The former Tipperary boss was named the Phillips Sports Manager of the Year for 2010, and why not? His team’s destruction of Kilkenny and their quest for five in a row All-Ireland hurling titles was quite brilliant in an epic Croke Park final last September. Sheedy has since quit, due to work and family commitments, but hinted at the awards ceremony that he will be back in the future. We can only hope so.
To win the U.S Open title at Pebble Beach would count as a major achievement, pun intended, in any year, but Ulsterman McDowell did so much more than that in 2010 when he pocketed more than $5.5 million in winnings. GMac sunk the winning putt at the Ryder Cup, won the Welsh Open and the Valderrama Masters, and then tamed the Tiger at the Chevron Challenge in California to close out a quite incredible year for this Irish ambassador.
Quiet and shy in her day-to-day life but explosive in a boxing ring, Taylor is probably the greatest competing athlete in Ireland right now, if you know what I mean. The London Olympics can’t come quick enough for Bray girl Katie, who won a third consecutive title in the lightweight division at the world championships in Barbados in September and is now counting down the days to that gold medal quest in 2012.
Ulsterman McCoy didn’t need to finally win the British Grand National at the 15th attempt, aboard Don’t Push It back in March, to prove his greatness as one of the finest jump jockeys to leave Irish shores, but it did end a long, long wait for a man whose bravery is matched only by his undoubted skill in the saddle.
The big Seneschalstown full-forward scored the goal that should never have been allowed as Meath controversially beat a brave Louth in the final seconds of the Leinster final. Referee Martin Sludden’s stupid decision overshadowed even the World Cup final that same day and will forever rankle with Louth. The game should have been replayed -- but that’s a personal opinion.
MICHEAL O MUIRCHEARTAIGH
Sunday afternoons listening to the big GAA matches live on RTE Radio will never be the same again after one of the greatest Kerrymen of them all finally hung his microphone up for good after the Aussie Rules series in October. Go raibh maith agat, Micheal -- you are one of the greats of Irish life.
Counihan doesn’t say much when thrust into the public spotlight. He prefers to let his teams do the talking and the Cork footballers finally found their voice after a 20-year wait for Sam Maguire when Counihan orchestrated September’s narrow win over a Down side that conveniently knocked Kerry out of the title race on their way to Croker.
The ace attacker was the GAA’s star of the summer as a rebuilt Dublin squad confounded all the critics with a run all the way to the All-Ireland semifinals before a narrow one point defeat to eventual champions Cork. BB did win all the Footballer of the Year gongs, but you can bet he’d swap them all for a sniff of Sam.
In any normal year it is brother Ruby who grabs all the headlines for the Walsh family at Cheltenham, but not this year as Katie won not once but twice. Katie was crowned Queen of the Cotswolds as she romped home aboard Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars.
The Shamrock Rovers faithful had waited 16 years to win the League of Ireland title once again, so the fact that Michael O’Neill’s team crawled across the finishing line won’t have upset them too much, particularly as they pipped bitter rivals Bohs to the title. Rovers now have a new home in Tallaght and a new trophy collection to match.
Killybegs man Seamus Coleman provided the outstanding Irish soccer story of 2010. First, he tasted play-off success whilst on loan at Blackpool, and then he got his Premier League chance with Everton this season and took it. The fact that he is still awaiting his first international cap is a disgrace but, then again, we do have a manager more interested in DVDs than live football.
Only Michael Buble has managed to fill it so far, but the new Lansdowne Road really is a joy to behold. Okay, so Irish soccer will be paying for it for years and the Irish rugby team has also yet to fill it, but who can deny that we now have a world class stadium? All we need now are some really big ones for our soccer and rugby heroes to restore the venue to its old fortress status.
The Football Association of Ireland’s low price ticket policy attracted a massive 36,000 fans to Dublin 4 for the Cup final, and the players from Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers didn’t let us down. In the end it all came down to penalties as Sligo’s goalkeeping hero Ciaran Kelly saved not one, not two, not three but four penalties in the shoot-out and denied the other Rovers a famous double in front of a bumper 36,000 crowd.
The young Everton defender, previously capped by Northern Ireland but now committed to the south, is a real name for the future, but that didn’t matter much back in May. Giovanni Trapattoni’s summer training camp for Ireland’s B team wannabes out in Malahide was never meant to hit the headlines, but it did when Duffy’s liver was perforated and only the quick thinking of medical staff from the FAI and the Mater Hospital saved his life. Such events put sport into perspective.
They left it until very, very late in the sporting year to make their mark, but David McCarthy, Brendan O’Neill, Michael Mulhare, David Rooney, John Coghlan and Ciaran O Lionaird all struck gold for the Irish team in the men’s under-23 category at the European Cross Country championships in Portugal in December. Their win promises a lot for the future of Irish cross country running, not a bad thing some 20 months before the London Olympics.
The fact that the swimmer from Wexford, now resident in Limerick, took the Irish Times Sports Woman of the Year award last week tells its own story after a year in which the teenager proved she can compete with the best in the world. Murphy won medals at both the European Long Course Championships in Budapest and at the European Short Course championships in Eindhoven and is clearly an Olympic star of the future.
Now head coach with the Ireland under-21 team, King had some unfinished business to attend to back in September when his Irish under-17 girls team did the nation proud by qualifying from their group at their World Cup finals in the Caribbean. All that came about after they finished a sensational second at the European Championships earlier in the year.
The build-up to the All-Ireland hurling final centered on Henry Shefflin’s knee injury and the chance Kilkenny took with his fitness in their bid to win an historic fifth successive Liam McCarthy Cup. That move backfired and the stage was left to Tipp sharp-shooter Lar Corbett to win the Man of the Match award by a distance after his goal scoring flurry in a final that will live long in the memory.
The former Irish international led Newcastle to the Championship title in England with a record number of points in May and was rightly feted for the achievement. Sadly, that wasn’t enough for those who own Newcastle as Hughton was then sacked in December just weeks after beating Arsenal and drawing with Chelsea. It was a disgraceful but hardly surprising decision by controversial owner Mike Ashley.
This was the year when Cork star Derval bounced back from her disappointment at the Beijing Olympics. Derval was named Ireland’s Athlete of the Year and Track Athlete of the Year after her silver medal performance in the 100 meter hurdles at the European Championships in Barcelona at the end of July, the second time she’s nabbed a silver jackpot at the event.
The man who put the catch into Donegal long before the fishing company is now unemployed. The FAI big-wigs should hang their heads in shame after allowing World Cup legend Bonner to be let go as their technical director, one of a number of staff made redundant as a cost cutting measure by the association Bonner served so well for the past eight years.
There’s no argument that Graeme McDowell was easily Ireland’s golfer of the year for 2010, but fellow northerner Rory McIlroy wasn’t far behind him with two top three finishes in the majors and victory at Quail Hollow on the PGA Tour to boot.
Irish amateur boxing and Irish boxers can do no wrong as they proved it again in June when they won five medals at the European Championships in Moscow courtesy of Paddy Barnes (gold), Darren O’Neill (silver), Kenny Egan, Eric Donovan and Tyrone McCullagh (all bronze).