Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year: 14 stellar nominees from year of unprecedented success

Eleven sports represented, with boxing contributing four champion candidates

It’s a time-honoured tradition around these parts to judge the quality of our sportswomen’s year by checking to see which names didn’t make our list of monthly winners.

Most times, there are some mortifying omissions, their absence from the roll of honour caused by months when a whole heap of stellar achievements collided, so it simply wasn’t possible to include them all.

The last few years have produced no end of such predicaments, but 2022 took the biscuit.

With no exaggeration, there were sportswomen who didn’t make this year’s monthly list who would have been contenders for the overall award in times gone by.


Boxing presented the biggest challenge of all. What do you do when seven – seven! – of our representatives come away from the European Championships with medals? Rejoice – then, if you’re on the judging panel, weep.

After all the agonising, we have a list of 14 names, three of them former sportswomen of the year – Katie Taylor (2007, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2020), Kellie Harrington (2018) and Rachael Blackmore (2021) –, seven of them new to these awards.

Eleven sports are represented, if you allow us to split athletics into Rhasidat Adeleke’s sprinting and Ciara Mageean’s middle-distance running. Four of the 14 are from boxing.

Again, no lie, we ended up with the longest shortlist for the overall award since we kicked off in 2004 – just two years before Lisa O’Rourke and Adeleke were born, which is a disquieting stat for those judges who’ve been there from the start.

So, the sincerest of apologies to those sportswomen who deserved to be on the list of contenders but were squeezed out in the end, and the heartiest of salutes to those who made it. They gave us yet another magical year.


December 2021: Ellen Walshe (Swimming). At just 20 years of age, the Dubliner became only the second Irish swimmer to medal at the World Championships, and the first to do so in an Olympic event, when she took silver in the 400m Individual Medley in Abu Dhabi. Along the way, she broke five Irish records, smashing the oldest, Michelle Smith’s 1994 400m Individual Medley mark.

January: Lucy Mulhall (Rugby). The Wicklow woman captained Ireland – and earned herself a place in the team of the tournament – to their first ever World Rugby Sevens Series final in Seville, where they only lost to an injury-time try by Australia. They had beaten England 29-0 in the semi-finals. Later in the year, Mulhall led the team to qualification for September’s World Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals.

February: Leona Maguire (Golf). Yet another memorable year for Maguire, who became the first Irish woman to win on the LPGA Tour when she triumphed at the Drive On Championship in Florida. She finished 2022 as the highest-ranked European player in the world (11th) after a season that saw her earn 10 top-10 finishes, including at the US and British Opens and the runners-up spot at the Tour Championship.

March: Rachael Blackmore (Horse racing). It was always going to be hard to top her 2021, for which she won our Sportswoman of the Year award, but Blackmore gave it a mighty go, not least when she won The Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle and the Gold Cup on A Plus Tard at Cheltenham – making her the holder of those two crowns, as well as the English Grand National, all at the same time.

April: Katie Taylor (Boxing). Our five-time Sportswoman of the Year and undisputed world champion brought her unbeaten professional record to 22 with two more victories during the year, the first April’s epic split-decision win over Amanda Serrano in front of a crowd of 20,000 in Madison Square Garden. It was the first time a women’s bout had headlined a card at the famous venue.

May: Lisa O’Rourke (Boxing). Like Amy Broadhurst, O’Rourke, the 20-year-old from Roscommon, followed in the path of Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Kellie Harrington by becoming an Irish amateur world champion when she struck gold in Turkey with a 4-1 majority decision over Mozambique’s Helena Alcinda Panguana.

May: Amy Broadhurst (Boxing). The Dundalk fighter had, quite literally, the perfect year, winning every one of her bouts en route to taking gold at the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and European Championships, Michael Conlan the only other Irish boxer to achieve that feat. And just for good measure, she was named Boxer of the Tournament at the Europeans and finished the year as number one in the light welterweight world rankings.

June: Rhasidat Adeleke (Athletics). An outstanding year for the Tallaght athlete who finished it as the Irish record holder in the 60, 200, 300 and 400 metres, all her times achieved before she turned 20. In June she became the first Irish woman to win an NCAA sprint title, triumphing in the 4x100m with the University of Texas, and in August she finished fifth in the 400m at the European Championships, breaking the Irish record in her first senior international final.

July: Niamh O’Sullivan (Gaelic football). Any notion that Meath’s 2021 All-Ireland triumph might have been a flash in the pan was firmly put to bed by them retaining their title in July when they beat Kerry in the final. Player of the match and their top scorer O’Sullivan was the driving force behind the victory, her 45th-minute goal proving crucial in their comeback from a five-point deficit.

August: Ciara Mageean (Athletics). A season to remember for the Portaferry athlete who won 1,500m silver medals in both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, before becoming the first Irish woman to break the four minute barrier at the same distance in Brussels, smashing Sonia O’Sullivan’s 27-year-old national record in the process.

September: Katie O’Brien (Rowing). The Galway para-rower produced a superb performance in the PR2 single sculls final at the World Championships in the Czech Republic, winning gold by beating Kathryn Ross of Australia, the reigning world champion, by 10 seconds to top the World Championship bronze she won three years before.

October: Courtney Brosnan (Soccer). Brosnan established herself as Ireland’s first-choice goalkeeper in 2022, her seven clean sheets in nine games more than justifying that decision. She played a huge part in what proved to be a magical year for the team, the highlight her critical penalty save in the World Cup qualifying play-off win over Scotland.

October: Kellie Harrington (Boxing). The Dubliner recovered from the disappointment of missing May’s World Championships through injury by showing her class once again at the European Championships in Montenegro, her unanimous victory in the 60kg final completing an illustrious set of gold medals: Olympic, World and European.

November: Gaby Lewis (Cricket). The 21-year-old scored 69 off 54 deliveries in the opening match of Ireland’s series away to Pakistan, and then finished up with 71 off 46 deliveries to help secure a historic 2-1 win, this the first Irish team to beat a Test-playing nation in a T20 away series. Lewis was named player of the series.