Was James McClean really Ireland's top sportsman of 2017?

THE SPORTING DIARY with Peter Campbell, Sports Editor

Was James McClean really Ireland's top sportsman of 2017?

Was James McClean really Ireland’s top sportsman of 2017?

I’m not a great fan of competitions to see who is the top sportsperson at any time, but it does fill a space when there is little else to talk about at this time of year.

Derry and Ireland’s James McClean was voted No. 1 when RTE held their Sports Person of the Year awards on Saturday night last and it struck a chord, not just with me, but with many others.

What exactly did James do to be worthy of such an accolade. Okay, when he pulls on an Irish shirt, he is willing to die for the jersey, and he struck a great goal against Wales to get Ireland into the play-offs.

I’m not trying to belittle his efforts; he gets as much from his talent as his humanly possible, but in the big scheme of things, he is a journeyman player who finds it difficult at times to get a start at West Bromwich Albion, a team that are always likely to struggle at the bottom end of the English Premiership.

When compared to a number of the other contenders, it is difficult to fathom the voting. A number of those nominated were world title winners, including our own Katie-George Dunlevy; how about Paul O’Donovan, the rower from Skibbereen; or jockey Robbie Power who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Punchestown Gold Cup and Irish Grand National in one of the most competitive of sports.

What about Joe Canning, who has the most exquisite skill and is even to produce it in the midst of battle; or Andy Moran, who, at 34-years-of-age, was just sublime for Mayo in 2017.

That’s just five names that I would ahead of McClean. Then you have Conor Murray, probably the best No. 9 in world rugby and who has now scored four tries for the Lions; Katie Taylor, a world champion . . . I could go on and on.

But when you think back just 12 months to see who won it last year . . . Conor McGregor . . . then maybe it’s time to abandon the whole concept!

As for my own choice . . . would probably come down on the side of Robbie Power . . . just because of his fairytale season.

Will Doc be back in Kilcar?

That is the big question heading into the festive season. Barry Doherty (pictured) is not certain whether he will be donning the Bainisteoir’s bib with the county champions next year. When speaking to him this week, he was doubtful whether he could give the commitment necessary.

It sure is a big commitment, especially with a club like Kilcar, who are more than likely to be involved in most competitions right to the end of the year. They will be short odds to retain the Dr. Maguire and Democrat Cups that they have in their possession - that is just a reflection of the talent that they have at this moment in time.

Doherty came in at a difficult time but did a magnificent job, getting the side playing to their utmost while at the same time able to stay in the background, never seeking the limelight. He was a great appointment and I’m sure his arm will be twisted over Christmas to see if he could take on the mantle for another year. His part in their success should never be forgotten. He was never one to throw the toys out of the pram and his calmness rubbed off on his team.

If he doesn’t return, then could John McNulty or Kevin Lyons be in the frame. McNulty was with St. Naul’s last year but has intimated that he will not be the Mountcharles-based club for 2018, while Lyons spent last year with Naomh Ultan. Leo Varadkar may also have made a call to McNulty in relation to expected election early in the New Year!

Harps’ ready to play

With the release of the league fixtures for 2018, the build-up for Finn Harps can begin in earnest now.

They will begin their quest to get back to the top flight with an away game to Drogheda and then will host Longford Town in Finn Park.

There will be two long journeys to play Cobh Ramblers, but they will be happy that they have just one journey to Wexford.

Manager Ollie Horgan is assembling a strong squad with the acquisition of Paddy McCourt again for next season a real feather in his cap. With McCourt on board, then it will be easier to attract others.

Let’s hope the Harps can get back up right away. They must at least make the play-offs and remember the great play-off games with Limerick a few years ago, which brought the crowds back.