not just about us. We know there are bigger things in life.”

2. Katie Taylor beats Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden

Katie Taylor celebrates her win over Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden, New York

April 30th, New York, USA

Marie Crowe (RTÉ sports presenter and boxing fan)

There was a moment when it felt like the world was standing still. The 10-round fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano had just ended but the winner had not yet been announced. Flanking the referee, the two fighters waited in the ring, bruised and exhausted after expending every ounce of energy. All around them was silence.

In that moment, the historic New York arena was the epicentre of the universe. Nothing else mattered except whose hand would be lifted in the air, which fighter would be crowned champion. The anticipation and excitement was intoxicating. We stood in the crowd, wondering, waiting.

The first judge favoured Amanda. The second went for Katie. It all came down to what happened next. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours. With every breath it got hotter and the tension rose.

We were all nearly as spent as the two boxers in the ring. For the final round of the fight, every soul in attendance had shouted the name of their fighter in unison and stamped their feet in retaliation. Every one of us in the crowd believed the noise we made would get our fighter over the line.

The range of accents around me spanned the length and breadth of Ireland. The name Katie sounded different in the varied dialects. The travelling Irish were out in force, signalling just how much Katie means to the people of her country.

For my friends and I, it was a trip that was months in the making. The fight announcement was followed by the setting-up of an excitable WhatsApp Group; flights to New York were booked. On the night, everyone who was there knew it was special, worth the effort of the journey.

Surprisingly maybe, it was possible in the midst of the madness to take it all in. To realise, witness and appreciate just how far women’s sport has come nationally and globally. To look around and see a full arena, completely captivated by two women giving it all to be the best.

It was truly remarkable. Being there as a fan, with a gang of women friends and feeling the pride in the arena for Katie and all the women doing their best for the good of women’s sport was emotional. And so we waited, arm in arm, for what felt like forever until we heard the words...

“And still..”

The crowd went wild. Katie was lifted in the air and we jumped with her. It was magic.

3. Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke win World Championship gold

Ireland's Lisa O'Rourke celebrates winning a gold medal in Istanbul. Photograph: Aleksandar Djorovic/Inpho

May 19th, Istanbul, Turkey

John Conlan (Coach, High-Performance Unit)

“Amy and Lisa are different characters. Lisa is always smiling, always happy, she’s brilliant to be around. She went there aiming to win one fight and when she won it, she aimed to win another. She went day by day. I would confidently say that when it was over, she didn’t even know she had won $100,000 to go with the gold medal.

“Amy is instinctively that bit more focused and serious. She had her family there and she spent a good bit of time with them. That was absolutely fine with us – she was in the mix with the team and a huge part of it, but what works for her, works for her. You always have to think about the athlete.

“We had experience of Amy’s opponent because Kellie [Harrington] fought her in the Olympics. We wanted Amy to keep a very high guard and when in space, let the punches go. Her opponent liked to set traps so Amy stayed out of them, brought the space down and eventually wore her down and could relax a bit. She handled it so well.

“It was a big help that the two fights were back-to-back. There was no medal ceremony in between them, nothing like that. So it was basically the case that Amy came in and fought and won and went off to do media and, virtually straight away, Lisa was on her way into the ring. Zaur [Antia] and I didn’t go back into the dressing room between fights, we stayed there.

“Lisa’s plan was completely different. Her opponent was a very heavy puncher, she had stopped a lot of her fights. She was very explosive so we felt that Lisa had to keep it long, she had to box and move, make her opponent make mistakes and compromise her own defence when she attacked. As the fight went on, as her opponent fatigued, we let Lisa off the leash and she stood in with her and fought her before moving off again.

“I’m someone who doesn’t focus too much on enjoying medals. Zaur gives out to me sometimes but I just see it as getting the job done. We go there to win medals, that’s the whole point of it. But I must say, that day was special. We got a real buzz out of it. We got together for a team photo that night and it was a brilliant feeling. What Lisa and Amy did was a great achievement.”

