Sportstar Awards 2018

'We dream about seasons like this' - Sexton picks up two awards at Irish Independent Sportstar awards

Rugby hero scoops two awards at glittering Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards

Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, who was presented with the sports moment of the year award at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM Photos
Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, who was presented with the sports moment of the year award at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, is presented with the Sports Moment of the Year award from Muireann King, Director of Sales and Marketing, Croke Park Hotel, and Arlene Regan, Brand Manager, Irish Independent at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Johnny Sexton and his wife Laura. Picture: Damien Eagers

Irish rugby hero Johnny Sexton said he has to "pinch himself" after his magical year on the pitch as he picked up two awards at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards.

Sexton (33) was awarded Magic Moment of the Year for his incredible drop kick against France in Paris during Ireland's first game of the 2018 Six Nations.

That single moment set Ireland on their way to Grand Slam victory in a remarkable year for Irish rugby. Sexton, who attended the glittering awards ceremony in Croke Park with his wife Laura, was also awarded Sportstar of the Year.

It comes after he was recognised as World Rugby Player of the Year.

He said: "It's been a fantastic year, hopefully 2019 will be just as great.

"We dream about seasons like this and you have to pinch yourself sometimes to realise that it's all happened.

"I'm looking forward to the new season, the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup and obviously into the World Cup."

Sexton also revealed that the senior Irish players had been targeting the Grand Slam from a long way out, and approached head coach Joe Schmidt before the tournament to voice their ambition.

"We had targeted the Grand Slam," Sexton admitted.

20/12/2018, Sonia O'Sullivan (centre) with Irish athletes, Lizzie Lee and Mick Clohisey at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Sonia O'Sullivan (centre) with Irish athletes, Lizzie Lee and Mick Clohisey at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Sarah Healy, who was awarded the young sports star of the year award at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
Sarah Healy, who was awarded the young sports star of the year award at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Boxing coach, Billy Walsh, left and Donnacha O'Brien, Jockey at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
Boxing coach, Billy Walsh, left and Donnacha O'Brien, Jockey at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
The Ireland ladies hockey team who were awarded the sports team of the year at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
The Ireland ladies hockey team who were awarded the sports team of the year at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Dublin footballer, Brian Fenton and Mickey Whelan, former Dublin manager at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Dublin footballer, Brian Fenton and Mickey Whelan, former Dublin manager at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, From left to right are, Sean Boylan, former Meath manager, with Trainers, Aidan O'Brien and Jim Bolger at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, From left to right are, Sean Boylan, former Meath manager, with Trainers, Aidan O'Brien and Jim Bolger at the Irish Independent Sports Star of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018 Irish athlete, Mick Clohisey and his wife Crona at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018 Irish athlete, Mick Clohisey and his wife Crona at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Johnny Sexton and his wife Laura at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Johnny Sexton and his wife Laura at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, who was presented with the Sports Moment of the Year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, who was presented with the Sports Moment of the Year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, The Ireland Women's Hockey Team who won the Team of the Year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, The Ireland Women's Hockey Team who won the Team of the Year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Boxing coach, Billy Walsh and Trainer Aidan O'Brien at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Boxing coach, Billy Walsh and Trainer Aidan O'Brien at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Sarah Healy (right) with her sister Julia. Sarah won the young sportsstar of the year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Sarah Healy (right) with her sister Julia. Sarah won the young sportsstar of the year award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, who were presented with the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, who were presented with the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, are presented with the Hall of fame award by Alan Smullen (left), General Manager of the Croke Park Hotel, and Michael Doorly, COO of INM at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, are presented with the Hall of fame award by Alan Smullen (left), General Manager of the Croke Park Hotel, and Michael Doorly, COO of INM at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, is presented with the Sports Moment of the Year award from Muireann King, Director of Sales and Marketing, Croke Park Hotel, and Arlene Regan, Brand Manager, Irish Independent at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
Johnny Sexton, Ireland rugby international, is presented with the Sports Moment of the Year award from Muireann King, Director of Sales and Marketing, Croke Park Hotel, and Arlene Regan, Brand Manager, Irish Independent at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, From l to r are, Stephen Kenny, Ireland U21 manager, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner. The Euro 88 Ireland team won the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, From l to r are, Stephen Kenny, Ireland U21 manager, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner. The Euro 88 Ireland team won the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, who were presented with the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Niall Quinn and Packie Bonner, who were presented with the Hall of Fame award at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
20/12/2018, Irish athlete, Patience Jumbo Gula, centre, and her sisters, Lara, left and Patricia at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM 20 Photos
20/12/2018, Irish athlete, Patience Jumbo Gula, centre, and her sisters, Lara, left and Patricia at the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Awards at Croke Park. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Irish Independent Football Correspondent Daniel McDonnell, left, and former Ireland rugby player Tony Ward speaking during the Irish Independent Sports Star of the Year Awards at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile 20 Photos
Irish Independent Football Correspondent Daniel McDonnell, left, and former Ireland rugby player Tony Ward speaking during the Irish Independent Sports Star of the Year Awards at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Fionnan Sheahan, Irish Independent Editor, speaking during the Irish Independent Sports Star of the Year Awards at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile 20 Photos
Fionnan Sheahan, Irish Independent Editor, speaking during the Irish Independent Sports Star of the Year Awards at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

"We had won championships and Joe doesn't let you get too far ahead of yourself but the senior player group said to him, 'listen, we want to win a Grand Slam'.

"A lot of us said it, you need to go in numbers to Joe, you can't go as one. Five or six of us said it to him and said, 'look, we have been targeting championships and that is great, but what is really special in Ireland is a Grand Slam'. There had only been two before us. We really wanted to win one. He allowed us one meeting where we said to the younger guys that everything this year is about the Grand Slam.

The women's Irish hockey team were recognised with the Team of the Year award after they claimed a silver medal in the Women's Hockey World Cup. Forward Deirdre Duke told the Irish Independent that this year had been "a whirlwind".

"The reception we got when we arrived home to Dublin after the World Cup was just incredible and to be invited to awards nights like this, it isn't something we are used to and it's lovely.

"We are grateful for the recognition and for the growing support of the Irish public.

"We have never qualified for the Olympics before so that's a huge task ahead of us."

Deirdre, from south Dublin, currently plays for Dusseldorf but she's returning home within the coming months to train as a solicitor.

Meanwhile, former Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner was in philosophical spirits for the year ahead as he accepted the Hall of Fame award in recognition of the Euro 1988 soccer team.

Packie will always be remembered for his heroic performance for Ireland's 1-0 win over England in Stuttgart.

"Soccer is up there with the great Irish sports and it always will be," Packie said.

"Sometimes you go through periods where you don't play well but we went through exactly the same in 86 and 87, as we are now and we had great players.

"Suddenly Jack came along and then we qualified and our success went on for 10 years.

"We had a bit of dip and then Mick came along and we qualified again.

"And I have no doubt with Mick taking over we will get back to where we were before.

"We need great football to lift us up. The sport can bring us together even during tough times like Brexit. It can happen for us again and I think Mick is the man to do it."

Runner Sarah Healy (17) was recognised as Young Sportsperson of the Year and she said she never expected the success she enjoyed this year. Sarah, a two-time gold medalist from the European under 18 Championships, is currently studying for her Leaving Cert at Holy Child secondary school in Killiney.

"I ran well and didn't let the pressure get to me. I'm in sixth year at the moment, so it's definitely really busy. But running is also a break from school and it's habit, something I have always done.

"My main goal next year is to go the European juniors and to do well in my Leaving Cert."