2010 Texaco Sportstars of the Year
1 Athletics Derval O'Rourke
Published 03/11/2010 | 05:00
The Leevale hurdler can vividly remember the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, even though she was just 11 at the time.
In particular, O'Rourke (29) can recall Gail Devers, a superhero to her, and how the American hit the last hurdle, and fell. Despite the disaster, Derval was steadfast that the hurdles would be her event.
It turned out to be a wise decision and as she journeyed to Barcelona last summer for the European Championships, she was confident that the title would be hers.
It wasn't to be, though. She lost out to Turkey's Nevin Yanit by two hundredths of a second, despite running an Irish record time of 12.65.
Victory would have ensured she would be remembered as one of the greatest sprint hurdlers of her time.
She deserves that accolade, but is very happy to have medalled at four major championships -- and believes that she can make it down to 12.4.
2 Boxing Katie Taylor
By any standards, Taylor (24) is a remarkable sportswoman. A soccer international with over 40 caps, she decided that she would have to concentrate on just one sport if she was to achieve the heights she aspired to in the boxing ring.
In 2005, the girl from Bray -- trained by her father, Peter -- first revealed her class when winning the European lightweight title. A year later, she took the world title and retained that crown in 2008.
Three months ago in Barbados, Katie completed a hat-trick of world titles when outclassing Cheng Dong 18-5 in the final. But as her semi-final drew to a conclusion, there was a distinct possibility that she would not make the final. From leading 10-2 at the end of the second round, she appeared to be on the brink of elimination as American Queen Underwood produced a magnificent response of heavy hitting in the final minutes to level the scoring.
But Taylor responded magnificently, hammering home the final two points of the contest to pave the way for the 100th success of her career in the final.
She was then voted best fighter in the world by her colleagues and peers on the night, reflecting her pre-eminent position in the sport.
3 Gaelic Football Bernard Brogan
Football is in the Brogan blood, but breeding is no guarantee of success. Marked out from an early age as an outstanding player with two tremendously accurate feet and exceptional balance under pressure, this was the summer when he came of age.
The first glimpse of what lay ahead arrived in June against Wexford when an out-of-sorts Dublin were dragged by their bootlaces into the Leinster semi-final with 2-4 from Brogan.
After a hammering from Meath in that semi-final, Dublin then regrouped in the qualifiers, with Brogan notching 0-7 against Tipperary, 0-9 against Armagh and 0-3 against Louth.
The quarter-final meeting with Tyrone provided an opportunity for Dublin to bury some ghosts and Brogan grabbed it with both hands, contributing 0-4 from play and another 0-5 from placed balls in an outstanding individual display.
Cork were to bring dreams of the ultimate prize crashing down, but not before Brogan had produced one more masterful display. His ice-cool goal in the opening minute set the tone for most of the game and he added another seven points as Dublin came agonisingly close to reaching their first All-Ireland final since 1995.
His summer of Trojan work, incisive passing, remarkable positional sense and precision finishing made him, by some distance, the outstanding footballer of the year.
4 Golf Graeme McDowell
Within two weeks of winning the Wales Open at Celtic Manor in June, the golfer affectionately known as G-Mac went to Pebble Beach and had his name inscribed on the US Open trophy.
McDowell had joined the Major-winning elite, defying the stiff breeze on the back nine that accounted for the likes of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and overnight leader Dustin Johnson.
The greatest day of his life, certainly, but life would get even better. Back in Celtic Manor in October, the destination of the Ryder Cup was thrust into his hands.
Win the final game, and Europe would regain the trophy; lose, and the Americans would rejoice. One up with three to play, the tie was in the balance.
McDowell had just lost the 15th and the pressure going to the next hole was enormous. Another hole lost might have been catastrophic. But the moment of truth found him as resilient as ever. In his own words, "No 16 was the greatest second shot and the greatest putt I ever hit in my career."
Two up with two to play, his opponent, Hunter Mahan, conceded on the 17th.