4. Rachael Blackmore wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Rachael Blackmore onboard A Plus Tard celebrates winning the Gold Cup Chase at Cheltenham. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

March 18th, Cheltenham, England

Eimir Blackmore (Rachael’s mother)

“We were there for the Champion Hurdle on the Tuesday and it was so special, just so brilliant to see her win it again. And so brilliant to be among crowds again. When she won it the previous year and when she won the Grand National, there was nobody there to see it. But this was different and she got such a great reception. We came home after it and I was back in school on the Wednesday.

“Charles [husband] was going back for the Gold Cup on Friday and he was going with two old schoolfriends of his. They had never been to Cheltenham and obviously never been to the Gold Cup. So I said, ‘Away ye go, have your lads’ weekend.’ Basically, in my head, I was thinking, ‘Sure she’s had her big win of the week. She’s not going to win the bloody Gold Cup as well!’

“So I didn’t go. I was perfectly happy with the week and I went back to school and worked away for the rest of it. On Gold Cup day, a friend of mine came over to watch it with me. But actually, when these races are on, I do just about anything and everything not to watch them. I make sure and have them on and I listen out for every mention of her – but I’m more likely to be loading the dishwasher than actually watching the TV.

“Coming around the last bend, she was behind a wall of horses and I remember thinking, ‘Okay, there’s nothing here for her.’ Minella Indo had gone on and I fully expected that to be that. But A Plus Tard jumped the second last with such power and drove on from there, so that by the time they jumped the last, she was away. I couldn’t believe it.

“We have had so many great days but the Grand National and the Gold Cup are just that bit above everything. Rachael’s brother came in from New York for it and her sister was there too so it was lovely for her to share it with them. She gets so much support from people and she works so hard – you couldn’t but be proud of her.

“Racing is such a fickle sport. We were just in Fairyhouse where Honeysuckle was finally beaten and the whole place was nearly in shock over it – there wasn’t a sound when she crossed the line. But Rachael was very even-keeled about it. She knows it brings you down to earth like no other sport.”

5. Ciara Mageann wins European silver in the 1,500m

Ireland's Ciara Mageean celebrates after winning silver in the women's 1500m final in Munich. Photograph: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

August 19th, Munich, Germany

“I never really think about race tactics until a race is coming up. It’s not as if you can really train for a specific tactic anyway – like, what training do you do for a big kick at the end of a race? Nothing too different to the way you train normally. But there’s no doubt that the medals I won this year were earned in the training I did going back to the pandemic. Every time I went out and trained with nothing tangible to train for, it all fed into this season.

“The way the season panned out, I learned something from every race and used it the next time out. When Laura [Muir] beat me in the Commonwealth Games, it gave me a strategy to aim for in the European final a few weeks later. I sat down for a cup of tea with my coach before it and we predicted the point at which she would kick. I said it would be around the 480m mark – and it was! I was pretty chuffed to get the prediction spot on.

“I went with her and I was feeling really good at the bell. I was happy, I knew she hadn’t gotten away from me, I was comfortable. I got on to her shoulder and I knew that I was in with a chance of winning gold.

“My mistake at that point was that I held back and didn’t pass her. I didn’t want to go too soon. But you’re better off going past her while you can. Backing off affects your stride pattern – you have to adjust yourself a little bit and you interrupt your rhythm.

“You stop being fluid, meaning that when the time comes to really go for it again, it’s not as smooth a transition as you need. The next time I raced her, in the Diamond League soon after, I learned my lesson and passed her when the chance was there to do it.

“That silver medal is something I will treasure. There are some years when a European medal can be diminished a little because the pool of athletes might be slightly shallow. But Laura is one of the best middle distance runners in the world. To go toe-to-toe with her like that and compete all the way meant a lot.”

6. Leona Maguire makes history on the LPGA Tour

February 6th, Fort Myers, USA

Leona Maguire didn’t half make it hard for those tasked with picking out the highlight of her year, 2022 being jammed with them: 10 top-10 placings, the runner-up at the Tour Championship, shares of fourth at the British Open and eighth at the US Open, and so on.

