2020 has been a year like no other.
12 months ago, ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdowns’ and ‘mandatory masks’ were foreign to the majority of us. Yet today, they are part of every day life. The coronavirus pandemic hit all aspects of our lives and sport was no exception. Cancellations and postponements were a running theme throughout all sport.
With that being said, 2020 was remarkably still filled with incredible Irish sporting moments which deserve recognition and celebration. We have put together a comprehensive round-up of all the memorable moments for Irish women in sport! Check out Part I which looks back at the months of January – April!
Orla Barry Retires From Paralympic sports
Ireland Paralympian, Orla Barry announced her retirement from F57 Discus after a 13-year career as a high performance Para athlete.
Barry’s career saw her represent Ireland three-times at the Paralympic games. The Cork star has an abundance of accolades to go with her long career which saw her retire with nine medals at major events, including European Championships and World Para Athletics, and having become a record holder in 2013.
Barry also secured a bronze in London 2012 and silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Ellen Walshe Smashes The Irish 100m Butterfly Long Course Record
Ellen Walshe etched her name into the history books in January by becoming the first Irish woman to break the one minute barrier in the 100m butterfly at the Flanders Swim Cup in Belgium.
Walshe broke Shauna O’Brien’s 2015 record which stood at 1.00.21, setting a new time of 59.54.
Walshe claimed the gold in process and went on to win the 200m breaststroke the following day.
Diver Tanya Watson Sets New Irish Record And Finishes fourth at the Platform Final at British Diving Championships
Tanya Watson set a new Irish record of 298.80 in the 10m Platform event. Watson secured a 4th place finish in the Platform Final at British Diving Championships at the start of the year.
Watson became Team Ireland’s first ever diver to compete at any Olympic level back in 2018, where she competed at the Youth Olympics Games in Beunos Aires.
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Annalise Murphy Finishes Second At Sail Melbourne International
2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist, Annalise Murphy, secured a second place finish in the Laser Radials Sail Melbourne competition 2020.
In what was her return to the Laser Radial after a four-year hiatus, Murphy recorded one win and five top five finishes.
The competition was a five day event which Murphy compete amongst 300 other athletes from 25 different countries.
Aoife Hopkins was the only other Irish representative at the event, finishing 24th overall.
Sanita Puspure Wins Irish Indoor Rowing Championships
Sanita Puspure secured her fifth Irish Rowing Indoor Championship in a row, setting a new Irish record in the process.
Puspure who competes in the open category, set a new Irish record of 6:34.5. Aifric Keogh claimed silver and Fiona Murtagh of NUIG pulled a strong 6:46.8, taking bronze.
Emily Hegarty and Claire Feerick took gold and silver respectively in the U23 category.
Emily Kay Wins Bronze At UCI Track Cycling World Cup
Emily Kay triumphed with a bronze medal at the at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Milton, Canada.
Kay was in fantastic form throughout the four rounds of the event, finishing 5th (32 points) in the Scratch race, 1st (40 points) in the Tempo, 8th (26 points) in the Elimination and 9th (4 points) in the Points race for a total of 102 points.
Cycling Duo Katie-George Dunlevy And Eve McCrystal Secure Silver
Tandem pursuit duo Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal took home silver medals from the Para Cycling World Championships in January having been pipped to top spot by an impressive New Zealand team. The dynamic duo followed up their silver medal with a solid fifth place in the tandem kilometre time trial on Saturday evening.
Roscommon’s Richael Timothy also competed at the event in Canada, bagging herself her first medal on the world stage after winning bronze in the 10km C3 scratch race. In addition to wining bronze in the stand alone 10km C3 scratch race, she secured fifth in the overall women’s C3 Omnium.
Irish Indoor Hockey Team Promoted To Division 2
After 28 years the Ireland Women’s Indoor hockey team returned to Division 2 after securing themselves a silver medal at the European Indoor Hockey Championships in January.
Ireland defeated Slovenia 9-2 in their final game to claim the silver medal and earn pomotion to Division 2.
The team had an outstanding performance with five wins from six and promotion means many more exciting prospects are upcoming in their new division.
Ciara Mageean Breaks 1500m Irish Indoor Record in Boston
Ciara Mageean opened up what was supposed to be the start of her Olympic year, in emphatic style as she broke her own Irish National Indoor 1500m record at the New Balance Grand Prix in Boston.
With a time of 4:06:42, the boundary breaking runner opened the year with a bang in January and things are looking positive for Tokyo 2021.
