Conor McGregor picked up the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year award on Saturday night, and immediately fuelled speculation he may face boxing champion Floyd Mayweather in the boxing ring.
The Dubliner has taken out a boxing license in California and has said previously he wishes to take on Mayweather, one of the all-time greats in boxing.
“I’ve got the boxing licence,” said McGregor. “His last pay-per-view was 350,000 buys. The fight was a flop, it was a dud. His last two fights have been duds.
“I certainly don’t need him. Of course the Floyd fight is the fight the public want to see, but we’ll see. These things take time.”
The Sportsperson on the Year award was voted for online and by text by the public, and McGregor overcame 11 other nominees, including Carl Frampton and Daryl Horgan to win.
McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez via a second round knockout in November to claim the UFC lightweight championship, adding it to his featherweight title.
The Dublin native added: “It’s good to be on top, it’s good to be two-weight world champion. It’s been an amazing year, a learning year for me, a rollercoaster. I’m happy now, I came out strong at the end of it and here I am standing tall.”
For McGregor the highlight of 2016 was unquestionably his victory over Alvarez: “That was the culmination of 28 years of hard work. That night was my entire’s life’s work, every single session, every single hour of training I put in was for that moment.
“It was an unbelievable moment for myself, my team, everyone who has come up with me on this journey. It was an amazing night for us all.”
Popular west Cork rowers Gary and Paul O’Donovan were named the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year at the award ceremony.
The Olympic rowers won a silver medal in the lightweight double sculls: Paul said they already have their sights set on even more success in the future.
“We’re young yet, we’re only starting out hopefully,” he said. “We’ve got a taste of success now, so we’re going to capitalise on it.
“It’s funny the way it has worked out because we’ve been doing regattas all our lives, it just so happened that RTÉ turned up to this regatta.”
Another Cork star, ladies footballer Brid Stack, said teammate Briege Corkery made a vital contribution off the field to their win over Dublin in the All-Ireland final.
“We had a brilliant couple of matches in the run-up to the All-Ireland final,” said Stack. “But, in the first-half, things just weren’t clicking. At half-time for many years we had fantastic role models in the dressing-room who stood up and said their few words to get us going.”
Stack, nominated for Sports Person of the Year, added: “This year Briege Corkery did it, she brought two photos into the dressing-room. One was of a dejected Juliet Murphy from our loss in 2010 and the other was an elated Martina O’Brien from our win in 2014. She put the two photos on the table and said ‘which player do you want to be?’ There was enough talking - no need to talk any more. We just went out and thankfully everything clicked.”
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny picked up the Manager of the Year award, having led his side to their third SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title in-a-row and to the FAI Cup final.
He also saw his team qualify for the group stages of the Europa League and become the first Irish team to first earn a point in European group competition. Dundalk eventually got to within 90 minutes of making the knock-out phase of the Europa League.
“I accept it on behalf of the Dundalk players,” said Kenny. “The players have been magnificent over the last two-and-a-half years, particularly this year when we’ve had unprecedented success.
“Obviously we qualified for the Europa League and had a great run this year and the next step is the Champions League. We have to think like that.
“We are asking a lot to compete with the level of resources the clubs have at that level but we must certainly strive to have that. We mustn’t accept mediocrity, we must have a desire to get better all the time and constantly improve.”
In addition, Munster and Ireland rugby star Anthony Foley was inducted into the RTÉ/Sport Ireland Hall of Fame at the ceremony.
Foley, the Munster head coach, passed away suddenly in October, hours before his side were to play Racing 92 in the Champions Cup in Paris: he won 62 caps for Ireland and led Munster to the European title in 2006.
His sister Rosie Foley, herself a former Ireland rugby international, accepted the award.
“From our family we’d like to thank everybody,” she said. “Our family has been supported by neighbours, friends, our local community, the wider sporting community, the wider sporting community and across the world. Thank you is all we can say.”
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