But it was in Florida back in February when she helped herself to a bit of history, becoming the first Irish woman to win on the LPGA Tour with her three-shot victory at the Drive On Championship. She finished the year as the highest-ranked European in the world (11th), with earnings of €1.74m. She could go far, this one.

7. Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal win their sixth World Championship gold

August 14th, Baie Comeau, Canada

After the tandem road race at the World Paracycling Championships in Canada back in August, the podium was awash with green, two tricolours hoisted for the medal ceremony. In the bronze position was the relatively new pairing of Josephine Healion and Linda Kelly, to their right the women who have inspired them.

Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal had just won their sixth World Championship gold, adding to the silver they had taken in the time trial. There have been few, if any, more successful pairings in Irish sport than these multiple Paralympic gold medallists. But, “it’s as special as the first,” said Dunlevy, the novelty of all this winning yet to wear off.

8. Meath retain All-Ireland title

July 31st, Croke Park, Dublin

Meath produced one of 2021′s more glorious – and gobsmacking – stories when they completed a journey from the depths (that oft-cited 40-point defeat by Cork in 2015) to the exhilarating high of beating the five-in a-row-seeking Dublin in last year’s All Ireland final.

A one-off, surely? No. They binned all those flash-in-the-pan assumptions by retaining their title, this time seeing off the challenge of Kerry by 3-10 to 1-7 in front of a crowd of 46,440 at Croke Park. Not even going five points down in the opening seven minutes fazed them. Challenging times ahead, mind, after manager Eamonn Murray stepped away and Australia lured Vikki Wall and Orlagh Lally.

9. Rhasidat Adeleke breaks Irish 400m record in first senior international final

Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke finishes fifth in the 2022 European Championships. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

August 17th, Munich, Germany

How do you follow up a year that saw you win gold in the 100m and 200m at the European Under-20 Championships, those achievements adding to the weight of expectation? Well, you just break an Irish record, over four separate distances, in each of the first four months of 2022.

Rhasidat Adeleke had, then, a blistering start to 2022, but it was, perhaps, her run in her first-ever senior international final that underlined just what a richly talented athlete she is. At just 19, she was in medal contention until the final 30 metres of the European Championship 400m final, a distance where she’s still a relative newcomer, but while she faded to fifth she broke her own Irish record. She’ll be one to watch for a while yet.

10. Amy Broadhurst completes a perfect year

October 22nd, Budva, Montenegro

Amy Broadhurst has forgotten how to lose. Before she set sail for the European Championships, her year had been flawless, the Dundalk native having won gold at both the Commonwealth Games and World Championships.

And then, in Montenegro, she put the tin hat on her year, adding the European title to her collection and, for good measure, being named “boxer of the tournament”. Only Michael Conlan had achieved the treble feat before. And all of this was done outside her natural weight, Kellie Harrington occupying that slot for now. Should they meet up on the road to Paris, book your ringside seat.

11. Ireland secure second in their World Cup qualifying group

Ireland's Denise O'Sullivan and Katie McCabe celebrate winning their World Cup qualifier. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

September 1st, Tallaght, Dublin

That October evening in Glasgow might, understandably enough, be the abiding memory from Ireland’s successful World Cup qualifying campaign, but along the way there were a bunch of special moments – among them Denise O’Sullivan’s winner in Helsinki, the record 11-0 trouncing of Georgia and the draw away to Sweden.

But the atmosphere in Tallaght on the night they secured second in the group and a play-off place by beating Finland with a Lily Agg header, in front of a record crowd of 6,952, was one the players won’t forget in a hurry either. Not least because of the pressure on their shoulders going into the game, knowing a defeat could see it all slip away from them again. A magical night.

12. Katie O’Brien wins para-rowing World Championship gold

September 23rd, Racice, Czech Republic

Three years ago, Katie O’Brien won bronze at the World Championships, an achievement mere mortals would be happy to settle for. But, if anything, it made the Galway woman dig deeper, even if she had to combine her sporting life with her taxing veterinary studies.

The multitasking paid off, beautifully, when she saw off the challenge of, among others, reigning world champion Kathryn Ross of Australia to win the PR2 single sculls final in Racice, O’Brien leading from start to finish to take gold with 10 seconds to spare.

