2020 has been a year like no other.
12 months ago, ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdowns’ and ‘mandatory masks’ were foreign to the majority of us. Yet today, they are part of every day life. The coronavirus pandemic hit all aspects of our lives and sport was no exception. Cancellations and postponements were a running theme throughout all sport.
With that being said, 2020 was remarkably still filled with incredible Irish sporting moments which deserve recognition and celebration. We have put together a comprehensive round-up of all the memorable moments for Irish women in sport! Check out Part II which looks back at the months of September-December!
Medals Galore For Ireland At U23 Rowing Championships
Ireland’s U23 rowers returned home from the European Rowing U23 Championships after one of Ireland’s finest Championships in recent memory.
Carlow’s Clíodhna Nolan (NUIG) and Cork’s Lydia Heaphy (UCC) secured a historic gold medal in the Lightweight Women’s Pair. Nolan and Heaphy won gold and in doing so also set a new U23 World Record as well.
Margaret Cremen and Aoife Casey brought home silver in the Lightweight Women’s Double Scull. Cremen from Lee Rowing Club and Casey from Skibereen Rowing Club crossed over in 7:40.49.
The Women’s Pair crew of Tara Hanlon and Emily Hegarty finished 3rd in the A Final and secured bronze. Last July, the duo were part of the historic crew who became the first Ireland women’s crew in a sweep event to take a medal at a World Championships.
Neptune Rowing Club’s Claire Feerick showed brilliant promise in the early stages of the Women’s Single Sculls final and finished fourth with a time of 8:00.86. Feerick was also part of the women’s crew which took silver at the World Championships last summer.
Nadia Powers Breaks 19-Year Old Irish Record
Nadia Power crushed yet another Irish record as she ran 2:01.01 in the 800m in Italy.
The DCU athlete broke the previous U23 record of 2:01.89 which had been held by Aoife Byrne since 2001. In doing so, Power moved up to sixth in the All-Time Irish 800m list.
The U23 European medallist’s time was also the fastest women’s Irish-time run for seven years excluding Ciara Mageean’s record breaking 1:59:69 in July.
Leona Maguire Earns Career Best Major Championship Finish
It was a weekend to remember for Leona Maguire who recorded a career-best Major championship finish, as she tied 18th in the ANA Inspiration, in the scorching heat of southern California.
Competing in her fourth major as a professional, this was the Cavan golfer’s best finish since the 2015 Evian Championship.
Stephanie Meadow wrapped up her tournament in 22nd place while completing the Irish trio at the championship was amateur Olivia Mehaffey. Mehaffey was only one of two amateurs in the field but that did not stop her from securing her first ever professional Major cut on Friday.
— ILGU (@IrishLadiesGolf) September 12, 2020
UCD Hockey Clinch 3rd Senior Cup
The UCD ladies hockey team claimed their third Irish Senior Cup in 4 years as they beat Pegasus 3-1.
Hannah McLoughlin opened the scoring for UCD before Michelle Carey showed off some impressive skills shortly afterwards to make it 2-0. Pegasus pulled one back through Maguire but Katherine Egan put the game to bed with 7 minutes to play to give UCD the honours at the final whistle.
Michelle Finn Breaks the National Record In The Steeplechase
It was a great night in Barcelona for Irish Olympian, Michelle Finn, who set a new Irish National record in the 2000m steeplechase.
Michelle Finn of Leevale AC, ran 6:16.46 beating her own old record of 6:16.67 to finish first ahead of Clara Viñaras and Lidia Campo in second and third, respectively.
A month prior, Finn inn ran home to victory in 9:41.62 at the Motonet GP in Espoo - her third fastest 3000m steeplechase in her career.
At the same event in Barcelona, Nadia Power moved to ninth on the all time mile list crossing the line with 4:32.50 and placing third. Only Ciara Mageean has run faster in the last 11 years.
Shane Lowry Wears 20x20 Logo At Irish Open
Shane Lowry swapped his regular Immedis logo for the 20x20 emblem in the Irish Open in September, showing his stripes in the societal movement to transform the perception of women in sport.
