The Irish Times/Sport Ireland sportswoman award for June: Sarah Healy
At the European under-18 championships in Hungary the Irish student won both the 1,500m and 3,000m titles
Sarah Healy at Dublin Airport with her gold medals for the 1,500m and 3,000m events in Hungary. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
We probably should all have learnt by now to resist pumping up expectations to lunar levels after one of our young sportspeople excels in their teenage years, the road to replicating that success at senior level, whatever the sport, littered with obstacles. As Ian O’Riordan of this parish put it, “there is no more perilous journey in sport than what lies ahead for the young athlete”.
Still, even if we all put on our sensible hats it’s difficult not to feel a little bit hopeful about the potential of the group of Irish athletes who performed so brilliantly at the European under-18 championships in Hungary last weekend, Sarah Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke and Sophie O’Sullivan winning three golds and a silver between them, and Patience Jumbo-Gula breaking the 100m championship record in her semi-final.
Even before Healy won both the 1,500m and 3,000m titles, and in some style too, we had her picked out as our June Sportswoman of the Month, so if we had not brought in that rule a few years back restricting contenders to one monthly award each year, the 17-year-old Dubliner would be well and truly on course for back to back awards.
In light of her form in June, Healy’s performances in Hungary probably shouldn’t have come as any great surprise. The teenager, who won European Youth Olympic gold last year, had by then broken a slew of Irish records. And, most notably, she ran the fastest women’s youth time over 1,500m by any European in the last 32 years, and the second fastest of all time, with a 4:09.25 at a senior race in Tubingen, Germany.
Indoors and outdoors, the Holy Child Killiney student has been collecting records for fun since the turn of the year, at the 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m distances, including Ciara Mageean’s Irish senior girls 1,500m record at the All-Ireland schools track and field championships.
Healy, who is coached by Eoghan Marnell at Blackrock AC, is also a talented hockey player for her school and Avoca, while having found time too to play Gaelic football and camogie for Cuala GAA club. She is, then, the very definition of a sporting all-rounder.
Already this season Phil Healy, our January Sportswoman of the Month, has been in stellar form, while reigning European under-20 100m champion in Gina Akpe-Moses will hope to build on her success at this week’s World under-20 championships in Finland.
A perilous journey it is for them all and who knows where it will take them, but the trip so far has been a thrilling one, not least for Healy and her gifted Irish under-18 team-mates.
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 earned the Player of the Match award for her tireless performance in a 0-15 to 1-10 win at Parnell Park, having also shone in the Connacht club final and All-Ireland semi-final.
January: Phil Healy (athletics). The Cork woman had an encouraging start to the indoor season when she knocked over a second off her 400m personal best at a meeting in Vienna, and she’s maintained her excellent form, improving her 200m and 400m outdoor personal bests, having already set a new Irish record in the 100m. She now has qualifying times over all three distances for August’s European Championships in Berlin.
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. Before then the 36-year-old is playing in a remarkable 24th championship campaign for Mayo before returning to Australia in November.
March: Katie Walsh (horse racing). Walsh won’t forget in a hurry the six-week spell she had from March 14th – first she rode her third Cheltenham winner, then she was one of just 12 finishers in the Aintree Grand National, then, in April, she rode another winner at Punchestown – after which she announced her retirement following an outstanding career.
April: Leona Maguire (golf). The 23-year-old from Cavan closed out her spectacular 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 made a promising professional debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey where she finished eight- under, tying for 15th.
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. And she came agonisingly close to taking another medal at the World Cup final in Kazakhstan where in the end she finished fourth.