The Irish Times Irish Sportswoman of the Year will be announced and we have 14 stellar nominees from a year of unprecedented success. 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. The likes of Rachael Blackmore, Amy Broadhurst and Leona Maguire are included. Check out the nominees. To go pro or not to go pro? For Amy Broadhurst, there’s really no question. The Commonwealth Games, European and World champion has her sights set on more gold and a professional career.
As the dust settles on the Qatar World Cup, I have written about the eight talking points from the World Cup, everything from Messi’s fairytale story to lenient refereeing. Five World Cups and 26 games later, aged 35 Messi finally got his hands on the trophy, following in the footsteps of El Diego in 1986. Barney Ronay writes that Qatar has revelled in its tournament triumph – a lens on how the world works. “Project Hard Football Power is complete. And it really couldn’t have gone any better, a micromanaged power play, from the pharaonic-scale nation-building project, to the painted backdrop sets, to the regional visibility that helped see Qatar through the blockade years.”
In today’s subscriber only piece, Gerry Thornley writes Ulster’s lose-lose match with La Rochelle will have further effects. The circumstances behind the switch to Dublin could be costly, but the second-half fightback could save the team’s season. “Ulster’s first-half performance last Saturday seemed distracted, and by half-time they were staring into the abyss. After scoring freely when winning seven of their first eight URC games, their collapse to the tune of 103-7 in just over four halves of rugby was a spectacular turnaround even by their standards.” Ulster and EPCR will carry out a “full review’ of circumstances around the late ground switch. Because of the lateness of the decision taken, there was no contingency plan in place to install the required infrastructure to make it safe for the public to attend the game.
Meanwhile, Ross Molony and Leinster are ready for a St Stephen’s Day clash with Munster. The 7.30pm kick-off on St Stephen’s Day means players can spend Christmas Day with their families and loved ones. “I’ll be with my family and will switch off from rugby for the day. The good thing about Stephen’s Day is we’ll get down early and you have that time to prepare. But I will completely switch off on Christmas Day and enjoy the time with my family.”
Speaking of Christmas, hurler TJ Reid says “what better way to be celebrating Christmas than getting ready for an All-Ireland final?” The Ballyhale Shamrocks’ penalty-king targets a record ninth title for club after win over Ballygunner. “The talk around Ballyhale now, going to mass, going into the shop, will be the All-Ireland final,” he said. Also in hurling, Shane Kingston believes intercounty management is a full-time job after seeing it first hand. The Cork hurler lived with his dad when he managed the team and was able to contrast the hours put in. In golf, Rory McIlroy matches Pádraig Harrington with Golf Writers’ gong, as a six-time recipient of the Irish Golf Writers’ Association Professional of the Year. Philip Reid also recalls one of the sporting moments of the year, in tennis, as after a career that yielded 20 Grand Slams, and countless jaw-dropping shots, the Swiss maestro Roger Federer retired.