The 22nd Irish Examiner National Junior Sports stars will be formally honoured in Dublin tomorrow, but readers can get an insight into what makes our heroes of the future tick in a special issue of Arena, published with this newspaper today.
Our awards are now the acknowledged signpost for Irish sporting achievement over the next decade and beyond.
The list of past winners, across all sports, makes for an eye-opening snapshot of Irish sport over the past 21 years - Sonia O’Sullivan, Roy Keane, Damien Duff, Ruby Walsh, Seamus Moynihan, Jamie Spencer, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, Gordon D’Arcy, Anthony Foley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Robbie Keane, Gearoid Towey, Andy Lee, Bernard Dunne. Shall we go on? It used be that we waited, confidently, for the award winners to mature into national and international stars of the track, the ring and the pitch. No longer. Most of the 2005 National Junior sports stars - none older than 18 - are already blazing a trail across Ireland, Europe and beyond.
Golfer Rory McIlroy is already playing on the European pro tour this year; our first ever gymnastics recipient, Katie Slader, is preparing for next week’s Commonwealth Games, while hurling recipient, Joe Canning, will line out for Portumna in Friday week’s All-Ireland club final against Newtownshandrum in Croke Park.
We have three repeat winners this year, the highest ever. But who can dispute the outstanding talent and promise of golfer McIlroy, badminton player Scott Evans - already in the world’s top 100 senior players - and snooker star-in-waiting, Davey Morris?
Of last year’s other winners, Robert Kearney is already starring for Leinster in rugby’s Heineken Cup; Anthony Stokes is blossoming into one of Arsene Wenger’s top young Gunners at Arsenal and hurler Kerril Wade starred in Galway’s All-Ireland Under-21 success.
Today, we salute achievement in 20 different sports, from athletics to tennis, and including gymnastics for the first time. There are 21 recipients, with European medal-winning Kenneth Rumball and Dave Moran of Dublin being honoured in sailing.
Ex-Newcastle and Liverpool manager Graeme Souness is the guest speaker at tomorrow’s function at the Berkeley Court Hotel, where each recipient will also receive a head-to-toe sporting kit, courtesy of adidas.
Athletics: Ciarán Ó Lionaird (Cork); Badminton: Scott Evans (Dublin); Basketball: Rachel Clancy (Limerick); Boxing: David Oliver Joyce (Westmeath); Camogie: Anna Geary (Cork); Cricket: Greg Thompson (Antrim); Gaelic Football: James Colgan (Down); Golf: Rory McIlroy (Down); Gymnastics: Katie Slader (Antrim); Hockey: Julia O’Halloran (Cork); Horse racing: Chris Hayes (Limerick); Hurling: Joe Canning (Galway); Ladies Football: Rena Buckley (Cork); Motorsport: Niall Quinn (Meath); Paralympics: Orla Barry (Cork); Rugby: Luke Fitzgerald (Dublin); Sailing: Kenneth Rumball and Dave Moran (Dublin); Snooker: Davy Morris (Kilkenny); Soccer: Billy Clarke (Cork); Tennis: Tristan Farron Mahon (Dublin).