Sunday 18 August 2019

Star-studded line-up for top accolade

Paul O’Donovan, who shared our 2016 Sportstar of the Year award with his brother Gary. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul O’Donovan, who shared our 2016 Sportstar of the Year award with his brother Gary. Photo: Sportsfile
John Moore

John Moore

Ireland's World Cup hopes may have ended in bitter disappointment, but it has still been a year to remember for Irish sport at home and abroad.

The Irish Independent became the first to recognise sporting excellence with our Sportstar of the Week award way back in 1953.

The 2017 edition of our roll of honour is almost complete and now it's time for our readers to choose who should be the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year in association with The Croke Park Hotel.

To help refresh your memory of the year's outstanding sporting achievements, below is a selection of the citations which accompanied our weekly awards every Friday throughout the year. But you can vote for anyone who was named Sportstar of the Week.

We also want you to vote for the Young Sportstar of the Year, Team of the Year and the Sports Magic Moment of the Year.

You must pick your Young Sportstar of the Year from the list below, while Team of the Year is your own choice.

The contenders for the Sports Magic Moment of Year will be announced next week on, where full details of an exciting competition will be explained. In the meantime, reflect on some truly outstanding sporting achievements.

To further help you with your selection, our top writers will be making their choices in the coming weeks, but it's the readers' votes that will decide who is crowned the 2017 Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year in association with The Croke Park Hotel.

Noel Fehily, Ruby Walsh (Sportstars of the Week, March 17)

Noel Fehily and Ruby Walsh are two of the senior statesmen in the weighing room but they showed class was permanent in the marquee races at Cheltenham.

Fehily steered Buveur D'Air home in the Champion Hurdle and drove Special Tiara to a shock Queen Mother Champion Chase win, while Walsh bounced back from Douvan's disappointment to ride a 179/1 four-timer, including Nichols Canyon in the Stayers Hurdle and Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase.

Colm Cooper, Darragh O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Robbie Power (Sportstars of the Week, March 24 )

A bumper weekend of sporting action deserves a bumper list of winners.

On St Patrick's Day, jockey Robbie Power and Sizing John made sure Irish eyes were smiling in Cheltenham when they romped to Gold Cup glory.

On the home front, one of Gaelic football's greats, Colm Cooper, secured his long-awaited All-Ireland club title with Dr Crokes, while Kerry native Darragh O'Connell helped Cuala strike a blow for hurling in Dublin by securing the county's first senior club title.

Meanwhile, at Lansdowne Road, no one did more than Peter O'Mahony as Ireland derailed England's record-chasing chariot.

Eddie Dunbar, Derek Fox, David Moran (Sportstars of the Week, April 14)

David Moran was majestic as Kerry finally beat Dublin and ended their 36-game unbeaten streak in a nail-biting league final.

A day earlier, Sligo jockey Derek Fox made light of his Grand National inexperience when steering 14/1 shot One For Arthur to glory in what was his first ride in the £1m Aintree showpiece.

And over in Belgium, Cork's Eddie Dunbar was too good for the rest when becoming the first Irish cyclist to win the U-23 edition of the Tour of Flanders.

Conor Whelan (Sportstar of the Week, April 28)

Conor Whelan set the lightning tempo right from the start of the NHL Division 1 final as Galway gave Tipperary a 16-point trimming. The Kinvara sharpshooter contributed 0-5 from play and his slick interventions kept Michael Ryan's men on the back foot throughout.

Jason Smyth (Sportstar of the Week, July 21)

Jason Smyth has made winning a habit and there was no let-up in that regard at the World Para-athletics Championships in London as the 30-year-old added the T13 200m crown to the 100m title won just two days earlier.

It was the Derry sensation's seventh World Championship gold and means he remains unbeaten in Paralympic competition since making his international debut at the European Championships in 2005.

Joe Canning (Sportstar of the Week, August 11)

Joe Canning stole the headlines when featuring in a riveting interview with Vincent Hogan and he then let his hurling do the talking when producing a second-half masterclass to lift Galway into the All-Ireland hurling final.

Canning scored the Tribesmen's last five points in their epic victory over Tipperary - including what was surely one of the most iconic winning points of all-time with an outrageously audacious effort when hounded by Tipp rivals under the Cusack Stand in the fourth minute of injury-time.

