Some high class performances in 2017
2017 will not go down as one of the greatest in sport, such are the levels of expectation that abound. However, there were some high class performances.
The highlight was probably Ballyshannon student Mona McSharry winning a first ever swimming gold medal at the World Junior Swimming Championships in the US. The 17-year-old more recently was only inches away from securing a medal at the European Seniors in Copenhagen, and there seems to be a very big future for the Grange, Co. Sligo native.
Katie-George Dunlevy also achieved world gold, in the World Paracycle Championships in South Africa in August along with her partner Eve McChrystal. Katie-George was back home in her father’s native Mountcharles some weeks later to show off her gold medal. Coming after winning Olympic gold in Rio a year earlier, this was another major milestone in her career.
It was a good year for Chloe Magee and Sam Magee, becoming the first Irish players to win medals at the European Badminton Championships. The Raphoe siblings took bronze in the Mixed Doubles in April, and then followed up by winning the Spanish Open in June.
Even though he remained unbeaten and won the NABF (North American) middleweight title when defeating Glen Tapia in March, it was largely a frustrating year for Twin Towns man Jason Quigley as he picked up a hand injury which kept him out of the ring since. Recently he changed stables, now based in Sheffield, England under Dominic Ingle and is hoping to be back in the ring in early 2018.
On the GAA front Donegal seniors had a disappointing exit to Galway in the Qualifiers with the U-21s providing the only success, winning Ulster.
The Donegal Ladies had a good year, going down narrowly in the League final to Cork before winning the Ulster Senior Championship. They went out of the competition to Mayo. At the end of the year the Hegarty sisters, Ciara and Niamh, picked up All-Star awards and one wonders what Geraldine McLaughlin has to do to get an All-Star.
Here are some of my awards for the year.
REFEREEING PERFORMANCE OF YEAR
Has to go to Fergal Horgan of Tipperary, who took charge of the All-Ireland Hurling final between Galway and Waterford. He gets the award, not just for the way he handled the final, but for the part he played in the fantastic documentary around the final. He displayed everything that you want from a referee, decisiveness, an ability to talk to the players and also enjoying the occasion.
In Donegal Jimmy White continues to set the standard and any young referee who wants to progress should study the Killybegs man. Mention must also go to Enda McFeely, who took charge of the Donegal Co. final for the first time and did really well. He is now on the national list and is in action in the Dr. McKenna Cup. Best of luck to him.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
In Donegal there is an easy winner. Kilcar took home the Dr. Maguire and Democrat Cup and they did it in some style. They had won the league twice in recent years but the big one - championship - had eluded them.
On the national stage, the Galway hurlers were waiting even longer than Kilcar - back to 1988 - and they were just as impressive. Dublin keep winning, but they needed a bit of luck to get the three-in-a-row (as well as Mayo’s continued ability to find a way to lose!)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Again starting in Donegal I can't pass Patrick McBrearty. Many would have thought he wasn't captain material, but how wrong they were. He was brilliant for Kilcar and was probably Donegal's most consistent performer as well, even though he didn't see that much game time early in the year. He also carried himself very well when speaking after the county final and especially at the homecoming in Kilcar on county final night.
At national level I would totally agree with Andy Moran getting the award in football. He was just brilliant and it would be nice to see him along with Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins get their hands on an All-Ireland medal. In hurling I would have had a toss between Joe Canning and Gearoid McInerney, but I won't argue with Canning getting it, if only for his brilliance over a good number of years.
SCORE OF THE YEAR
For Donegal - any of Patrick McBrearty’s selection of points against Scotstown in the first half of the Ulster Club quarter-final in Clones. In a sublime performance, McBrearty had one of those days that you dream about.
For goal of the year, you could pick any of Ryan McHugh’s for Kilcar - one against St. Michael’s in the quarter-final, where he palmed home, was one of those great team scores. It looked easy, but it was a proper team goal.