McIlroy wins top RTÉ award

US OPEN champion Rory McIlroy was last night named RTÉ Sports Person of the Year for 2011.

The awards, in association with the Irish Sports Council, were presented in Donnybrook by RTÉ’s Darragh Maloney, Michael Lyster, Clare MacNamara and Des Cahill.

McIlroy broke a dozen US Open records on his way to a famous victory by eight shots at Congressional near Washington last June, just two months after dramatically losing a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Masters at Augusta.

McIlroy built on his US Open triumph to rise to his present No 3 in the world rankings, helped by a consistent run of high finishes towards the end of the season which included victory in the Hong Kong Open a fortnight ago. He also won $2m (€1.5m) jackpot with a play-off success over American Anthony Kim in the Shanghai Masters in late October.

Celebrating the collaborative achievements of Irish athletes, the RTÉ Sports Team of the Year award was presented to the Leinster rugby team, winners of the Heineken Cup.

The Blues regained their European champions crown after a thrilling final against Northampton Saints which saw them trailing 22-6 at half-time before turning the match around, winning 33-22. 2011 also saw the Leinster team ranked number one in the ERC European Rankings.

In recognition of the huge effort behind the scenes and on the sidelines this year, RTÉ introduced the Sports Manager of the Year award which was presented to Republic of Ireland football manager Giovanni Trapattoni. After three years at the helm the highly-respected Italian led the Ireland to a major tournament for the first time in 10 years as the national team qualified for the European Championship finals.

As well as acknowledging this year’s sporting achievements, the RTÉ Sports Awards also paid tribute to one of Ireland’s sporting legends. The ceremony saw Brian O’Driscoll present one of Ireland’s greatest ever rugby players, Jack Kyle with the honour of the RTÉ/Irish Sports Council Hall of Fame Award.

Belfast’s Kyle made his Ireland debut against France in 1947 and went on to make 46 appearances, playing a pivotal role in the Irish side at the time. Kyle helped Ireland to their first ever Grand Slam win in 1948 and a further two Triple Crowns 1948 and 1949 and the Five Nations Championship in 1951.

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