Mageean continued this form in February at the AIT International indoor meeting where she ran another impressive PB of 8:48.27 in the 3000m.
Ireland’s Siofra Cleirigh-Buttner finished ninth in a new personal best of 4:16.70.
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) January 26, 2020
Ciara Mageean talks to Her Sport about her 2020 Highlights! Mageean also talked about the Tokyo Olympics being postponed, goals for 2021 which include improving on being 10th place in the world and O’Sullivan’s 1500m record.
Orla O’Doherty Wins Gold In The Over 45s Squash Oporto Masters
Orla O’Doherty claimed the top spot at the Over 45’s Oporto Masters Squash Tournament in January.
At 49 O’Doherty has become a coach, while also regaining her love for the sport as a player that she once lost as a teen.
She has now championed in Ireland, Britain, Spain, Malta, and Slovenia and is looking forward to the next World Championships which are set to take place in Poland.
Congratulations to @OdohertyOrla and Neil McCarron who won gold in the Over 45s & O40s at the Oporto Masters in Portugal. Also to David Ayerst who won silver in the O45s and Neil Pollock who won bronze in the O40s. #MastersSquash #GameForLife pic.twitter.com/bnvzczBwVZ
— Irish Squash (@IrishSquash) January 19, 2020
UL Complete Ashbourne Cup 5 In A Row
University of Limerick secured their fifth UPMC Ashbourne Cup in a row after they defeated UCC in the final at the WIT Arena. In doing so they became only the fifth college to achieve the feat.
UL fought there way into the final after a dogged comeback against WIT in the semi-final which saw the defending champions overturn defending champions overturned a 1-5 to no score deficit in the second half.
Phil Healy Breaks Ciara Sheehy’s 17-Year-Old Irish 200m Indoor Record
Phil Healy broke a 17-year old Irish 200m record at the AIT Grand Prix back in February. The previous record was held by Ciara Sheehy set in 2003 and Healy broke this mark by .07 seconds.
At the time, the Cork woman’s time of 23.10 was also the fastest time run a a European.
With her time, she placed above German Jessica Bianca and Nikola Bendova from the Czech Republic.
Danielle Hill Sets New Irish 100m Backstroke Record
Danielle Hill bagged herself a silver medal in the 2020 McCullagh International Open Meet in Bangor, clocking 1:00:90 set a PB in the 100m backstroke.
The time sets Hill apart as she became the fastest Irish swimmer in this event to date.
She also equalled her 50m Freestyle Irish record of 25.29 to take gold ahead of Marlin’s Mona McSharry (25.83) and Maria Godden (26.78) of Kilkenny.
Rachael Blackmore Grade One win at Leopardstown
Jockey Rachael Blackmore secured herself a Grade One double in Leopardstown with partner in crime Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle and Notebook in the ERSG Arkle at the start of the year.
The Tipperary woman had just set a record the previous week in Cheltenham, becoming the first female jockey to race a Grade 1 winner.
She also championed Oriental Eagle in June at the Limerick Races, marking her first win on the Flat.
Cycling Team Pursuit Set New Record
Lara Gillespie, Mia Griffin, Kelly Murphy and Alice Sharpe took four seconds off the previous record to set a new team pursuit national record in Berlin.
The Irish cycling team finished 8th overall at the World Championships.
The previous record sat at a time of 4:29.148 which was set at the 2019 World Championships.
The new record set by the team stands at 4:21.368.
Lara Gillespie recaps her 2020, including the Team Pursuit record and claiming several medals at Irish Nationals – on the track and the road.
Beibhinn Parsons star of the show with brilliant try as Ireland Rugby Beat Scotland 18-14 In Six Nations Opener
The Irish rugby team opened their Six Nations campaign with a blistering win over Scotland at the start of February.
With a score of 18-14, Ireland marked their intent from the get-go in this competition with Leaving Cert student Beibhinn Parsons scoring an exceptional try following an interception and subsequent sprint the length of the pitch.
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) February 2, 2020
Leona Maguire finishes 4th at ISPS Handa Vic open
Leona Maguire’s second outing on the LPGA Tour saw her put it up to some of the most talented golfers in the world, finishing joint fourth at the ISPS Handa Vic Open.
The 25-year old missed out on a play off spot by just a single stroke, drawing with Sweden’s Linnea Strom at 11 under par.