Jack McCaffrey, Mona McSharry (Sportstars of the Week, Sept 1)

Jack McCaffrey was at his energetic best, combining defensive duties with dynamic forward thrusts as Dublin produced an awesome display to demolish Tyrone and qualify for an All-Ireland final showdown with Mayo. And it was another week to remember for Mona McSharry, who set an Irish senior record of 1:07.10 when claiming gold in the 100m breaststroke at the World Junior Swimming Championships in Indianapolis..

David Burke (Sportstar of the Week, Sept 8)

The Galway captain led by example as the Tribesmen ended their long wait for All-Ireland hurling glory.

The St Thomas' clubman decorated a superb midfield performance by scoring four points, two in either half, to help Galway overcome Waterford and end their 29-year wait to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup

Rena Buckley (Sportstar of the Week, Sept 15)

Cork dual star Rena Buckley claimed her 18th All-Ireland winner's medal as the Rebelettes overcame Kilkenny in the camogie final.

The Inniscarra player recorded her seventh camogie triumph to add to her 11 in football since her first appearance in a final, aged just 17. Buckley also became the first person to captain her native county to senior All-Ireland glory in both codes.

Dublin footballers (Sportstars of the Week, Sept 23)

Many thought it couldn't be done in the modern era of Gaelic football but the Dublin juggernaut continued bounding forward with their third successive All-Ireland success - and they are showing no signs of relinquishing their stranglehold on the game any time soon.

They may have beaten Mayo by only the narrowest of margins but Jim Gavin's side continue to answer every question that is asked of them. Even on a day when so much went right for Mayo, Dublin once again produced the goods when it mattered on Gaelic football's biggest stage.

Paul O'Donovan, Shane O'Driscoll, Mark O'Donovan, Paul Dunne (Sportstars of the Week, October 6)

In another memorable weekend for Irish sport on the international stage, Olympic silver medallist Paul O'Donovan retained his lightweight single sculls crown at the World Rowing Championships in Florida after his Skibbereen club-mates Shane O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan had set the tone by claiming gold in the lightweight pair.

And then Paul Dunne clinched his first victory on the European Tour by chipping in at the last to complete a remarkable 61 in the final round of the British Masters that enabled him to hold off Rory McIlroy's charge

James McClean (Sportstar of the Week, October 13)

Cometh the 57th minute of Ireland's critical Group D encounter against Wales, cometh the key player of their campaign.

Just as he did the away games against Moldova and Austria, James McClean stepped up when it mattered to earn three vital World Cup points for Martin O'Neill's men.

Having been suspended for the previous game, McClean returned to produce a performance of purpose and passion, which he capped by scoring a stunning winner.

Katie Taylor, Aidan O'Brien (Sportstars of the Week, Nov 3)

Two of Ireland's greatest sporting achievers over the last decade continue to achieve new milestones.

Bray's Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor announced herself to a whole new audience with a gutsy and glorious 12-round victory over Anahi Sanchez to win the WBA lightweight world title.

It was also the day when Aidan O'Brien added to his 29 English and 39 Irish Classic wins and his Prix de l'Arc and Breeders' Cup triumphs by breaking the world record for Group One winners in a season.

When Saxon Warrior crossed the line in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, it netted O'Brien his 26th Group One winner of the year, surpassing Bobby Frankel's previous best.

Joseph O'Brien, Colin Keane (Sportstars of the Week, Nov 10)

Joseph O'Brien has already achieved more in racing at the age of 24 than most could dream about doing in a lifetime and he recorded another milestone by becoming the youngest trainer to win the Melbourne Cup when Rekindling led home an incredible Irish 1-2-3 in 'the race that stops a nation'.

Colin Keane, meanwhile, followed in O'Brien's footsteps as a rider by claiming the Flat Jockeys' Championship for the first time and then put the perfect seal on his triumph by reaching 100 winners for the season on the final day of the 2017 campaign.

Nominations for Irish Independent Young Sportstar of the Year

David Clifford

The Kingdom surely have a rare gem on their hands in the Fossa teenager, who has been the talk of terraces over the last two years - first helping St Brendan's, Killarney claim the Hogan Cup and then inspiring the Kerry minors to back-to-back All-Ireland MFC titles. A gifted forward with a languid style similar to the great Maurice Fitzgerald, Clifford can kick points from distance off both feet and can poach goals in an instant. His scoring stats have been staggering - crowned by his 4-4 haul against Derry in this year's minor final. Now that he has decided to turn down Aussie Rules offers, the GAA world is quite literally at this feet.

Eddie Dunbar

Eddie Dunbar may have only just got his hands on the key to the door but he already holds the keys to the cycling kingdom.

