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Young Athlete Of The Year 2020: Meet The Contenders


Amy Elliott

Amy Elliott played a crucial role in the 2020 Irish Hockey Senior Cup which saw UCD Ladies Hockey get their hands on the Senior Cup trophy for the third time in four years.

The former St. Andrews College student is exceptionally dynamic and her barnstorming runs through midfield have been a key cog in the UCD midfield which is the envy of most teams in the EY Hockey League.

Elliot’s all-action style of play stood out for UCD this year before the season was interrupted due to lockdown.

Her ability to break through the lines and find a pass have been a constant threat to opposing teams.

The UCD student earned her first international cap for Ireland last year as she was part of the team which took on Chile in a four-part series in Santiago.


Beibhinn Parsons

19-year old Beibhinn Parsons scored two memorable tries early on in the 2020 Six Nations which left the rugby sphere speechless.

In her two starts against Scotland and Wales this year, the Connacht player displayed her star quality which has earmarked her as one of the most exciting to emerge in Irish rugby in recent years.

Parson’s was the star of the show for Ireland in the early stages of the Six Nations. She displayed pace, power and that unique X-factor which saw her score two vital tries take victory against Scotland and Wales. Her intercept try in the opener against Scotland will live long in memory. With Ireland under the cosh camped on their own line against Scotland.

Parsons demonstrated her brilliant rugby brain and raw pacce to read the pass and run the length of the field to clinch the points for Ireland.

Parsons became the youngest ever rugby player to represent Ireland at the international level, as she made her debut against the USA at the age of 16.


Edel Thornton

Edel Thornton was a stand-out performer on the basketball court as the Trinity Meteors claimed the Division 1 title to secure promotion to the Irish Super League for the 2021 season.

The former Quinnipiac University student finished the season averaging 15.7 points per-game, along with six assists, six rebounds and 5.3 steals. Her performances were a key factor in the Meteor’s dominating season and was in inspirational form.

Thornton’s consistent performances and unwavering work-ethic saw her pick up Player of the Month several times and was awarded the Player Of The Year in Division 1 at the end of the season. Thornton also picked up the NBCC College Division 1 Player of the Year for her performances with Trinity College Dublin at intervarsity level.

The Irish star will be a key member of the international squad which will compete in the 2021 FIBA Women’s European Championship for Small Countries.


Ellen Molloy

Ellen Molloy made the step up to senior football this year and hasn’t looked back. After being promoted from the Under 17’s, the 16-year old Wexford Youths starlet enjoyed a breakthrough season for both club and country.

Molloy enjoyed a fine season with Wexford, scoring eight goals in the Women’s National League and she picked up the Young Player of the Season as a result of her quality performances.

The former Thomastown United player, who can play across midfield, was a key player in the Wexford setup and earned her first senior international call-up from Vera Pauw as a result.

Molloy broke into the Republic of Ireland international squad as part of the EURO 2021 qualifying campaign, earning her debut in for the Girls In Green against Ukraine.

A fantastic breakthrough season for the talented footballer who appears to have the world at her feet. With vision, strength, physicality and temperament to back up her exceptional talent, the ceiling appears to be limitless for the Kilkenny native.


Ellen Walshe

Ellen Walshe of Templeogue Swimming Club became the first Irish woman to break the one-minute barrier in the 100m butterfly, in January earlier this year.

The young Irish swimmer shaved almost a second off her own personal best from the 2019 Irish Open Swimming Championships to remove Shauna O’Brien’s 2015 time from the record books. Shauna O’Brien’s record from 2015 stood at 1.00.21.

Walshe swam a time of 59.54 to win gold at the Flanders Swim Cup in Belgium. The next day, at the same competition, the 19-year old secured a second gold medal in the 200m butterfly event.

A talented swimmer in both the butterfly and the individual medley, Walshe has committed herself to the University of Tennessee for the 2021-22 season and beyond.


Katelynn Phelan

Kildare’s Katelynn Phelan pulled off one of the biggest results in Irish boxing this year as she defeated Germany’s heavy favourite Jessica Schadko by TKO, to win the World Boxing Council Youth title, the World Boxing Federation title, and the Women’s International Boxing Association title.

