Friday 26 December 2014

Pick our Sportstar of the Year and win a great weekend break

Published 17/12/2012 | 14:32

ONE of the most remarkable years for Irish sport ebbs to a close and we are left with the difficult challenge of choosing one moment, one figure above all others.

The wheels are already turning in our pursuit of the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year in association with the Croke Park Hotel – a verdict that will ultimately be delivered by you, our readers.

Everyone who votes for the winner will be in with a chance of winning a luxury weekend for two in the Croke Park Hotel. There will also be two runner-up prizes of a weekend for two in any of the Doyle Collection hotels in Ireland.

To be in with a chance of winning one of these great prizes, simply fill in the coupon printed in the Irish Independent everyday.

The closing date is Wednesday, January 2. There will be no cash alternatives offered in lieu of any prize and the editor’s decision in all matters relating to the competition is final.

So, who will it be? Katie Taylor won the hearts of the nation by claiming Olympic gold at a throbbing ExCel Arena in London. The Bray girl, who earlier in the year won a fourth consecutive world title, delivered the full repertoire of storied ringcraft that has established her as, arguably, the finest female boxer on the planet.

At the same venue, Mullingar's John Joe Nevin won bantamweight silver, while Belfast duo Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan collected bronze.

In the showjumping arena, Cian O'Connor also made it to the podium to bring Ireland's medal haul to five.

And let’s not forget our magnificent Paralympians and their superb list of triumphs at the London Games.

Then again, did any star shine brighter in global sport this year than Rory McIlroy? The youngest player to be voted USPGA Tour Player of the Year since Tiger Woods in '98, McIlroy finished leading money winner on both sides of the Atlantic and, of course, collected his second Major with a runaway victory in the USPGA at Kiawah Island.

Graeme McDowell also finished strongly, ending a two-year winless drought by taking the $1.2m first prize in the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club, California, while Padraig Harrington showed signs of his old form with a strong challenge in the Masters at Augusta.

Or what about some home-grown heroes? Did anything really compare to Henry Shefflin's ninth All-Ireland medal, 10th All Star and Hurler of the Year award from a season in which he endured a struggle to overcome a careerthreatening shoulder injury?

And how does Brian Cody's extraordinary managerial achievement rank?

Or, indeed, Jim McGuinness' alchemy in turning Donegal into All-Ireland champions?

While Ireland’s rugby team had a disappointing season, Leinster won the Heineken Cup for the second year in a row by beating Ulster in an all-Ireland final, having overcome Clermont in a memorable semi-final.

In soccer, the finals of Euro 2012 are best forgotten from an Irish viewpoint, but the beautiful game lived up to its name in several other respects – not least Sligo Rovers winning the League of Ireland for the first time in 35 years and Neil Lennon leading his Celtic warriors to a famous victory over Barcelona and a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

On the racing front, Aidan O’Brien secured 10 Group One triumphs, while Tom Queally will forever be remembered as the jockey who partnered the flawless Frankel to 13 wins.

In National Hunt, Irish horses had their worst Cheltenham in years with just five winners compared with an unprecedented 13 in 2011. That said, an Irishman – Barry Geraghty – was leading rider at the Festival and another, AP McCoy, rode Synchronised to victory in the Gold Cup.

And, if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, up pops Wicklow’s Fionnuala Britton, who became the first woman to win the European Cross-Country Championship twice in succession.

For good measure, Ireland also won the team event for the first time thanks to the efforts of Britton, Lizzie Lee, Ava Hutchinson, Linda Byrne, Sara Treacy and Sarah McCormack.

Sportstar of the week winners

JANUARY

James McClean (soccer)

Kieran Behan (gymnastics)

Andrew Trimble (rugby)

Craig Breen (motorsport)

FEBRUARY

Wille Mullins (racing)

Joe Ward (boxing)

Liam Watson (hurling)

Amy Bowtell (tennis)

MARCH

Paul Flynn (football)

Rory McIlroy (golf)

Barry Geraghty (racing)

Liam Watson (hurling)

Paul Stirling (cricket)

APRIL

Caroline Ryan (cycling)

Tom Gibney (racing)

Andrew Thornton (racing)

Daryl Jacob (racing)

Adam Nolan (boxing)

MAY

Graham Canty (football)

Eoin Larkin (hurling)

Katie Taylor (boxing)

Colm Griffin (athletics)

Ger Owens (sailing)

Scott Flanigan (sailing)

Eoin Rheinisch (canoeing)

Hannah Craig (canoeing)

Katie Taylor (boxing)

Sean O’Brien (rugby)

JUNE

Peter Lawrie (golf)

Aidan O’Brien (racing)

Joseph O’Brien (racing)

Adrian Marren (football)

Tom Queally (racing)

Patrick Maher (hurling)

JULY

Conor Gillespie (football)

Joe Canning (hurling)

John O’Brien (hurling)

Frank McGlynn (football)

AUGUST

Henry Shefflin (hurling)

Katie Taylor (boxing)

Rory McIlroy (golf)

John Joe Nevin (boxing)

Aidan Fogarty(hurling)

Neil Gallagher(football)

SEPTEMBER

Bethany Firth (swimming)

Darragh McDonald (swimming)

Jason Smyth (athletics)

Michael McKillop (athletics)

Mark Rohan (cycling)

Henry Shefflin (hurling)

Joe Canning (hurling)

Ursula Jacob (camogie)

Cathal McInerney (hurling)

Michael Murphy (football)

OCTOBER

Henry Shefflin (hurling)

Geraldine O’Flynn (football)

Raffaele Cretaro (soccer)

Shane Lowry (golf)

Richard Hughes (racing)

Paul Brady (handball)

Padraig Harrington (golf)

NOVEMBER

Dean Rock (football)

Rory Patterson (soccer)

Neil Lennon (soccer)

Craig Breen (motorsport)

Burke family (hurling)

Craig Gilroy (rugby)

DECEMBER

Brian Looney (football)

Fionnuala Britton (athletics)

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