13. Sinéad Goldrick makes history down under

November 27th, Springfield, Australia

Until November, Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer and Clare’s Ailish Considine had been the only Irish women to have won an AFLW Premiership title. Come the end of the 2022 final, that number had been doubled, Dublin’s Sinéad Goldrick and Armagh’s Bláithín Mackin helping Melbourne Demons see off the challenge of Brisbane Lions in the grand final in Queensland.

That victory meant that Goldrick became the first Irish woman to win both senior All-Ireland football and AFLW titles, the 32-year-old having been a central figure in Dublin’s dominance between 2017 and 2020.

14. Kellie Harrington completes medal collection with European gold

October 22, Budva, Montenegro

Kellie Harrington’s return to the ring after her 2021 Olympic exploits proved to be a successful one, the Dubliner triumphing at the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Bulgaria in March. But an injury picked up in training ruled her out of May’s World Championships.

Come October, though, she was back to her old self, outclassing her Czech opponent Lenka Bernardova in her European final on her way to a 5-0 unanimous decision. That victory matched Katie Taylor’s achievement of winning gold at Olympic, World and European level. Collection complete.

15. The Magnificent Seven

Ireland’s Christina Desmond, Kellie Harrington and Michaela Walsh celebrate after their medal victories. Photograph: Aleksandar Djorovic/Inpho

October 14th-23rd, Budva, Montenegro

You might have noted that boxing features rather heavily in our wrap-up of the year’s outstanding achievements. Little wonder – you’d have been forgiven for losing count of the number of medals the sport produced for Ireland at major championships.

No tournament yielded more than the European Championships in Montenegro, a remarkable seven of the 10-strong Irish team coming home with medals: Kellie Harrington, Amy Broadhurst and Aoife O’Rourke (gold), Caitlin Fryers and Christina Desmond (silver) and Shannon Sweeney and Michaela Walsh (bronze). Ireland, albeit in the absence of Russia, finished top of the medal table.

16. Ireland win T20 series away to Pakistan

November 16th, Lahore, Pakistan

How historic was Ireland’s 2-1 T20 series win in Lahore? Well, they became the first Irish women’s side to win a series against Pakistan, the first to win an overseas series against a Test-playing nation and the first Irish side, male or women, to win a series against Pakistan.

Gaby Lewis was the player of the series, the 21-year-old Dubliner scoring an unbeaten 69 in the first match and 71 off just 46 deliveries in the decider, all-rounder Orla Prendergast posting seriously good numbers too with bat and ball. A brilliant result for this young team in advance of February’s T20 World Cup.

17. Eve McMahon’s golden summer

July 30th, Houston, USA

You’ve a lot to answer for, Annalise Murphy. As if teenagers Alana Twomey and Lucia Cullen winning gold at the under-17 World Championships wasn’t enough, along came Eve McMahon and her medal-laden summer.

The Youth European Championships in Greece? Gold. The Youth World Championships in the Netherlands? Gold. The Youth World Championships in Texas? Gold. All of which made her the first sailor to win those three titles in the same year. Our sailing future’s so bright, you’d be blinded.

18. Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde win world bronze in open double sculls

September 25th, Racice, Czech Republic

This crew looked like an odd couple from the outset – Puspure, the veteran who had seen it all and done it all twice, Hyde, the youngster almost half her age from Kerry who was taking her first major step on to the international stage. And yet they attacked the final day in Racice like they had been a partnership for years.

After a tight battle with the Austrian Lobnig sisters for bronze over the final 500m, Puspure and Hyde saw them off with a controlled late push. It was Puspure’s third world medal and her first in a pair. “I was going to retire in April,” she smiled afterwards. Good call not to.

19. Kate O’Connor takes Commonwealth silver

August 3rd, Birmingham, England

It was back in 2019 that Kate O’Connor, at just 18, gave us all a notion that she might be one to watch when she became the first Irish athlete to win an international medal in the heptathlon by taking silver at the European Under-20 Championships, smashing the Irish record along the way.