McDowell later reflected on a stunning victory: "I didn't want it to come down to me, that's for sure. But it's a special feeling -- nothing quite like it."
5 Horse Racing Tony McCoy
Acclaimed racing writer Brough Scott concluded his report on the Grand National in April with the words, 'A life in a race, a sport in a life, a man called AP McCoy finally doing what destiny decreed.'
It aptly summed up what victory on Don't Push It meant for the man from Moneyglass in Antrim, who has been champion jockey in Britain for the past 15 years, who has won every race in the calendar that matters -- many of them on numerous occasions -- but who had found the crowning glory that Aintree bestows so elusive.
But as the grandstands erupted on that glorious day and the horse was being led back to a packed enclosure, the most implacable of all the jockeys, suddenly struck by the magnitude of his triumph, rose in the saddle, held both hands high and celebrated with a mighty roar to which the crowd reacted again and again.
This was the day that his life had been lived for. He had won the Aintree Grand National, the people's race. His life had been fulfilled.
6 Hurling Lar Corbett
A week after shattering Kilkenny's dream of a record fifth successive All-Ireland title in September, Corbett was refused entry to his field of dreams, Semple Stadium.
Arriving early for the All-Ireland U-21 final, the guardian of the gate said 'no' to the Thurles Sarsfields man, despite being told who he was. At that moment, there wasn't a home in the county that wouldn't have taken in Lar for the rest of his life.
His hat-trick of goals at Croke Park was pivotal in a victory that might rank as the most important in the history of Tipperary hurling -- despite his deferential words after the game that "it's all about the win; there's no good coming up to Croke Park, scoring three goals and going home a losing team".
The first goal was created when he rose above Noel Hickey and blasted past a helpless PJ Ryan; the second, when Noel McGrath offloaded to him and the only thing that was going to hamper Corbett was John Tennyson's hurley as it flew through the air; finally there was the simplicity and majesty as he swept home the third -- which prompted Cats manager Brian Cody to turn away and look to the skies in desperation.
7 Rugby Tommy Bowe
The Ireland wing would not have been the most popular man in the RDS on May 29. Well, not with Leinster supporters.
Playing for the Ospreys in the Magners League final, he crashed over the line in the 17th minute to give the Welsh team a lead they would never relinquish.
And so, a much-anticipated day of glory for the odds-on favourites -- with Michael Cheika and Malcolm O'Kelly bowing out at the conclusion of the game -- turned into a wake in the watering holes close to Ballsbridge.
For the former Monaghan minor footballer, the 2009-10 season was dream-like, illustrated by the fact that he scooped the Players' Player of the Year award in Wales, the equivalent in Ireland for the second time and then the Six Nations Player of the Tournament -- a remarkable hat-trick.
At the inaugural Magners League awards ceremony, he added to his honours when receiving the players' player award.
His scoring record for the season clearly illustrates why rugby judges hold him in such high esteem. Last season, he touched down 20 times in 32 matches: 15 for Ospreys (eight in the Magners League, seven in the Heineken Cup) as well as five for Ireland.
8 Swimming Grainne Murphy
After winning three gold medals at the European Junior Championships in 2009, last year's Texaco Young Sportstar of the Year lost no time in stepping up to the challenge of senior competition.
At 17, Murphy is further enhancing a career that promised so much from an early age.
Making the finals at the European Championships is very demanding, but head coach Ronald Claes had been impressed with Murphy at a training camp in Slovenia.
Claes was not surprised that she reached the 400m individual medley and 800m freestyle finals in Budapest before taking her place for her strongest event, the 1500m freestyle.
She quickly established herself in second place behind Lotte Friis, who had already won the 800m gold, and it was a silver medal position she never looked like losing.
What is remarkable about the swim is that it broke the Irish record she set in the heats by eight seconds and was the second fastest time in the world at that stage.
As she continues her studies and her punishing training regime in Limerick, thoughts of the London Olympics will certainly come into greater focus.