Sports

2021 HerSport Year In Review Part 1: In Their Own Words

2021 provided a host of magnificent sporting moments that won’t be forgotten for a long time to come.

From the Olympics and Paralympics to Rachael Blackmore’s sensational triumphs that have been recognised on the world stage, there is plenty to look back on in what has been a prolonged watershed moment for women’s sport in Ireland.

Here’s a lookback on the year through the lens of HerSport’s archives.

This is part one, check out part two here.

January

Ellen Molloy

January’s lockdown may feel an eternity back for some, especially when reflected on with Ireland and Wexford Youths star Ellen Molloy, who wholesomely told HerSport that while she was in training camp she would “be sitting down with the players and think ‘Oh my god Katie McCabe is just over there!’”

Over the course of the year the 17-year-old cemented herself as a stakeholder in the Wexford Youth’s set up, the U19 Ireland team and even the senior WNT squad.

Nominated for Young Player of the Year once again, she collected a Team of the Year award too, making the innocence she alluded to in 2021’s inaugural month a distant memory.

February

Nicole Drought

Spring saw one of Ireland’s top racing drivers Nicole Drought reflect on the status of her activity in the country, being a “minority sport” coupled with the fact that “women are the minority within the minority.”

Her highlights this year spanning across Britcar Silverstone, a test in a GT3 McLaren and a historic rally in Killarney, the 26-year-old no doubt has furthered her mission to show “younger girls coming through that you know it’s not just a boys sport and girls can compete too.”

Beibhinn Parsons

Who could forget Beibhinn Parsons’ iconic It’s Just Sport interview at the end of February, delving into issues of coverage, pathways and, most strikingly body image.

“I think it’s a huge component of sport that isn’t talked about enough, especially in the female game” said the Galway native.

“It’s like to be a runner you’ve to look like this and to be a swimmer you’ve to look like this and that’s not the case. There’s no one size fits all, it’s any size can fit any.”

You can watch the full video here.

March

Kylie Murphy

The WNL’s 10th season didn’t disappoint, nor did eventual Player of the Year Kylie Murphy.

Discussing the expense incurred by players throughout the league just to play the game that provides hours of entertainment to fans, the Youths’ skipper recalled how in years gone by she would have been “trying to help [her] teammates if any of the girls were struggling to get their money in”.

Sponsorships she believes allow for “huge strides” of progression and given the involvement of more title brands and TV coverage this year it would be hard to argue with that logic.

Sanita Pušpure

Sanita Pušpure revealed all things expectation and scrutiny back in March, in one of her final interviews before the Tokyo Olympics.

The 2016 Rio Games prior were a self-confessed “breaking point” for the Irish Rowing legend, and she admitted that had it not been for the “right support” she “probably would have gone and left the sport.”

A unique insight into the pressures of elite sport, it’s available to reminisce on here.

April

Claire Molloy

2021 turned out to be Claire Molloy’s swan-song year in the green shirt, having previously taken a sabbatical to work on the frontline during the Covid pandemic.

“It’s mad you might think oh I’m going to take a year out of rugby, but not that rugby is going to take a year out of the world” she recollected.

“With Ireland I think I needed to hit refresh because I’d just been going at it a long time and it really served that purpose as well for my own mental wellbeing just to have a break from it, step back and see where I was with rugby.”

From burnout and career pinnacles to doodles for exams it’s got it all, the piece with an entire new perspective given her recent retirement.

You can watch it here.

Racheal Blackmore

Acknowledged as the standout sportsperson of the year by the Irish Times, RTE and the BBC, Racheal Blackmore’s contributions to 2021 were simply sensational.

In April she made history as she became the first female to win the Grand National and was infamously quoted in a line that is to live long in the memory.

“I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human” she told ITV, immediately after the race.

“This is just unbelievable” she said.

A star studded year for the Tipperary woman who also won six races and the title of leading jockey at Cheltenham.

Aimee Mackin

2020 Players Player of the Year and Goal of the Year scorer Aimee Mackin talked the possibility of the LGFA, Camogie Association and Gaelic Athletic Association’s amalgamation with Joanne O’Riordan and Niamh Tallon back in April, joking that it was “one of those questions you dodge!”

“From the outside it sounds good I mean it’s one sport and most others like that are all under one bracket, like the soccer, it’s under one code,” she said.

“Having one sport I don’t think there’s any point in splitting it all up…but I’m not sure. I think it’s for people maybe higher up than me to decide” the Armagh star concluded.

Watch the full interview here.

May

Darragh Greene and Phillip Doyle

In May the HerSport ambassador team added two more members to its bow as Irish Olympians Darragh Greene (swimming) and Phillip Doyle (rowing) posed the question- “Why wouldn’t you support women’s sport?”

Discerning that there is no conceivable difference between the energy, time and money exerted into their chosen craft’s, the pair divulged that the two genders compete “side by side at the same level” in training, and that male voices are imperative in the move toward equality.

Emma Slevin

Eighteen year-old Emma Slevin wasn’t afraid to touch on tough topics this year either. The Claregalway woman commented that she “loved the meaning” behind Germany’s Sarah Voss’s decision to wear a full length leotard at the Switzerland European gymnastics championships where she protested against sexualisation of the sport.

Slevin became first Irish female gymnast to reach an all-round final at the same competition and credited her coaching system and Gymnastics Ireland for her advancement.

Later in the year she completed the same feat at the Worlds.

June

Michelle O Neill

A two part series in June explored the trails and tribulations of referee Michelle O Neill’s career.

The buzz of a major tournament not limited to the players, she has officiated at a myriad of the world’s most enormous games and has combated with sexism first hand.

“In the early days I got a lot of resistance in my career because I’m a woman. People would call me uneducated and say that I didn’t know what I was doing. I know that when I go out, I have to know the laws inside and out and be over-prepared in case of criticism.”

Orla O’Dwyer

In just her second season in the AFLW Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer became the second ever Irish woman to win the overall title.

In June the two time All Ireland intermediate football winner reflected on the champion on the It’s Just Sport Podcast, as well as life in Aus, the opportunities she has experienced and the friendships she has made Down Under.

“I think it’s really important for young girls to stay with sport” she said.

“Growing up I wasn’t that great at sport, I was always pretty average, but a big part of my sporting career has definitely been my parents and they’ve kept encouraging me.”

Catch the full interview here.

Sarah Healy

An instrumental part in Galway’s ultimate All Ireland victory, Sarah Healy spoke with HerSport in June, shedding light on the intricate aspects of goalkeeping and her route to the position.

“To be honest, I’d play wherever I was put. I like getting to mix both. The thrill of being in goals and then the chance to go out the field” she said.

“Your first touch has to be right or it’ll be flicked away from you. You have to be able to catch the ball. If you drop it, you’re dropping it in the danger zone. You have to be versatile and adapt to different situations” the 21 year old added.

Check out the full piece here.

Alanna Cunnane

Alanna is a Journalism student in Dublin City University and is passionate about all sport - in particular Ladies Football and Soccer! Alanna has made contributions to Ocean FM, the Final Whistle, the Sligo Champion and the Connacht Telegraph! She even has hosts her own podcast called 'Are You Still Listening?'
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