Gallery: Con O'Callaghan, Aidan O'Brien, Joe Canning and Sonia O'Sullivan pick up gongs at the Irish Independent Sportstar Awards
THE cream of the crop rubbed shoulders and were afforded the acclaim that their sporting mastery deserved at the 2017 Irish Independent Sportstar awards. Big winners on the night included horse racing trainer Aidan O’Brien, All-Ireland hurling champ Joe Canning and Dublin GAA maestro Con O’Callaghan.
Athletics legend Sonia O’Sullivan was inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Jim Gavin’s Dublin charges came out on top as Team of the Year following their historic three-in-a-row All-Ireland success.
The winners were joined by a host of sporting stars from past and present, including Olympic champion Ronnie Delaney, horse trainer Jessica Harrington, former Ireland manager Brian Kerr and Dublin Ladies Player of the Year Noelle Healy.
The event, held in association with The Croke Park hotel, also included some of the country’s rising stars.
Aidan O’Brien’s son Joseph, who won the historic Melbourne Cup earlier in the year, stole some of his father’s limelight, despite Aidan taking the Sportstar of the Year gong.
Asked who is the bigger name at the moment, Aidan pointed in the direction of his son.
“Joseph I’d say. Sure the Melbourne Cup was unbelievable,” he said.
However, Joseph modestly played this down. “We’re both very lucky to have had good years,” he said.
“It’s great to be invited to events like this and look back on it and then it’s on to next year,” he added.
Meanwhile, Galway star Canning was awarded Sporting Moment of the Year for his miraculous last-minute point to clinch victory over Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final. It was all down to luck, he reckoned.
“It was one of those things where you just got it and hit it and in a way you just kind of hope for the best,” he said.
“Other times obviously they don’t go over, we were really lucky that it did this year,” he added.
Asked about the feeling of finally getting over the line to clinch the Liam MacCarthy Cup, he insisted it was just relief.
“Relief is the best word to describe it because it just felt like a pressure valve was released.”
Olympic silver medallist O’Sullivan had almost two tables of family and friends in attendance at the awards as she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s really nice to have a table of friends, a table of family...I never thought I could invite so many people,” she said.
“It’s also good to have people here who have been behind me and supported me for so many years,” she added.
From one athletics champ to another, European under-20 sprint gold medallist Gina Akpe-Moses told the Irish Independent it has been a whirlwind year.
“It’s been something I can reflect on and I can build on as well, it’s been a very good year,” she said.
She explained that while it’s been great “I haven’t fully understood it yet.”