Sportswoman of the Year nominees: June to August
A World Cup finalist, a world record holder and world championship gold medalists
Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, Ayeisha McFerran and Sarah Healy feature in this group.
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 10 individual monthly winners, and four joint-winners, from the previous 12 months; and across 10 different sports too, the only 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 June, July and August.
Sarah Healy (Athletics)
Running seasons don’t come more perfect than this, because even before her stunning double at the European Athletics Under-18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary, Healy maintained her unbeaten run in Irish schools athletics season, on the cross country and track, and also won an Irish senior indoor title over 3,000m. Still while in fifth year at Holy Child Killiney, also juggling her running with her hockey, playing with her school and her club Avoca.
Healy went to Gyor hot favourite after clocking a world-leading 4:09.25 for 1,500m, deciding late on to attempt the 3,000m as well - winning that first, before coming back after her 1,500m heat to win that gold medal too. Healy’s progress to date has been seamless from year to year, all under the careful guidance of her coach Eoghan Marnell at Blackrock AC, and she might well have added another medal at the European Under-20 Cross Country in Tilburg, the Netherlands had she not fallen halfway. She has two more years in that grade, and more medals will surely come. I O’R
Ayeisha McFerran (Hockey)
There was a time the 22-year-old from Larne filled her days travelling around the country to compete in Irish dancing contests. The prospects then of one day playing in a World Cup final as a hockey goalkeeper seeming a touch remote. But while she eventually put away her pumps to focus on her sport, possessing the feet of a dancer stood to her, not least in those two penalty shoot-outs against India and Spain during a magical summer in London.
McFerran was named goalkeeper of the tournament after Ireland’s remarkable run to the final, the silver medal she collected the first of many rewards through the year for her outstanding form. Come the end of her final season with the University of Louisville, where she is due to graduate next May with a degree in exercise science, she was named on the All-American team of the year for the fourth year running. Whatever club is fortunate enough to sign her next year will have on their hands one of the best goalkeepers in world hockey. MH
Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal (Cycling)
Repeating their feat of joint monthly winners from 2017, 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 Maniago, Italy, the fourth World Champions of the 12 monthly award winners.
First up was the Time Trial, the pair getting word that they were 10 seconds down at one point; 10 minutes after the race concluded they were informed that not only had they won, they had done so by almost 20 seconds. Onto the 81.6km Road Race, the title they won in South Africa last year, and once again they put their finishing sprint to perfect use. Dunlevy described how the pressure had come off - “really after the TT we didn’t have that pressure going in to the race - we just wanted to enjoy it. And, of course, we wanted to win it” and less than two years from Tokyo Paralympics, winning is becoming a habit. I O’R