After we kicked off the 19th year of these awards with two new names for our roll of honour, swimmer Ellen Walshe and rugby player Lucy Mulhall, our perennials have returned in force. Leona Maguire, Rachael Blackmore and, now, Katie Taylor have won the last three monthly awards, bringing to 32 the number they’ve collected between them since we got under way back in 2004.
Taylor has picked up half that total, her 16th earned by her performance against Amanda Serrano in a fight for the ages on that remarkable night in Madison Square Garden in front of a crowd close to 20,000.
At the end, the split decision saw her retain her WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO lightweight titles, the 35-year-old now unbeaten in 21 professional fights.
She said after that she didn’t think anything in her boxing career would match her London 2012 Olympic gold medal, but that this victory was “absolutely the best moment in my career”.
This was probably just a brief memory lapse on her part because, no doubt, her five Sportswoman of the Year awards topped any of her achievements, the first coming in the dim in the distant past of 2007. Taylor retained her crown the following year, winning the next in 2012, another in 2014 and her last in 2020. And here she is, a contender for the 2022 award.
Opinion might be split on Taylor’s future, some wishing she’d call it a day now, others wanting nothing more than to see her fight on home turf before she retires, and, of course, she would appear to fall in to the latter camp, not least with all that talk of a fight in Croke Park later in the year.
Whatever happens, it’s been a career like no other. When she won her first monthly award with us back in 2005, after taking gold at the European Amateur Boxing Championship, her first major international success, little did we know what lay ahead. Certainly not topping the bill in front of a crowd of 20,000 at Madison Square Garden. Some story.
Previous monthly winners
(The awards run from December 2021 to November 2022, inclusive):
Ellen Walshe (Swimming)
The 20-year-old Dubliner became the first Irish woman to medal at a World Championships and the first ever, male or female, to do so in an Olympic event when she took silver in the 400m individual medley at the World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi. Along the way, she broke five Irish records, smashing the oldest, Michelle Smith’s 1994 400m individual medley mark.
Lucy Mulhall (Rugby)
The Wicklow woman captained Ireland to their first ever World Rugby Sevens Series final in Seville where they were two minutes away from beating Australia, before conceding two late tries. It was a hugely encouraging run of results by Ireland, which lifted them to fifth in the world rankings, Mulhall leading from the front and earning a place in the team of the tournament.
Leona Maguire (Golf)
Maguire became the first Irish woman to win on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed at the Drive On Championship in Florida, a victory that sent her in to the top 20 of the world rankings for the first time. Only Katie Taylor has won more monthly awards since we got under way 15 years ago, a testament to Maguire’s consistency and brilliance.
Rachael Blackmore (Horse racing)
The Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, followed by the Gold Cup on A Plus Tard – let’s just say, Blackmore’s trip to Cheltenham this year went rather well. In winning both races, she became the first jockey since Tony McCoy in 1997 to achieve the feat at the same meeting, making her the holder of those two crowns, as well as the Grand National, all at the same time.