Sportswoman of the month: Dunlevy and McCrystal defend titles in style
The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportwoman Award for August: Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal (Cycling)
Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal: successfully defended both their titles at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Italy. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
The length of the shortlists for our awards through each month of the summer just gone says something about the level of performances produced by so many of our sportswomen. And while the judges are as delighted as anyone about these successes, there have been occasions when a cry of ‘not another medal!’ has gone up.
Take August alone. Every female member of the Irish team at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin medalled, Niamh McCarthy, Noelle Lenihan and Orla Barry all winning gold in the discus, Greta Streimikyte in the 1500m while Orla Comerford collected two bronze in the 100m and 200m.
Meanwhile at the World Para-Swimming European Championships Ellen Keane took home gold and bronze while Nicole Turner won silver.
Then there was Jenny Egan becoming Ireland’s first ever medallist at the Sprint Canoe World Championships in Portugal when she finished third in the K1 5000m, not to mention Wicklow teenager Lara Gillespie’s dazzling success at the European Junior Cycling Championships where she won silver in the individual pursuit before leaving Switzerland with a gold in her luggage after triumphing in the points race.
That’s 12 medals alone. And that’s even before considering the performances of the Cork and Kilkenny camogie teams in their All-Ireland semi-finals, and those of the Cork and Dublin footballers as they booked their places in next Sunday’s final.
That, then, is a very long short-list.
In the end we opted for Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, just as we did in August of last year, after they successfully defended both their titles at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Italy.
First up was the Time Trial, the pair getting word that they were 10 seconds down at one point. Ten minutes after the race concluded they were informed that not only had they won, they had done so by almost 20 seconds. When they’re up against it, they just have a habit of digging deeper.
And two days later they were back in their saddles, this time retaining their Road Race title, further extending their remarkable record of success in their sport.
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 has 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 that, when they just missed out on a place in the Grand Final, 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 One 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 has been a stunning summer for Irish youth athletics, Healy’s form has been exceptional, her highlight coming at the European Under-18 Championships when she won both the 1500m and 3000m 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.