World champion boxer Kellie Harrington was overcome with emotion at winning the 2018 The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year award yesterday.
Given the amount of international success garnered by Irish female athletes this year, it was the most competitive ever of the 15-year-old award scheme, so the Dublin lightweight was particularly bowled over to come out top.
“I’m absolutely shocked, I genuinely am. To get this recognition is fantastic given the amount of champions and medal winners here today,” she said.
Receiving her award from 2016 winner and Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, Harrington brought the house down by quipping: “I’m just glad Johnny Sexton didn’t come in in a dress!”
But on a serious note the inner city star said: “I might be the overall winner but every female (nominee) here is a winner today and all others who were nominated for monthly awards also.
“I’m delighted to bring this back to my community and my club St Mary’s,” said the boxer from Portland Row.
“A lot of the time you only hear of the bad things that happen in my area but it is a fantastic community. Sometimes the little kids come running with me, not all the way, but around the block.
“To be able to influence teenagers and kids, to see the amount of kids and girls that have come into the club (St Mary’s) since my homecoming, has just been brilliant,” she said, paying special tribute to her coach Noel Burke.
Harrington became only the third Irish boxer to win a world amateur title in India in November. Only Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan have ever achieved it before and Harrington flew to England after yesterday’s function to support Conlan in his latest professional fight in Manchester tonight.
She won her world gold at a different weight (60kg) from her 2016 world silver (at 64kg) and also won a European bronze medal this year.
All of that set her apart in a stellar field. Ireland’s Sanita Puspure (rowing), para-cyclists Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal and Katie Taylor (professional boxing) also won world titles this year.
The Irish hockey team also won world silver medals and were recognised with the Outstanding Contribution to Sport 2018 Award.
Hockey captain Katie Mullan said it has been a particularly special year for women’s sport in Ireland.
“All the hard work being done in the media really is starting to make a difference and there’s a real shift happening,” Mullan said.
“It’s a real shame that it had to get to this point to make it happen, but it is important to say that if we keep going the way we’re going we will get to where we need to be.”
Irish Times sports editor Malachy Logan described 2018 as “a momentous year for Irish sportswomen” and chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey said it had been “a spectacular year.”
All of the 2018 monthly winners got their awards yesterday, including ladies football’s Player of the Year Sinead Aherne, jockeys Katie Walsh and Rachael Blackmore, and Cavan golf star Leona Maguire, fresh from securing her 2019 European Tour card by sinking a monster putt in a dramatic Q-school playoff in Morocco just 24 hours earlier.
“Your job is on the line for one week of the year but that’s what all the long hard hours of practice are for,” said Maguire, who will start 2019 competing in Abu Dhabi and Australia as she plays on the American development tour (Symetra) too.