The Irish Times/Sport Ireland sportswoman award for November: Kellie Harrington (boxing)
The Dubliner’s victory over Sudaporn Seesondee made her the first Irish boxer to win world medals in two weight categories
Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand (in red) and Kellie Harrington of Ireland during their 60kg category final fight at the World Boxing Championships in New Delhi, India, on November 24th. Photograph: Getty Images
After the year Irish sport enjoyed it seems more than fitting that we were able to complete our list of contenders for the Sportswoman of the Year award with a world champion, the mighty Kellie Harrington filling our November slot after winning gold in India.
Along with her former Irish team-mate Katie Taylor, Sanita Puspure in rowing and cycling’s Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, Harrington is our fourth monthly winner in 2018 to have been crowned a world champion, the list completed by a host of other high achievers in both domestic and international sport.
The 28-year-old Dubliner’s lightweight division victory over Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee made her the first Irish boxer to win world medals in two different weight categories, and just the third, after Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan, to become an amateur world boxing champion.
En route to the final in what was a gruelling week, Harrington beat New Zealander Troy Garton, local favourite Sarita Devi, Canadian Caroline Veyre and Karina Ibragimova of Kazakhstan, before getting the better of Seesondee on a split decision after an absorbing contest where the result was in doubt until her arm was raised in triumph by the referee.
Two years ago Harrington won silver at the Worlds in the light welterweight division – Taylor occupying the 60kg slot – and vowed that she would return to take gold. A promise kept. “I worked in silence, came back and did the job,” she said, having taken on the added challenge of dropping into the 60kg division.
It’s been a tough road for the fighter, a “rocky” one as she described it, an often lonely one too, not least those days when she had no funding and struggled to find the time and energy required to get to the level she has now reached. “Thirteen years of blood, sweat and tears and it all amounts to this,” she said. “It’s great to finally get what I worked my ass off for.”
Harrington, then, is our final monthly winner in what has been an exceptional sporting year, the task now to select one name from the 14 on our list for the overall prize. The road to that decision will, one suspects, be a rocky one too.
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. She was recently appointed joint coach of the Claremorris men’s senior football team.
January: Phil Healy (athletics). The Cork woman was in outstanding form through the season, setting new Irish 100m and 200m records, becoming the first Irish female runner to break the 23 second barrier in the 200m. And she also improved her 400m record.
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 signed her up for a second campaign. After an eventful time of it with Mayo this year she is now back in Australia preparing for the new season.
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.
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. She was named Schools Athlete of the Year at the recent National Athletics Awards.
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. Earlier this month McFerran was named on the All-American team of the year for the fourth year running after another outstanding season with the University of Louisville.
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 Paracycling Road World Championships in Italy.
September: Sanita Puspure (rowing) and Sinead Aherne (Gaelic football). After experiencing so many near-misses through her career, Puspure finally realised her dream when she took gold in the single sculls at the World Championships in Bulgaria. Aherne, meanwhile, captained Dublin to yet more All-Ireland success, her own superb form through the year earning her the Senior Players’ Player of the Year award.
October: Rachael Blackmore (horse racing) and Katie Taylor (boxing). The Tipperary jockey is having the season of her life, passing the 60 winners mark by the end of November to keep her neck and neck with Paul Townend in the battle for the Irish jump jockey championship. Taylor, meanwhile, has had another flawless year so far, adding the IBF lightweight title to her collection, and will defend those titles against Eva Wahlstrom at Madison Square Garden at the weekend.