Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswomen for September: Sanita Puspure and Sinead Aherne
The two athletes have both shown resolve to dig even deeper no matter how many disappointments they endured
World Rowing Championships gold medalist Sanita Puspure
We’ve had our fair share of joint monthly award winners over the years, but possibly not many from as diverse a couple of fields as rowing and Gaelic football. But while Sanita Puspure and Sinead Aherne’s chosen sports might be a world apart, the two women have plenty in common, not least the resolve they have both shown to dig even deeper no matter how many disappointments they endured.
It’s not that Aherne hadn’t experienced success before Dublin’s 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland triumphs. She was, after all, the star of her county’s first senior victory back in 2010 when she scored 2-7 in their defeat of Tyrone.
But the memory of that joyous day might well have been blurred by those three successive defeats at the hands of Cork between 2014 and 2016. Lesser mortals might have thrown their hat at it at that stage, but the six-time All-Star not only came back for more, she captained Dublin to victory in 2017 and 2018.
This year’s success, in front of a record crowd of 50,141, was made all the sweeter for Dublin because it was the first time they got the better of Cork in an All-Ireland final, and it was Cork’s first defeat in the decider after their 11 previous victories. It capped an outstanding year for Aherne on a personal level, the St Sylvester’s forward scoring 5-31 in the Championship, and for the team as a whole, having earlier won their first National League Division One title.
Puspure, meanwhile, added another golden chapter to what has been a remarkable year for Irish sportswomen when she won the single sculls at the World Championships in Bulgaria, beating reigning champion Jeannine Gmelin in to second place with some ease in what was, well, a dominant display.
Twice the 36-year-old had finished fourth in World Championship finals, among many other near misses, so her joy was unconfined when she stepped on that podium. “I’m so used to being disappointed and not being happy after racing so this is very new to me. It means the world to me, my family and my team. My husband says I am like a good wine, getting old and getting better.”
Previous monthly winners (awards run from December 2017 to November 2018, inclusive):
December: Fiona McHale (Gaelic football). McHale was the driving force behind Carnacon’s victory over Mourneabbey in the All-Ireland club final, their first title since 2013, the Mayo midfielder earning the Player of the Match award.
January: Phil Healy (Athletics). The Cork woman maintained her excellent form through the summer, improving her 200m and 400m outdoor personal bests, having already set a new Irish record in the 100m.
February: Cora Staunton (Australian Rules). Staunton made such an impression in her first season with the Greater Western Sydney Giants, when they just missed out on a place in the Grand Final, that the club has signed her up for a second campaign.
March: Katie Walsh (Horse racing). Before announcing her retirement from the sport, Walsh rode her third Cheltenham winner, was one of just 12 finishers in the Aintree Grand National, before finishing up with another winner at Punchestown.
April: Leona Maguire (Golf). Maguire closed out her amateur career on a high, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship for a record-equalling third time and finishing her time with Duke University with the best scoring average (70.93) in Division I women’s golf history. She’s made a promising start to her professional career too.
May: Natalya Coyle (Modern Pentathlon). The Meath woman achieved a lifetime’s ambition by winning Ireland’s first ever medal in an individual Modern Pentathlon World Cup event when she took silver in Sofia in May. Come July, she led the Irish team, completed by Eilidh Prise and Sive Brassil, to silver at the European Championships.
June: Sarah Healy (Athletics). In what was a stunning summer for Irish youth athletics, Healy’s form was exceptional, her highlight coming at the European Under-18 Championships when she won both the 1,500m and 3,000m titles.
July: Ayeisha McFerran (Hockey). The 22-year-old from Larne was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament during Ireland’s extraordinary run to the final of the World Cup in London, her form outstanding throughout, not least in the shoot-out victories over India and Spain.
August: Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal (Cycling). The pair extended their remarkable record of success in their sport by successfully defending both their Time Trial and Road Race titles in the space of two days at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Italy.