Sanita Puspure named The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year

Cork-based rower claimed World Championship gold during a stellar year

Double world champion rower Sanita Puspure has been crowned The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2019.

It was a case of an early birthday present for the Cork-based rower – she celebrates her 38th birthday tomorrow (Saturday 21st) – when she accepted the award from Sonia O’Sullivan at the awards ceremony in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel this afternoon.

Not alone did Puspure claim her second World Championship gold medal in the single sculls at Ottensheim in Austria in late summer, she also secured qualification for the Tokyo Olympics – and she did it the hard way.

Olympic qualification was actually secured in the semi-final when she came from behind with a powerful surge to win by more than four seconds in a field that included former world champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand.


In the final, Puspure, who is also a double European Champion, again came from behind to overtake Olympic silver medallist Vicky Thornley of Britain before chasing down Twigg in the last 500 metres to secure gold with a clear-water win.

Her victory was all the more impressive given that she had returned to her native Latvia during the summer to be with sister Inese in the final stages of her battle with cancer.

After the win she told RTÉ: “This medal has very high value – we just needed something nice to happen . . . I hope my sister is proud of me, watching from above”.

Puspure, who moved to Ireland in 2006, now appears to have cracked the winning code. After experiencing years of frustration – she twice finished fourth at the world championships – her perseverance and determination were rewarded in Bulgaria at last year’s event with her first medal, a gold. For now, all roads lead to Tokyo.

In the 16th year of the awards the rower was among 14 monthly award winners – there were multiple winners on several occasions – nominated for the overall 2019 title. Other monthly winners included swimmer Mona McSharry, athlete Ciara Mageean, boxer Katie Taylor, golfer Leona Maguire and jockey Rachael Blackmore.

Outstanding Contribution to Sport 2019 Award

Kerry woman Mary Geaney, who captained her native county to All-Ireland football glory before going on to lead Cork’s camogie team to All-Ireland success, the first player to achieve such a feat, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Sport 2019 Award.

The Castleisland woman captained Kerry to football success in 1976 – she scored 3-2 in the final win over Offaly, the first hat trick in a lady’s final – before going on to win the first of three All-Ireland camogie medals with Cork. Geaney, who scored a hat-trick in the 1978 camogie final, captained the team in 1980 – the final against Limerick went to a replay – and won a third medal in 1983. She also won two club football All-Irelands with Castleisland Desmonds in the early 1980s.

While her GAA exploits form a huge part of Geaney’s sporting life, it is far from the full story. She also played hockey for Ireland, making her international debut as goalkeeper in 1971 against England. She went on to represent her country 65 times and was a member of the Ireland teams that won the 1977 Triple Crown and the 1983 Women’s Intercontinental Cup. She was inducted into the Irish Hockey Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

She also played squash, badminton and golf for Munster and managed her golf club, Killarney, to Irish Senior Cup success in 2017. Fittingly current hockey star and November Sportswoman of the month Róisín Upton was on hand to present Geaney with her award.

Paying tribute to all the award winners, the Deputy Editor of The Irish Times Deirdre Veldon said 2019 had brought the curtain down in style on a memorable decade for Irish sportswomen. She said their continued success enriched Irish life and played a hugely influential role in encouraging greater participation in sport.

“We are humbled in marking the achievements of our elite sportswomen here today. We salute their sporting prowess and skill of course, but also their dedication, their backbone and their bouncebackability. We pay tribute to their families and friends whose patience is undoubtedly endless and whose support is incalculable in their loved ones’ quest for success.”

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said: “2019 was a busy year for Irish sport, with our sportswomen doing us proud on the national and international stage. The inspirational effect of sport on the Irish public cannot be overstated and it was heartening to see the nation get behind our athletes and teams. One of the highlights was the Irish women’s hockey team playing in front of a packed Donnybrook and live on national television as they qualified for Tokyo 2020.

“Exposure such as this, coupled with an increase in funding through Sport Ireland, will inspire and encourage participation in all sports and at all levels. I would like to acknowledge Sport Ireland and the Irish Times for staging these awards which recognise the incredible contribution of Irish women in sport. I would like to congratulate all of today’s winners and also pay tribute to their families and all of the coaches and support teams who have helped them to reach the highest levels of sport.”

The Chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey described 2019 as a significant year for women in sport with the launch of Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport Policy and the announcement of increased multi-year investment in the area.

“The policy builds on the significant work being undertaken by our National Governing Bodies for Sport and Local Sports Partnerships, recognising the significant impact involvement in sport can have on the lives of women.

“As demonstrated by the wonderful results by our teams and athletes, sport has a unique ability to unite people of all backgrounds and we have had no shortage of sporting success to celebrate in the past 12 months.

“We are all united in our pride for the achievements of our athletes and teams on their success this year. The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year awards is the perfect way to round-off an excellent year and fitting way to celebrate our wonderful athletes. I congratulate each of the monthly award winners on their achievements and wish them well for the year ahead.”

Monthly Winners 2019

December - Mona McSharry - Swimming

January - Phil Healy - Athletics

February - Ciara Mageean - Athletics

March - Rachael Blackmore - Horse Racing

April - Leona Maguire - Golf

May - Jenny Egan - Canoeing

June - Katie Taylor - Boxing

July - Kate O’Connor and Rhasidat Adeleke - Athletics

August - Sanita Puspure - Rowing

September - Niamh Kilkenny - Camogie and Lyndsey Davey - Gaelic Football

October - Denise O’Sullivan - Soccer

November - Roisin Upton - Hockey

Overall Winner 2019

Sainta Puspure - Rowing

Outstanding Contribution to Sport Winner

Mary Geaney