The Newry-born Dundalk resident gave yet another glimpse of her potential when she produced a string of brilliant performances at August’s Commonwealth Games to finish second behind defending champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The highlights were her personal bests in the 100m hurdles and 200m, before she blew away her rivals in the javelin.

20. Kilkenny win the All-Ireland camogie final in injury-time

Kilkenny’s Aoife Prendergast holds aloft the O'Duffy Cup after their All-Ireland final win. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

August 7th, Croke Park, Dublin

For all that the All-Ireland camogie final has been the exclusive preserve of just three counties over the past decade, you have to hand it to Kilkenny, Cork and Galway for nearly always producing deciders that are tense to the last drop. It was no different this year, as Cork and Kilkenny went at it in a nail-biter that came down to one final free for Denise Gaule in the second minute of injury-time. Cork were left with one chance to equalise but Aisling Thompson’s desperate shot from distance tailed wide.

21. Jenny Egan-Simmons tops rankings after World Championship bronze

August 7th, Dartmouth, Canada

It’s hard to credit that it’s almost 20 years ago since canoeist Jenny Egan-Simmons competed in her first World Championships, at just 16, and since then she has been one of Ireland’s most consistent performers on the international stage.

Evidence of that came back in May when she won the 10th World Cup medal of her career by taking bronze in the K1 5,000m final in Poland. But August produced the highlight of her year when she collected her third World Championship medal by finishing third in the same event in Canada, a result that helped her top the end-of-2022 K1 5,000m world rankings for the third year running.

22. Shelbourne double up

November 6th, Tallaght, Dublin

Shelbourne’s 2-0 FAI Cup final win over Athlone Town in Tallaght, which earned them a league and cup double, proved painless enough for the Dublin side; they had scored both their goals by the 23rd minute, Athlone chasing the game, with no reward, from there on.

But both sides had been involved in a three-way thriller of a title race, Wexford Youths the other contestants, one that, ultimately, saw Shels retain their crown – despite having lost a raft of their Irish internationals (including Emily Whelan, Jess Ziu, Izzy Atkinson, Jamie Finn, Chloe Mustaki, Saoirse Noonan and Ciara Grant) over the past couple of seasons. Resilient, this lot.

23. Ireland make the World Rugby Sevens Series final

Ireland’s Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe with their silver medals. Photograph: Martin Seras Lima/Inpho

January 30th, Seville, Spain

No Irish women’s team had been to a final of the sevens series but, not content with just competing, they skated into an early lead. The wizard Beibhinn Parsons romped in for an early try and Stacy Flood followed up with another. Captain Lucy Mulhall – so brilliant throughout that she made them team of the tournament – converted and it meant that, going into the final two minutes, Ireland led Australia 12-5.

But they couldn’t hold on. The Aussies got in for two late tries and Ireland had to be content with silver. Later in the year, they qualified for the World Cup and made the quarter-finals.

24. Aoife Casey and Margaret Creman win world bronze in lightweight double sculls

September 24th, Racice, Czech Republic

This pair went into the worlds off the back of an eighth place at the Olympics, the sort of formline that made them hopeful of a spot in the final, but nobody’s idea of a definite medal. A couple of 23-year-olds from (of course) Skibbereen, Casey and Creman beat the Olympic gold medallists Italy in their heat so they clearly had promise.

But with British and American crews out in the lead, the battle for bronze came down to Casey and Creman facing off against the Olympic silver medallists France. It was stroke-for-stroke in the final 500m but the Cork pair made it and announced themselves on the world stage.

25. Cliona Darcy wins heavyweight gold at the World Youth Championships

November 26th, La Nucia, Spain

No Irish woman had ever won a boxing gold at World Youth level before. But the schoolgirl from Gort was a revelation throughout in another brilliant tournament for the Irish team. Dearbhla Tinnelly and Laura Moran also won bronze medals at the World Youths but it was left to Darcy to fight for gold in the heavyweight division.

In the end, she took a unanimous decision over India’s Kirti Kirti, winning every round on three of the judges’ cards and prevailing 29-28 in the eyes of the other two. It makes her World and European Youth champion and clearly someone to watch closely in years to come.