Lowry, who has a young daughter himself, spoke about his hopes in the future for an equal opportunistic sporting world for both genders.
"I want her to have role models, and I want more than anything for her to have the same opportunities that boys would have”, he said.
"I have a daughter now and I'd like to see her get into sport, and it's about creating opportunities for women to play sport,” said Lowry.
A month later, another Irish male sports figure spoke about the importance of supporting women in sport. Brian O’Driscoll demanded more than just “paying lip service” to the 20×20 initiative.
Girls & women make up over 40% of all participants in sports yet receive just 4% of media coverage.
This has a critical rippling effect as without airtime, female athletes lose out on sponsorship, fans & more, while young girls & boys are robbed of female role-models.#HerSport pic.twitter.com/1cEbfJCO56
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) October 8, 2020
Gillespie Wins Road Race While McCrystal Wins Time Trial
The Women’s National Championship road race saw 19-year old Lara Gillespie win in Knockaderry in October, battling it out to be crowned champion over competitors Eve McCrystal and Ellen McDermott. In a tense finale, Gillespie outsprinted the chasing pack to secure her first ever senior road race title.
Earlier that week, Eve McCrystal went on to claim the victory in the Natioanl Road Time Trial with a commanding 21-second win over the defending champion Kelly Murphy.
Bríd Stack Signs For GWS Giants Down Under
Bríd Stack, one of the greatest ever footballers to grace the turf for Cork Ladies Football, signed down-under for the GWS Giants to play in the upcoming 2021 Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) season.
Stack join’s Donegal’s Yvonne Bonner and Mayo’s Cora Staunton in western Sydney as an international rookie, after being tracked by the Giants for nearly three-years.
The towering full-back is unequivocally a football great and a defensive titan. Stack won her first All-Ireland in 2005. She then when onto win another TEN more. Stack played single every minute of those 11 successful deciders at Croke Park and has picked up seven All-Star awards during her time in the Cork jersey.
Gold And Bronze For Irish Crews At European Rowing Championships
Sanita Puspure became a DOUBLE World Champion and DOUBLE European Champion as she dominated a high-quality field to win her second Women’s Single Scull final at the Senior European Rowing Championships.
In what was billed to be the closest final in recent years, Puspure blew away the high-class field to retain her European Champion status. Puspure crossed the finish line first in a time of 07:36.040 and secured a clear-water win over two seconds faster than her nearest rival.
To add to Ireland’s success, the young and new Women’s Four crew of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Aileen Crowley and Fiona Murtagh bagged bronze in their A final.
The Women’s Four crew crossed the line in a time of 06:41.210, just under a second slower than the Italian crew in second place.
Mia Griffin Secures Bronze At U23 European Championships
Glenmore’s Mia Griffin won bronze at the U23 European Track Championships in Italy steering off Silvia Zanardi in the third place ride off.
Griffin recorded a time of 3:41.810 in the individual pursuit event to claim a place on the podium. Just a few days prior, she competed in the Cycling Ireland National Road Championship in Limerick placing fourth.
Katelynn Phelan Becomes World Champion
20-year old Katelynn Phelan burst onto the boxing scene this year becoming the youngest female professional boxer in the country and went on to cause a major upset as she won the World Boxing Council Youth title, the World Boxing Federation title, and the Women’s International Boxing Association title.
The Lilywhite produced a sensational performance which saw her grind Jessica Schadko to a halt before the sixth round.
Famous Win For Westmeath
The Westmeath Camogie team secured one of the most historic and memorable wins in their history as they defeated Limerick 1-12 to 0-12, in what was their first game in the Senior division.
Denise McGrath scored a crucial goal in the game to give the Maroons victory with a final score of 1-12 to 12 points.
Sinead Diver Finishes 8th At London Marathon
Sinead Diver finished eighth in the new look women’s elite race at the London Marathon. Diver clocked 02:27:07 in wet conditions to place within the top ten. Last year, the long-distance runner ran a PB of 2:24:11.
