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Rena Buckley and Sinead Aherne joint winners of sportswoman award

All-Ireland captains share ‘The Irish Times’/Sport Ireland award for September

Cork captain Rena Buckley lifts the O’Duffy Cup after the All-Ireland camogie win over Kilkenny. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Captain Sinead Aherne raises the Brendan Martin Cup after Dublin triumphed over Mayo in the All-Ireland footballl final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for September: Rena Buckley (Camogie) and Sinead Aherne (Gaelic Football)

When they, hopefully, share a stage at the Sportswomen of the Year awards come December, it won’t be the first time Rena Buckley and Sinead Aherne have been in close proximity.

As footballing rivals for over a decade, Buckley usually at the back for Cork, Aherne up front for Dublin, they’ve spent a considerable amount of time invading each other’s space.

For this particular joint award, though, they’re in separate codes after Buckley captained Cork to All-Ireland camogie success in September, Aherne achieving the same feat in football with Dublin a fortnight later.

Both players appeared in their first All-Ireland finals as 17-year-olds, Aherne in 2003, Buckley in 2004, and have been towering figures in Gaelic games ever since.

Buckley, of course, now stands alone at the top of the roll of honour having won her 18th All-Ireland medal, in football and camogie, in September when a point in added time from substitute Julia White gave Cork victory over a Kilkenny side that had beaten them in the final 12 months before.

That made her the first woman to captain Cork to success in both camogie and football, and only the second to raise both trophies as captain – Mary Geaney was the first, leading the Kerry footballers to victory in 1976 and the Cork camogie team four years later.

If it wasn’t for Buckley and her footballing team-mates, Aherne’s medal collection would be a whole lot bulkier than it is, her sole taste of All-Ireland success at Croke Park until this year coming in their 2010 win over Tyrone.

Four times Dublin had played Cork in finals since 2009, four times they’d lost. This year, though, Mayo ended Cork’s run in the semi-finals, before losing to Dublin in the final, the ever prolific Aherne helping herself to nine points in a comprehensive victory.

Much like they’ve been when they’ve squared up in football, then, Buckley and Aherne proved inseparable when it came to our September award – they are, then, our joint winners.

Previous monthly winners (awards run from December 2016 to November 2017, inclusive)December: Leanne Kiernan (Soccer). The Cavan teenager had an outstanding 12 months for Ireland at under-17 and under-19 level before marking her debut for the senior team by scoring and collecting the player of the match award. She also helped Shelbourne to a league and cup double, scoring a hat-trick in the FAI Cup final, and won the FAI Young Player of the Year award.

January: Grainne Dwyer (Basketball). The Thurles woman won her fifth National Cup medal and third Most Valuable Player award from the last four finals when Glanmire beat Courtyard Liffey Celtics 61-48, Dwyer’s form helping put the Cork club on course for its third consecutive league and cup double.

February: Paula Fitzpatrick (Rugby). Fitzpatrick captained Ireland to victory in the opening four games of their Six Nations campaign. While August’s World Cup proved to be a disappointment for the team, Fitzpatrick had a pool game to remember against Japan, scoring two tries, the second sealing victory after Ireland had trailed 14-0.

March: Aoife Cassidy (Camogie). Playing alongside her sisters Eilis and Brona, Aoife Cassidy captained Derry club Slaughtneil, from a townland made up of just 350 homes, to their first All-Ireland Senior Camogie Club Championship and only the second ever for Ulster when they beat Galway’s Sarsfields at Croke Park.

April: Jessica Harrington (Horse Racing) and Chloe Magee (Badminton). Harrington completed the triple crown of Cheltenham’s great races, Sizing John winning the Gold Cup to add to her previous successes in the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase. And then she won the Irish Grand National for the first time with Our Duke. Magee, meanwhile, became the first Irish woman to win a European Championship medal in badminton, partnering brother Sam to bronze in the mixed doubles in Denmark.

May: Leona Maguire (Golf). Even before she won the British Amateur Championship in June, Maguire had been added to our 2017 list after another superb season with Duke University that earned her multiple awards, including the Mark H McCormack Medal, for the third year running, which is awarded to the top amateur golfer in the world.

June: Mona McSharry (Swimming). The Sligo teenager already had a summer to remember when she won two gold medals and a silver at June’s European Junior Championships in Israel, but then in August she headed for Indianapolis where she became the first Irish swimmer to win gold at the World Junior Championships. McSharry broke the national senior record in her 100m breaststroke victory, adding a bronze in the 50m breaststroke to her medal haul.

July: Gina Akpe-Moses (Athletics). At just 18, Akpe-Moses, who took up athletics when she joined Dundalk’s St Gerard’s Club at the age of seven, became Ireland’s first European women’s sprint title winner at under-20 to senior level when she won the 100m at the European Under-20 Championships in Italy. Now based in Birmingham, where she’s a member of Birchfield Harriers, her target is to represent Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics.

August: Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal (Cycling). The pair have enjoyed yet another successful year, McCrystal taking the National Road Series and finishing as the highest placed Irish rider in the Rás na mBan, while Dunlevy had a rich time of it in World Cup events and at the National Championships with her other partner, Katharine Smyth. Together, though, they achieved their ultimate goal for 2017, winning double gold at the Para-cycling Road World Championships in South Africa.