Phelan is Ireland’s youngest professional female boxer and while it may have appeared that the fight was coming too early in her young career, the performance and victory said otherwise.

The Lilywhite produced a sensational performance which saw her grind Schadko to a halt before the sixth round.

Schadko was coming into the fight on an eight fight winning streak while Phelan had just three professional fights before this. The odds were firmly stacked against Phelan who also had to travel to Schadko’s own CPI Gym in Munich to fight for the world titles.

The St. Brigid’s Boxing Club graduate is a nine-time Irish national title-holder and holds two World and European Youth Championships medals.


Lana Hayes

Lana Hayes co-captained the Irish Netball Under 17’s as they created history, becoming the first ever Irish Under 17 team to take gold at the European Netball Challenge Cup.

The Netball team secured first place in the European U17 Championships in the Isle of Man in March – this see’s them promoted to the highest division.

Hayes’s leadership and dominance in defence helped Ireland win three games out of three – defeating the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar.

Her dominance on the court incredibly saw Ireland win every quarter of every game they played.

Not content with just one trophy in one sport, Hayes was part of the Loreto Beaufort Senior Hockey team which overcame Newpark Comprehensive to win the Leinster Hockey Schoolgirls Senior Cup.


Lara Gillespie

Irish cyclist Lara Gillespie made the daunting step up to senior racing this year and enjoyed a hugely successful season.

Astonishingly, the UCD Cycling Club rider picked up one gold, one silver and one bronze in her first ever Senior National Track Championships in August.

The Junior World Bronze medalist won gold in the scratch race while she picked up silver in the 3km pursuit and bronze in the sprint final.

A month later, Gillespie was crowned Irish champion after an exhilarating Road National Championship, which saw her come first in a sprint finish at Knockaderry.

Earlier this year, Gillespie set a new Irish National record alongside her teammates as they shaved four seconds off of the previous best, to set a new Team Pursuit record of 4.21.368.

Just last year, the 19-year old became the first Irish person, both male or female, to step on a podium at the Junior Track World Championships.


Lydia Heaphy

Lydia Heaphy has been competing for Ireland for a number of years but 2020 was her best year yet. Competing at both the U23 and Senior Europeans the Skibbereen/UCC athlete showed her versatility as she raced in both sweep and sculling events.

Heaphy made Ireland proud this year when she won gold at the U23 Rowing Championships in the lightweight pair alongside her partner Clíodhna Nolan. This win was the best result of Heaphy’s career to date as they also set a new U23 World Record.

Soon after the gold medal win, Heaphy competed at the European Championships, where she competed at the Senior Europeans in the lightweight single scull. She won the B Final, beating crews from Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, showing she is a force to be reckoned with.

Her talent and those of her lightweight teammates bodes well for Irish rowing as they continue to make their mark. The lightweight rowing events have been confirmed for the Olympics in Paris 2024, events in which Ireland are historically strong – watch this space!


Nadia Power

Irish runner Nadia Power had an amazing 2020 as she left her mark on Irish athletics.

Power took the opportunities to race during this unusual season and it certainly paid off. She won the 800m at the Motonet GP in Finland in August before moving on to take first place in the 800m in World Athletics Continental Tour in Croatia in September. Power ran an impressive time of 2:02.08, her second fastest in her career. Only four Irish women have run faster in the last five years – which included Power when she ran a new personal best and new Irish U-23 record in Italy and moved to 6th on the all time list.

It’s was a remarkable 8 days for Power, who ran three of the fastest times of her career.

To finish off the month, she moved to 9th on the all time Irish list for the mile after running a 4.32.5 in Barcelona, which was a personal best.

With a successful season under her belt, she also used her platform to speak out against racism following the global movement on the death of George Floyd. By educating herself about racism and pushing others to do the same, she has stepped up to make a change in her community.

A fantastic year for the young sprinter, who looks to 2021 with goals of getting faster and sets her sights on competing at the Olympics.

MEET THE OTHER CONTENDERS

HerSport Editor

Her Sport is a media platform centred on bringing the latest Irish and international women’s sports news. Her Sport aims to empower women in sport, inspire more female participation, increase opportunity and level the playing field for future generations. Our objective is to create real and tangible change.

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