Wednesday 18 October 2017

NOMINATIONS FOR THE IRISH INDEPENDENT YOUNG SPORTSTAR OF THE YEAR AWARD

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SARAH LAVIN

Great athletes consistently produce personal bests in major championships. That has always been Derval O'Rourke's trademark and Sarah Lavin, who has been breaking O'Rourke's records at underage level, looks destined to follow in her footsteps.

The young Limerick sprint hurdles sensation from Emerald AC broke O'Rourke's Irish junior (U-20) indoor record last year and lowered it further in February. In June she broke O'Rourke's Irish junior outdoor record twice in one day in Geneva and lowered it twice more in July, most notably in the final of the European Junior Championships in Italy, where her life-time best of 13:34 earned a silver medal.

TONY KELLY

Clare hurling could hardly of dreamed of a more fruitful year and Kelly was one of the vital cogs as the Banner secured All-Ireland U-21 and senior honours.

All summer, Kelly treated us to his bag of tricks, each seemingly more outrageous than the last, and at all times there was substance to match his silky skills as Clare lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time since 1997.

Including this year's senior replay, the 19-year-old Ballyea man has already played in five All-Ireland finals and made history by becoming the first player to win the Young Hurler and Hurler of the Year awards at the recent All Stars ceremony. Remember the name.

JACK MCCAFFREY

McCaffrey embodied the new sense of adventure in the Dublin team that swept all before them.

Handed his championship debut as a sub by Pat Gilroy last summer, Jim Gavin opted to play the Clontarf ace from the start this year – not least because of McCaffrey's searing pace, which helped him make the left wing-back spot his own.

McCaffrey, who celebrated his 20th birthday on the day he won his first International Rules cap, delivered arguably his best performance in the All-Ireland quarter-final win against Cork when he capped a scintillating performance with a well-taken goal, before going on to receive the Young Footballer of the Year award.

ROBBIE HENSHAW

Apart from those who follow Connacht schools rugby, few people had heard of Athlone's rising star at the start of last season.

Fresh out of school, the former Westmeath minor footballer took to professional rugby like a duck to water and is now a key member of Pat Lam's team. He is also an Irish international after Les Kiss made him the fourth teenager to play for Ireland since rugby went professional by capping him against the United States and Canada.

Despite his youth, the full-back/centre combines power and pace with astute tactical ability and defensive nous and his strong running has made him a fans favourite at the Sportsground.

BRYAN COOPER

Less than two years after being crowned champion conditional jockey with a record 37 winners, Cooper took the Cheltenham Festival by storm with a sensational treble that was spearheaded by Our Conor's devastating Triumph Hurdle victory.

A fresh-faced 20-year-old at the time, he then coaxed a breathtaking exhibition of jumping out of First Lieutenant for his next famous Grade One success at Aintree. Two days later, he stole the show on the early part of the Grand National card by plundering a shock pillar-to-post victory on Special Tiara.

Happily, he is now back in action after being sidelined for four months with a broken leg.

Irish Independent

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