The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for June: Kellie Harrington (Boxing)

Dubliner secured Olympic qualification and went on to take the gold medal in Paris

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington celebrates after winning gold at the European Boxing Road To Tokyo Qualifier at Le Grand Dome in Paris at the start of June. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho

Ireland’s Kellie Harrington celebrates after winning gold at the European Boxing Road To Tokyo Qualifier at Le Grand Dome in Paris at the start of June. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho

 

With 55 Irish women qualifying for the Olympic Games we’re hoping that we’ll have so many contenders for our July and August awards, the deliberations will take a month. Not that it’ll make the task a whole lot easier, but at least Nadia Power, Leona Maguire and, now, Kellie Harrington have removed themselves from that potential list of contenders by already collecting awards this year.

When sport came to a grinding halt last year, Harrington was our first sportswoman to earn a monthly award for her contributions to life outside the ring, the Dubliner’s work at St Vincent’s Hospital in Fairview, as well as her involvement in a campaign to help people deal with both the physical and mental impact of the Covid crisis, saluted.

Through it all, she carried on training in her homemade gym, only one thing on her mind: qualifying for the Olympics when boxing returned. Come June of this year, it was mission accomplished when she beat reigning IBF super featherweight world champion Maiva Hamadouche in the quarter-finals of the Olympic qualifier in Paris to book her place in Tokyo.

And just to complete what proved to be a perfect week, she went on to win gold, beating Britain’s Caroline Dubois on a 4-1 split decision in the final of the 60kg division.

An outstanding performance it was too, against a highly rated opponent 11 years her junior, Harrington’s emotions spilling over when her arm was raised in victory, her success coming after a hugely difficult few years during which she had to battle repeated injuries and subsequent surgeries.

She was joined on the seven-strong Irish Olympic boxing team by Antrim’s Michaela Walsh and Roscommon’s Aoife O’Rourke, both of whom also earned their tickets to Tokyo in Paris. Harrington, though, will carry the heaviest weight of expectations having been named top seed for her division at the Olympics, Walsh seeded four in the featherweight category.

Despite her seeding, though, Harrington will have to produce the form of her life if she is to medal with the formidable world champion Beatriz Ferreira from Brazil and Finland’s Mira Potkonen, who beat Katie Taylor in Rio, among those standing in her way.

After overcoming the challenges of the last while, though, our 2018 Sportswoman of the Year will feel no achievement is beyond her, even an Olympic medal.

Previous monthly winners

The awards run from December 2020 to November 2021, inclusive – only one monthly award can be won in any year, but the achievements of each sportswoman through the year are taken in to account when it come to choosing the overall winner.

DECEMBER
Aoife Doyle (Camogie) and Sinéad Goldrick (Gaelic football)
The pair were both chosen as the player of the match in their respective All-Ireland finals, Doyle’s display in the Kilkenny attack against Galway helping her county end a run of three successive final defeats, while an outstanding performance against Cork by Goldrick was a major factor in Dublin completing a four-in-a-row.

JANUARY
Nadia Power (Athletics)

The 23-year-old Dubliner enjoyed an exceptional start to the year, setting a new Irish 800m indoor record in Vienna and knocking another two seconds off that mark a fortnight later in Torun, Poland, her form ultimately earning her a place on the Olympic team for the 800m.

FEBRUARY
Rachael Blackmore (Horse racing)
She picked up our February award after a stellar month, a 10-length victory on Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown the highlight. Since then? She’s done quite well: she was crowned top jockey at Cheltenham with six wins, won the Aintree Grand National, like you do, finished runner-up in the Irish jockeys championship with 92 winners, before winning another Champion Hurdle on board Honeysuckle, this time at Punchestown.

MARCH
Leona Maguire (Golf)

The Cavan native secured her first ever LPGA Tour top 10 finish on American soil when she tied for sixth at the Drive On Championship in Florida in March. Come April, she topped that achievement by finishing joint second at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, one of four top 10s she’s achieved in her first full calendar year as a professional. Next stop Tokyo where she will be joined in the field by Stephanie Meadow.

APRIL
Orla O’Dwyer (Australian Rules)

One of the country’s most gifted dual players, starring for Tipperary in both Gaelic football and camogie, O’Dwyer became just the second Irish woman to win the Aussie Rules AFLW Premiership title when she was part of the Brisbane Lions team that beat Adelaide Crows in April’s Grand Final.

MAY
Katie Taylor (Boxing)

Taylor had to produce one of her grittiest ever displays when she came up against England’s Natasha Jonas in Manchester in what was the 12th professional world title fight of her career. Come the end of it, she had retained her WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight titles and took her professional record to 18-0. Peerless.

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