The talented Corkman, who turned 21 in September, has been blazing a trail for Irish cycling internationally for the last three seasons, and in April he claimed the biggest victory of his fledgling career in the prestigious U-23 Tour of Flanders.

The most exciting prospect in Irish cycling powered away from the chasing bunch to take a solo victory in the green jersey.

After signing for Irish cycling team Aqua Blue Sport, Fast Eddie looks set to come of age at elite level in 2018.

Gina Akpe-Moses

The fastest girl in Europe is Irish, and her name is Gina Akpe-Moses. Until this year, no Irishwoman had ever won a European sprint title at U-20 level or above, but in a little over 11 seconds Akpe-Moses changed all that.

The 18-year-old took a surprise gold medal over 100m at the European U-20 Championships in Italy in July, shrugging off a series of injuries and a roaring headwind to power to victory in 11.71 seconds.

Akpe-Moses moved to Ireland with her family from Nigeria at the age of two, first settling in Athlone, then later Dundalk, where she used to beat the fastest boys in her class in races across the schoolyard.

Mona McSharry

Mona McSharry became the first Irish swimmer to win a gold medal at the World Junior Championships when she triumphed in the 100m breaststroke in Indianapolis in August.

And she smashed the national senior record in the process, clocking 1:07.10 as she led from start to finish with a breath-taking performance. The Sligo 17-year-old, a member of the Marlins Swimming Club in Ballyshannon, also won bronze in the 50m breaststroke to cap a remarkable summer, during which she also claimed the gold medal in the 50m and 100m breaststroke and silver in the 200m breaststroke at the European Junior Championships.

Saoirse Noonan

Saoirse Noonan had a year to remember in two codes. Ireland's most exciting women's soccer prospect won her first senior cap, helped the U-19s qualify for the elite stage of the European Championship qualifiers, was voted U-17 Player of the Year and helped Cork City win the Women's FAI Cup. And, as if that wasn't enough to keep her busy, Saoirse was the stand-out performer in the ladies minor Gaelic football championship. The Nemo Rangers player scored 3-4 from full-forward, all but two points coming from play, as Cork defeated Galway in the All-Ireland final, having earlier bagged 4-4 in their victory over Kerry in the Munster decider.

Con O'Callaghan

Con O'Callaghan may no longer be a secret weapon for Dublin or Cuala but he continues to deliver devastating attacking performances in Gaelic football and hurling. The 21-year-old has had a remarkable 2017, winning three All-Ireland medals and starring for all three of those teams - his club hurling crown preceding his success with Dublin's U-21 and senior footballers. O'Callaghan was then crowned Young Footballer of the Year before he picked up his first All-Star. And he has shown no signs of slowing down as the nights get shorter - as any of Cuala's opponents in recent weeks can testify.

Conor Whelan

It is a measure of Galway's prolific accuracy from distance that they managed to win a first All-Ireland title in 29 years without scoring a goal in their last four championship matches. Central to that was Conor Whelan, the recently crowned 'Young Hurler of the Year' who lit up the league and championship with his devastating pace, ability to turn and shoot on the run. When Galway were crowned league champions with a 16-point win over Tipperary, he whipped over five points and followed that up with a seven-point return against Offaly in the Leinster semi-final before hitting four more against Tipp in the All-Ireland semi-final.


The Croke Park - Dublin's iconic sporting hotel

Shortlisted as 'Best Business Hotel' and 'Ireland's Favourite Place to Stay - Dublin' in the 2017 Gold Medal Awards, The Croke Park, a Doyle Collection hotel, epitomises the very essence of warmth of welcome, friendliness and 'can-do' service.

As Dublin's iconic sporting hotel, their close-knit team is passionate about all things sport.

In equal measure, it is passionate about service and ensuring that guests enjoy their stay to the full and leave wanting to come back.

Just feet away from the 'Field of Dreams', the sense of awe-inspiring sporting and event occasions is embedded into the fibre of The Croke Park. Guests can breathe in the ambience surrounding the thrill of an All-Ireland match or the excitement of a headline concert event.

Community support is also at the heart of the hotel's ethos. As part of its GAA Club Support Programme, the hotel donates 5pc of each guest's room and food bill to their chosen GAA club when booked directly.

Since the initiative began, it has raised €31,000 for clubs throughout the country.

Within easy access of Dublin's popular tourist and family attractions, The Croke Park is the perfect choice for business, leisure and family guests and promises a stay to remember.

For further information or to make a reservation, call (01) 871 4444, email or visit

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