Rachel Blackmore and Katie Taylor deserve to share sports award for October

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for October: Rachael Blackmore and Katie Taylor

 

The new year’s resolution for the panel of judges going in to the 2018 Sportswoman of the Year awards was simple enough: be decisive, avoid joint monthly winners. And despite it being the mother of all challenges because of the wealth of success produced by our sportswomen, particularly through the summer, the panel was doing perfectly fine up until September. Until then the only double award we’d had was for Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, but because they come as a team the resolution was intact. Since then? It’s in smithereens.

Sanita Puspure and Sinead Aherne left us with no option but to go down the joint award route in September, leaving either of them off the list after their (very contrasting) achievements would have bordered on the criminal. Which is how the panel also felt about Rachael Blackmore and Katie Taylor. So, the person tasked with making the trophies for this year’s awards ceremony will be doing quite a bit of overtime.

Nobody, least of all Taylor herself, would argue that her fight against Cindy Serrano in Boston last month was among her most memorable, her opponent putting up so little resistance there were times Taylor actually looked bored. But, as they say, you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Taylor has had another flawless year, winning all three of her fights and adding the IBF lightweight title to her collection. She is scheduled to fight again in December in what would be the 12th contest of her professional career.

Roll of honour

Also excelling in professional sport this year has been jockey Rachael Blackmore. A browse through the roll of honour since these awards got under way back in 2004 is a reminder of how many Irish women have made their mark in horse racing, Cathy Gannon, our very first Sportswoman of the Year after she had been crowned apprentice champion jockey, Nina Carberry, our 2011 winner after she had become only the second female jockey to win the Irish Grand National, with Katie Walsh and Jane Mangan’s record of achievement earning them multiple monthly awards.

And Blackmore’s name sits very comfortably on that list, the Tipperary jockey having the season of her life. We could have picked just about any month from that season to add her to our list, not least this month after she reached the landmark of 50 winners in the current jumps campaign when she guided Bedrock to a shock defeat of Samcro at Down Royal.

In October, though, she racked up 13 winners, putting her second only to Paul Townend in the race for the Irish champion jockey crown, the 29-year-old having won the conditional jockeys’ title in the 2016-17 season. All of which left us with no option to further shatter that new year’s resolution: Taylor and Blackmore it is for October.

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.

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 earning her a player of the year nomination.

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