NOMINATIONS FOR IRISH INDEPENDENT YOUNG SPORTSTAR OF THE YEAR
Six months after he played a starring role in Clontarf winning the All-Ireland League final, Joey made his international debut when he came off the bench in Chicago to help steer Ireland to a famous first victory over New Zealand. The 21-year-old Kiwi-born out-half moved to Ireland when he was 11 and, after impressing for Athy RFC and later Blackrock College, he soon caught the eye. He scored two tries on his first Leinster start in September and a month later was called into the Ireland squad.
Since announcing himself on the Championship stage with a stunning solo goal against Cork back in 2014, the rise of the Waterford hotshot has continued unabated. The Mount Sion clubman's performances helped steer the county's U-21s to Munster and All-Ireland honours and, while their senior campaign ended in bitter disappointment as they lost to Kilkenny in a semi-final replay, Austin's outstanding displays saw his inter-county peers choose him as their Hurler of the Year for 2016. For good measure, he was also voted Young Hurler of the Year.
Jack was just 16 when winning the lucrative Troytown Chase last season, an incredible achievement, and things got even better for him this year. He rode out his claim in May - well ahead of expectations - and has continued his amazing progress since then. Now 17, the Dingle native has already ridden two Grade Three winners, established himself as stable rider for the powerful Gordon Elliott and is closing in on 100 winners - a monstrous tally in a game dominated by few.
The Cork teenager set an F38 world record of 32.14m as she won gold in the discus at the IPC Athletics European Championships in Italy and then exceeded all expectations at the Rio Paralympic Games, winning bronze with a best throw of 31.71. Having had to wait until the penultimate day of competition for her event, the 16-year-old twin, the youngest in the field by far, who is coached locally by her father Jim and nationally by Dave Sweeney, showed composure well beyond her years, holding her nerve admirably to claim her place on the podium.
Sean's career was at a crossroads last winter. The disappointment of being released by West Ham was followed by a frustrating spell at Dundalk. Cork boss John Caulfield gave him an opportunity to relaunch his career and the young striker seized it. The Kilkenny native hit the ground running in his new home and went on to score 29 goals in all competitions. He was also on target for Ireland's U-21s but the undoubted highlight of his excellent year was scoring the winner in the FAI Cup final.
Growing up as Cillian O'Connor's younger brother would mean a lifetime in the shade for most players, but Diarmuid has already marked out a reputation for himself as one of the finest half-forwards around. The Ballintubber man helped Mayo to All-Ireland U-21 glory this year, producing some brilliant displays, studded with some awesome scores along the way. For good measure, he also emulated Cillian's remarkable feat when winning the Young Footballer of the Year award for the second season in a row.