Leah McCourt becomes the first irish female to headline Bellator Europe event as she defeats Judith Ruis on home soil
Leah ‘The Curse’ McCourt became first woman to headline a Bellator Europe card as she defeated Judith Ruiz in a featherweight MMA showcase in the 3 Arena Dublin.
Having been crowned triumphant following a unanimous decision verdict, McCourt talked of how “surreal” this bout was and credited her faith and focus for her ability to achieve greatness.
On the same night, Danni Neilan of SBG Ireland, emerged victorious in strawweight action, defeating Chiara Penco via unanimous decision. Dublin native Neilan improved her professional record to 2-0-0.
Ireland Rugby Beat Wales 31-12 In Emphatic Win Over Wales in Six Nations
An Irish rugby team with gust in their sales outmanoeuvred Wales and Storm Ciara in Donnybrook in the second game of the Six Nations Championships.
This 31-12 point victory saw the Irish wrap up five tries and insure a bonus point for their efforts.
Lauren Delaney, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang and Beibhinn Parsons continued to show their class and got the girls in green their second win from two of the year.
Lydia Boylan and Lydia Gurley Help Team Ireland Secure Olympic Qualification at Track World Championship
Lydia Boylan and Lydia Gurley earned themselves two Olympic qualification slots as they accumulated the necessary points at the Women’s World Championships in Berlin.
The pair survived a brutal race finishing 11th in the Women’s Madison, making history as they became the first team that will represent Ireland at a team event in track cycling at the Olympics.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland and Cycling Ireland formally accepted the slots which will see Ireland compete at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
Annalise Murphy Finishes in 12th place at the 2020 ILCA Laser
Radial World Championships
2016 Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy finished just outside the top then at the 2020 ILCA Laser Radial World Championships.
By her own admission this race was disappointing by this spectacular sailor’s standards.
“I am pretty disappointed after getting black flagged in the first race of gold fleet and then 2 yellow flags in the only race today cost me a lot in the overall standings” she said on Facebook.
Sophie O’Rourke Wins Her Third Senior National Squash Championship
Squash player Sophie O’Rourke retained her Irish National Squash Champion title back in February after facing Breanne Flynn in the final.
Having first won the competition at the age of 17, she was the youngest athlete ever to do so.
This year was the third time O’Rourke secured herself a senior national championship, as well as being a two-time national champion at underage level.
Diane Caldwell goals against Montenegro and Greece in the Ireland
soccer teams campaign for Euro 2021
Diane Caldwell made headlines for Ireland when she scored the winning goal against Greece in the Euro 2021 qualifiers, while also making her 75th appearance for the Irish soccer team.
A Katie McCabe free kick from the left hand side catapulted into Louise Quinn and was headed down to the 32 year old on the opposite side of the goal to spark jubilation for Ireland when she stuck the ball in the back of the net.
A carbon copy replay of the goal occurred in the 12th minute of Ireland’s next game Vs Montenegro, where Caldwell proved again vivacious in attack despite being the teams stalwart defender.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) March 11, 2020
Tokyo 2020 is rescheduled due to Coronavirus outbreak
In March Tokyo 2020 was postponed to next year due to the outbreak of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Originally supposed to take place in late July of this year, the cancellation of the games came when the International Olympic Committee released a statement saying this was necessary “to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”
Although it will retain its original name of Tokyo 2020, the Olympics are now scheduled to play out from July 23rd- August 8th 2021.
Carolyn Hayes was second overnight at the 2020 Shandrani ATU Triathlon African Cup in Mauritius
Carolan Hayes opened her season placing second overnight at the 2020 Shandrani ATU Triathlon African Cup in Mauritius.
This was the eighth time Hayes stood on international podiums, solidifying herself as an amazing ambassador for the sport.
Soccer star Catherine Cronin and Rugby Back Row Claire Molloy amongst many other Irish athletes on the front line
Speaking with Sky Sports back in April, former Irish captain Claire Molloy talked about her experience in the medical field during a pandemic.
Molloy, an NHS accident and emergency doctor herself, has 69 caps for Ireland and also plays for Wasps. She explains how important their support has been during her medical career and hopes to return to play for Ireland in the near future.
“I’ve been lucky to be in a very supportive working environment. Ireland let me have the sabbatical [to concentrate on my studies]. Wasps have been very supportive too…”I’ve chosen my [medical] career first this year. It was a calculated risk to not be playing for Ireland, but from August onwards – rugby is my absolute focus”, she said.