Woman Of The Year: Meet The Contenders
Never has Irish women’s sport achieved such a high level of triumph and achievement in a single calendar year. Ireland’s sportswomen have provided some of the most thrilling and sublime moments during 2018, which arguably can be regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest sporting year of all time.
As women’s sport continues to grow and excel, Ireland’s talented athletes have proven that with hard work and dedication every female can make it to the pinnacle of their sport, just as much as their male counterparts. In what has been an unprecedented year for Irish sport, Ireland’s sportswomen claimed 60 percent of the 70 medals won by the country on a World and European stage.
Here is a rundown of the TEN contenders in alphabetical order, who have been shortlisted for the 2018 Her Sport Woman Of The Year, to be announced Sunday, 30th December.
Ayeisha McFerran was part of the historic Women’s Hockey Team who became the first ever Irish team to qualify for a World Cup final – in any sport. Ranked as the second lowest side in the tournament, the Green Army exceeded all expectations during a magical campaign which will live long in Irish history.
Amongst many of the key performers for Ireland was Ayeisha McFerran, who was fundamental to their success. McFerran has had a year which she won’t forget anytime soon as her sensational performances helped Ireland claim a silver medal at the World Cup, where she was also crowned ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’.
The sheer gaiety of the hockey team’s unexpected success at the World Cup was bewitching. The 22-year-old from Larne cemented her status as the world’s best goalkeeper with dominant displays in high-pressure situations. Her imperial presence in net earned the praise from many of her teammates often describing her as unbeatable.
To cap-off her whirlwind year, McFerran was named in the All-American team of the year for the fourth year running after her impressive club displays with the Louisville Cardinals and has also been nominated for the International Hockey Federation Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year award.
There is no doubt that Ayeisha McFerran is one of the rising stars in Irish sport. Her performances over the past few years have been nothing short of sublime. This is testament to her hard work which she is reaping the benefits from. In what is an important period for women in sport, McFerran is truly an inspiring role model for youngsters.
Chloe Sigerson’s metoric rise continued in 2018, as she was a pivotal component in the Cork machine which won back to back All-Ireland Camogie titles and their 28th title overall. In an extraordinarily tight game, Sigerson notched three trademark long efforts on the way to a 0-14 0-13 victory.
Sigerson has quickly earned a reputation of being one of the sweetest strikers in the game. Her big match temperament matched with her exquisite long-range shooting from wing-back has made her almost unstoppable. In both the semi-final and final of the Sigerson notched humungous low-percentage frees which have transformed the Rebel County’s attack.
The Killeagh defender won the 2016 Soaring Stars award as an intermediate player and she has seemingly made the transition to the senior game with ease. With two back-to-back All-Ireland titles in the bag, Sigerson was amongst three players to be nominated for the 2018 Camogie Association Senior Player of the Year accolade.
The Cork maestro will indisputably continue to impress in the coming years as she continues to expand and grow her own personal game. Her incredible performances this year has displayed outstanding skill, passion, commitment and good sporting conduct.
Ciara Mageean is an Irish Olympic middle-distance runner who is amongst the finest 1500m runners in Europe. Mageean narrowly missed out on a medal at the European Championships in August after a tremendous performance in Berlin, which saw her place fourth.
In 2016, Mageean medalled at the very same event winning bronze in Amsterdam. An unfortunate year followed as injuries and a minor loss in form hampered her upward trajectory. However this year has seen Mageean unlock her undoubted potential again, as she has made huge strides in regaining her world-class level.
Mageean’s hard work, drive and ambition coupled with her undisputable talent saw her regain her form in July of this year, as she clocked her third fastest 1500m time, in Barcelona. The County Down runner followed this up with an impressive 800m and 1500m double at the Irish Life Health National Senior Championships – the first female athlete to complete this double since Sonia O’Sullivan back in 2000.
Mageean remains an inspirational figure for many Irish distance runners who aspire to match her achievements and see her as the benchmark for success. Her competitive desire to win and improve has spurred her year-on-year. With Tokyo around the corner, Mageean will hope to continue to make important steps towards the pinnacle of her sport.
Ellen Keane is an Irish Paralympic European Swimming champion who won gold in the 100m breaststroke which took place in the National Aquatic Centre in August. At the same championships, the 23-year-old also won bronze in the women’s individual medley event.
Keane is one of Ireland’s most inspirational and talented athletes as she continues to promote and advocate a healthy lifestyle, positive body image and equality for all. The Dubliner was Ireland’s youngest ever athlete when she swam in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and brought home an Olympic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
Earlier this year, Keane had major success at the Para Swimming World Series, winning silver and two bronze medals in Indianapolis. The Paralympics in Tokyo 2020 is a massive target for Keane who is looking to better her own previous performance in Rio where she secured bronze.
Ellen Keane continues share her wonderful story and talent which is inadvertently empowering those who happen to have a disability. With Keane’s performances and actions, she is fast becoming a role model for girls and boys across the nation. The European Champion is facilitating a change in the public’s perception on disabilities which undoubtedly represents the brilliance of sport.
Jenny Egan is an Irish Canoe Sprint Athlete who has dedicated her life to her craft and is amongst the best in the world, in her field.
In August of this year, Egan made history as she became Ireland’s first ever medallist, male or female, at the canoe sprint World Championships. The canoeist, who is a member of Salmon Leap Canoe Club in Leixlip, won a bronze medal in the K1 5000m event in Portugal.
This year, Egan also managed to secure the only Canoe Sprint quota place for Ireland at the European Games which will take place in Minsk, Belarus in 2019. A wonderful 2018 sees Egan continue to add to her vast array of medals including two K1 5000m World Cup medals.
