Limerick hockey star Roisin Upton was honoured at the recently held annual Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Awards. The Catholic Institute player won the Sportswoman of the Month Award for November for her outstanding performance in the penalty shootout win over Canada which secured qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Ireland had missed out on qualification for Rio when they lost to China in a shootout, and they looked set to experience the very same agony in November when they went 3-1 down to Canada in another shootout.
However, showing true grit and composure in the face of adversity they fought their way back into it, thanks to brilliant conversions from Bethany Barr and Chloe Watkins and the goalkeeping of Ayeisha McFerran.
That determination and coolness was exemplified by Upton who scored the goal that ultimately clinched qualification for the Irish women for the very first time, the Raheen woman gutsy enough to step up again in sudden death having failed to score in the regular shootout. It emerged later she had done it with a broken bone in her wrist.
Afterwards she described what qualification meant to her and the team and she stressed the importance of her roots.
“It's just surreal, you have spent the last four years training for this and the past couple of weeks trying to imagine if we win and in front of a home crowd. It just surpassed it by miles and miles, it's so real now we have booked our ticket…..and the amount of people that came together to make this happen, the volunteers helping put down the pitch, our sponsors, the fans, it's just so hard to put into words what all this means to us.”
“My roots mean so much to me and under my Irish socks I wear a Catholic Institute one and a Crescent Comprehensive one as it was at these places that I started my hockey and the coaches there did so much to get me to where I am today.”
Puspure named 2019 Sportswoman of the Year
Double world champion rower Sanita Puspure was crowned The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2019.
Not alone did Puspure claim her second world championship gold medal at Ottensheim in Austria in late summer, she also secured qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Her victory was all the more impressive given that she had to return to her native Latvia during the summer to be with sister Inese in the final stages of her battle with cancer.
After the win she told RTE ; “this medal has very high value – we just needed something nice to happen……I hope my sister is proud of me, watching from above”.
This is the 16th year of the awards and the rower was among 14 monthly award winners – there were multiple winners on several occasions - nominated for the 2019 title. Other monthly winners alongside Puspure and Upton included swimmer Mona McSharry, golfer Leona Maguire, boxer Katie Taylor, runner Ciara Mageean and jockey Rachael Blackmore
Outstanding Contribution to Sport 2019 Award
Kerry woman Mary Geaney, who captained her native county to All-Ireland football glory before going on to lead Cork’s camogie team to All-Ireland success, the first player to achieve such a feat, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Sport 2019 Award.
The Castleisland woman captained Kerry to football success in 1976, before going on to win the first of three All-Ireland camogie medals with Cork. Geaney, who scored a hat trick in the 1978 final, captained the team in 1980 and won a third medal in 1983.
In tandem with her GAA career Geaney also played hockey for Ireland, making her international debut as goalkeeper in 1971 against England and representing her country 65 times. She also played squash, badminton and golf for Munster. She was inducted into the Irish Hockey Association Hall of Fame in 2010. Given her stellar hockey career it was most appropriate that Roisin Upton presented her with her award.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross described 2019 as a busy year for Irish sport, with our sportswomen doing us proud on the national and international stage.
“The inspirational effect of sport on the Irish public cannot be overstated and it was heartening to see the nation get behind our athletes and teams. One of the highlights was the Irish Women’s Hockey Team playing in front of a packed Donnybrook and live on national television as they qualified for Tokyo 2020.”
“Exposure such as this, coupled with an increase in funding through Sport Ireland will inspire and encourage participation in all sports and at all levels. I would like to acknowledge Sport Ireland and the Irish Times for staging these awards which recognise the incredible contribution of Irish women in sport. I would like to congratulate all of today’s winners and also pay tribute to their families and all of the coaches and support teams who have helped them to reach the highest levels of sport.”
The Chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey described 2019 as a significant year for women in sport with the launch of Sport Ireland’s Women in Sport Policy and the announcement of increased multi-year investment in the area.
“The policy builds on the significant work being undertaken by our National Governing Bodies for Sport and Local Sports Partnerships, recognising the significant impact involvement in sport can have on the lives of women.
“Sport has a unique ability to unite people of all backgrounds and we are all united in our pride for the achievements of our athletes and teams on their success this year. The Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year awards is the perfect way to round-off an excellent year and fitting way to celebrate our wonderful athletes. I congratulate each of the monthly award winners on their achievements and wish them well for the year ahead.”