We've entered the always-joyful end-of-year award season, and this morning RTÉ released its shortlist for the 2021 RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year. It's been a very memorable year for Irish sport, but the national broadcaster's shortlist of our best and brightest sportspeople also features one glaring omission.
Paul O'Donovan, who won Ireland's first ever gold medal in rowing this year alongside Fintan McCarthy in Tokyo and is one of only three Irish people to medal at two different Olympics, has not been included. Back in August, we were discussing O'Donovan's credentials as Ireland's greatest-ever sportsperson: that he would be left off a list that celebrates the best Irish sports performances in 2021 is really curious.
The list is certainly progressive as six of shortlisted athletes are women and two are Paralympians.
RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year shortlist
- Katie Taylor
- Kellie Harrington
- Vikki Wall
- Cian Lynch
- Rachael Blackmore
- Leona Maguire
- Jason Smith
- Ellen Keane
Everyone on this list is hugely deserving, but considering Ireland has only won 8 Olympics gold medals (if you choose to omit swimming), it would seem like a 'shortlist' of eight could easily be extended by one to include O'Donovan, who is one of the top 5 pound-for-pound in the world in his sport right now.
Some on social media have suggested that Fintan McCarthy and O'Donovan will be shoe-ins to win the 'best team' award, which Paul and his brother Gary O'Donovan won in 2016. However, in 2016, Paul O'Donovan was also included on the 12-person shortlist for the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year (the year Conor McGregor took the prize.) He has bettered that performance this year but been left out.
The RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year does have a history of strange selections. In 2001, as Roy Keane inspired Ireland to its third-ever World Cup, Mick McCarthy was given the award. In 1988, the year Ireland played in its first major international football tournament, the three winning members of Ireland's Dunhill Cup team brought home the silverware.