Jenny Egan has been devoted to her sport since the age of eight. Her commitment and drive is unwavering as she trains two to three times a day, six days per week. This includes six gym sessions, three on the water canoe sessions, three running sessions and two swimming sessions.
With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, Tokyo remains a massive goal and on current form, qualification is a real possibility.
Katie Taylor became only the third-ever Irish boxer in history to unify Boxing World Titles as she added the IBF Lightweight title to her WBA Lightweight World title in 2018. The boxing sensation fought four times in the calendar year, comprehensively winning all bouts including a sensational third round stoppage in a title defence against Kimberly Connor.
In 2018, Taylor fought a total of 32 rounds from four fights. In these four fights, the Bray boxer was adjudicated to have won a mind-blowing 92 out of 96 rounds from the respective judges. This statistic perfectly depicts Taylor’s dominance on the world stage. Perhaps the most thing impressive thing about Taylor is, at 32, she appears to be improving with each fight.
The former Olympic Boxing gold medallist is undoubtedly the most feared female boxer on the planet. Her extraordinary power and speed has blown away every single opponent she has faced so far and her exploits are paving the way for more female boxing recognition.
Katie Taylor has her sights set on unifying the Lightweight division in the next year as she yearns to become the undisputed lightweight champion of the world. There are two remaining titles left, which are held by Rose Volante and Delfine Persoon. Should these fights go again, there is no doubt Taylor’s dominance in the division will continue as she looks to remain undefeated in her professional career.
Leona Maguire is an Irish professional golfer who made the switch to the professional game in June of this year. The Cavan born golfer turned professional after becoming one of the most successful amateur golfers in the history of the game.
As an amateur, Maguire represented Ireland at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and won the 2017 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship. To add to this, Leona Maguire claimed five wins on the US collegiate circuit, won two player-of-the year awards and spent a record 135 weeks as the world’s number one ranked women’s amateur.
Since turning professional this year with the Modest! Golf Management Company, Maguire has endured a fantastic debut season with two top-three finishes on the Symetra Tour, making 10 cuts from a total of 13 events.
This month Maguire secured a place on the 2019 Ladies European Tour card, after holding her nerve to win a playoff and finish in fifth place at qualifying school in Morocco. Maguire will now hope to build on her brilliant debut season and hopefully secure a spot on the European Solheim Cup team to take on the USA next September. Watch out for Leona Maguire and her sister Lisa Maguire in 2019.
Phil Healy is the current 100m and 200m Irish Athletics record holder after she broke both long-standing records earlier this year. Healy became the first female in the last 40 years, to hold both 100m and 200m records in Ireland, at the same time.
The 2018 calendar year has been one to remember for the Bandon AC athlete as her stock has continued to rise. In January, Healy became only the second-ever Irish runner to be named the European Athletics Female Athlete of the Month. Her magnificent form on the track continued as she also ran a personal best time in the 400 meters.
The Cork-woman set two blistering new Irish records with 11.28s in the 100m and became the first Irish female athlete to break the 23 second barrier in the 200m, with 22.99s. Healy was also part of the 4x100m relay team which set a new National Record at the European Championships.
At 24-years-old, Healy is one of Ireland’s most exciting athletic prospects. With her drive and ambition, along with her incredible times, Healy is leading the Irish charge into a golden era of athletics.
With qualification beginning in July 2019 for Tokyo 2020 and the World Championships commencing in December, Healy will be hopeful she can emulate her record-breaking feats and personal best times to seal more impressive results in the coming year.
Sanita Puspure is a World Champion rower who won gold in the single-scull event, at the World Championships in Bulgaria last September. The two-time Olympian shattered the field as she finished five seconds clear of the defending World Champion, Jeannine Gmelin, in second-place.
Victory saw the Old Collegians BC rower become the first ever Irish woman to win this event. The gold medal was Puspure’s first World Championship medal of any sort, with two previous best-place finishes of fourth.
At 37-years old, Puspure is an enormous inspiration for women in sport. Her unparalleled self-discipline and a relentless hard work has seen her rise to the very top of her sport, despite being written-off by many critics for being ‘too old’.
Puspure is one of the hardest working athletes in the country, training two to three times a day depending on her programme cycle. Typically, training consists of two separate steady and intense 20-26km water sessions. After this, Puspure finishes off training with an hour and a half strength and condition session.
The Cork resident’s next goal is to medal at the Olympics where she has unfinished business. In both London 2012 and Rio 2016, Puspure finished a respective 13th. There is no doubt however that with her current form, hopes of an Olympic medal is a real possibility.
Sinead Goldrick was part of the Dublin Ladies Football team which retained the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in their history. Dublin beat Cork in front of a record breaking crowd of 50,141 at Croke Park. Goldrick is the beating heart of the Dublin defence and was pivotal for the Sky Blues over the course of the campaign.
The Foxrock-Cabinteely defender has cemented her status as one of the best defenders the game has seen. Her athletic ability is supreme as she continues to defy logic at times. Goldrick was a 400m hurdles Leinster champion when she was a teenager and her natural athleticism is clear to see.
Throughout the season, Goldrick has exhibited incredible leadership, desire and skill which has elevated the players around her to follow her lead. Her ability to read the game and anticipate danger shows a real understanding of her position. This season, Goldrick has performed at an elite level which has raised the bar for both club and county.
The Dubliner picked up her sixth TG4 All-Star award this year as she also helped club-side Foxrock-Cabinteely to their second ever All-Ireland Ladies Senior Club Football final. Goldrick continues to set the standard for defenders and she does this with an incredible work-rate, grit, skill and humility. 2019 promises to be a stellar year for the unflappable leader.