Sportswoman of the Year nominees: December to February
Athletics, Gaelic football and Australian Rules are all included in our first three
Phil Healy, Cora Staunton and Fiona McHale make up the nominees.
Four World champions, World Cup finalists, the fastest Irish woman of all time, the fastest Under-18 1,500m runner in the world, Ireland’s first ever medal winner in an individual modern pentathlon World Cup event, and that’s just for starters.
It’s no cliché to say it’s been another wonderful year for Irish sport and especially Irish sporting women, the only problem with that being who is named the one outstanding achiever – the Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2018, to be revealed at the awards luncheon in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel on Friday.
It will bring together nine individual monthly winners, and six joint-winners, from the previous 12 months; and across 10 different sports too, the certainty being these awards, now in their 15th year, have never before celebrated such a high level of success and achievement.
Here, we look at the nominees from the first three months.
Fiona McHale (Gaelic football)
Carnacon’s All-Ireland title at the end of 2017 marked their return to the national stage after five years away. And though the spotlight was drawn to Cora Staunton, playing her last game before heading off to Sydney to play professionally in the AFL, Fiona McHale was the heartbeat of Carnacon’s victory over Mourneabbey in the final.
Driving forward from midfield, McHale was key to the club’s sixth All-Ireland win. The Mayo team had been in charge for most of the game without making it count on the scoreboard. When McHale kicked into gear in the third quarter in Parnell Park, it put Carnacon on the front foot, turning a three-point half-time lead into an eight-point cushion heading into the last 15 minutes. It was McHale’s second player of the match performance in their All-Ireland run. MC
Phil Healy (Athletics)
After beginning her season on the B-of-the-Bang, running a European indoor lead over 400m of 52.08 seconds in Vienna, earning her this monthly award, Healy just kept on getting faster, and finished the 2018 season as the undisputed Fastest Women in Ireland. At age 24 the future can’t come fast enough for the Bandon AC sprinter, now based in Waterford with her coach Shane McCormack.
Outdoors, and for the only second time since 1978 that the title of Ireland’s fastest woman exchanged hands, Healy first lowered the 100m record to 11.28 seconds in Santry, before clocking 22.99 over 200m at the Cork City Sports, the first Irish woman to go sub-23 seconds. She also lowered her outdoor 400m best, to 52.19, and made the semi-finals of both sprint events at the European Championships in Berlin. Roll on 2019, with a European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March perfect for Healy to edge closer towards the medal podium. I O’R
Cora Staunton (Australian Rules)
It gives a fair idea of Staunton’s extraordinary longevity in sport that out of the 12 women who were monthly winners in the inaugural year of the Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year awards back in 2004, she is the only one still active in competitive sport.
The year just passed was more eventful than most. The dispute that saw Staunton and several of her team-mates leave the Mayo panel was rarely out of the news, but there were highs too, not least her new adventure in Australia with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the AFL. She made such an impact in a sport she had only taken up a few months before the club signed her up for a second season. Off the pitch, she became the first female GAA star to publish an autobiography, collaborating with Mary White on Game Changer. MH