It was a new look London Marathon with the majority of the competitors competing virtually. Only the elite runners were invited and rather than the usual mazy run around the streets of London, the race was run l, the course this time around St James Park.
Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt Set World Record
In the early hours of Tuesday 14th October, barely before the sun had risen, two sailors set off to complete a lap of Ireland and set a new world record.
Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt set sail to make history. The pair completed the 761 nautical mile challenge around the island of Ireland in an astonishing time of 3 days, 20 hours and 29 mins.
The pair undertook the challenge with the hope of inspiring girls in Ireland and the UK to move into offshore sailing.
Taylor Defends Titles Against Guitierezz
Katie Taylor secured a unanimous decision win over Miriam Gutierrez that saw her hold on to her undisputed lightweight title. There are levels to boxing and Katie Taylor simply drowned Miriam Gutierrez out with her world-class skills.
Taylor took victory on the scorecards as the judges had it 100-89, 100-90 and 99-91 all in favour of Taylor, who moved her professional record to 17-0.
Remarkably, over 2 million viewers tuned in to watch than Katie Taylor's dominant victory.
Peamount United Win Historic Double
In November, Peamount United defended their Women’s National League title in a closely fought league against runners-up Shelbourne. Peamount United finished with 56 points winning 18, drawing 2 and losing one.
The Peas came out on top in the league title decider against Shelbourne with one game to go as they secured the title with a 3-1 win. This was the South Dublin club’s second title since the inaugural Women’s National League back in 2011/2012.
A month later, secured the first ever domestic double as they finally got their hands on the FAI Cup after three years of trying. The Peas comfortably beat Cork City 6-0 at Tallaght stadium which saw captain Aine O’Gorman lift the trophy for the second time in Peamount’s history and the first time since 2010.
Kilkenny Top Dogs Of Camogie Once Again
Prior to 2020, Kilkenny had previously made the last six of the seven Camogie All-Ireland Senior finals winning just the one. The Cats went into the finals against Galway in search of their 14th title overall. The entire game was a game of tug-of-war, but Kikenny pulled through thanks to a crucial penalty from Denise Gaule which saw them crowned champions with a final score of 1-14to 1-11.
After years of heartbreak and despair, Kilkenny established themselves yet again as the top dogs of camogie.
The Cats redeemed their crushing defeat from last year’s final as they showed great character throughout. They won their first group match against Waterford 0-15 to 0-8. The team then went on to beat Westmeath in the second match 6-13 to 1-7. Kilkenny finished off their group campaign with a win against Limerick 2-16 to 0-8.
In the semi-final against Cork, Kilkenny showed their bottle as they recovered from an early six-point deficit to beat old rivals Cork in a thrilling semi-final encounter.
Dublin Win Four In A Row
In their seventh All-Ireland Senior Final appearance, the Dublin Ladies Football Team secured their fourth G4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship in a row.
Dublin’s dominance continued as they fought back to win their fourth successive title in Croke Park.
Dublin emerged victorious 1-10 to 1-5 to overturn a three-point deficit against Cork at the interval to claim victory. A powerful second-half display and Carla Rowe’s penalty inspired Dublin’s turnaround.
On the road to the final, Dublin topped their group with victories over Donegal and Waterford, winning the first game against the Ulster outfit by three points, before defeating the Déise by four.
Sinead Aherne became the first ever player to captain a team to four successive TG4 All-Ireland Titles
Inter-County Players Vote To Form One Players’ Association
Inter-county players from the Women’s Gaelic Players Association and the Gaelic Players Association voted overwhelmingly to combine the two associations into one 4,000-member players’ association.
The votes saw 96% of WGPA delegates voting in favour while 100% of GPA delegates did so too.
Cora Staunton called it a “monumental day”.
Her Sport Awards Announced
The 2020 Her Sport Award contenders were announced after yet another impressive and memorable year for Irish sport.
Despite the unprecedented year, Irish stars created history and gave the Irish public plenty to celebrate in the world of sport.
The nominees for the Her Sport Athlete Of The Year, Her Sport Young Athlete Of The Year and Her Sport Team Of The Year were revealed.