Vote For The Woman Of The Year

Balls Team
By Balls Team
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2016 was a euphoric, maddening, bewildering year for Irish sport. More than any other year, the conversation about the place in women in Irish sport was a vital and recurring talking point in the national sporting conversation. The seven women nominated for the Woman of the Year award represent some of the most compelling stories in Irish sport this year.

Vote below. The Woman of the Year will be revealed Friday.


Christina McMahon

An extraordinarily tumultuous year in the career of Monaghan boxer Christina McMahon may yet culminate in a happy ending, as she's tentatively scheduled to finally fight for a world title once more in March.

By then, of course, it will have been 12 months since her last title bout, which saw her robbed by WBC homegirl Zulina Munoz in Juarez before being suspended - via Facebook chat no less - by the same organisation for going public with the disgracefully lax post-fight drug testing procedures, which were illustrated further here.


Further investigation by,, the Irish Sun and other publications provoked WBC president Mauricio Sulimain to launch a comical attack on the amicable Monaghan super-flyweight, in which he claimed McMahon had instigated a media agenda against boxing's Mexico-based governing body.

Frozen out by the WBC, McMahon finally landed another world title opportunity - and in Dublin no less - versus Peruvian Linda Laura Lecca for the WBA strap on December 3rd. A month after the fight was confirmed, however, it was cancelled, reportedly at the Peruvian's behest, due to a financial dispute. However, be it next March or beyond, McMahon - who is now finally getting the media recognition her storied career warrants - will almost certainly throw down for the world crown again, and continues to battle through personal setbacks while upholding a degree of class with which she hasn't seen reciprocated by various shady parties in a wholly murky sport.

Annalise Murphy


Ireland needed a performance from Annalise Murphy on August 16th, the same day Mick Conlan was robbed in broad daylight. Annalise promptly delivered. With its drawn-out scheduling  and aquatic playing pitch, laser radial doesn't lend itself to television drama. We couldn't see into the soul of  Annalise Murphy as she chased that elusive Olympics medal  in that ultimate race in Rio but we knew the pressure she was under. Murphy had four long years to ponder to what went wrong in Weymouth at the 2012 Summer Olympics, when she fell out of the medal places after a disastrous final race. Fortune granted her another 24 hours of contemplation when the changeable Rio winds postponed the final day's racing.

Murphy delivered though, and her spot in Irish sporting lore is guaranteed for all time. She is the fourth Irishwoman to medal at the Olympics and the first Irishwoman to medal in sailing.

For her, Rio was the culmination of four years of anguish and work. She told RTE after winning that silver medal.


“This time four years ago I finished fourth and it was the hardest day of my life. I said I was going to come back and try to get a medal. So to actually go and do it is incredible. I’m so happy.

Sinead Lynch

Lost amid all the Irish drama in Rio was the most inspiring story to come from the Ireland camp: Sinead Lynch, aged 39, in her first Olympics, reaching a final in rowing with Claire Lambe. The pair ultimately finished sixth in the final and Rio meant the end of a gilded rowing career for Lynch. There were some great pieces written about Lynch before Rio but after her emotional interview after that Olympics final, it was obvious one of the great Irish sportspeople of the last 30 years was about to shuffle off the stage without receiving the public praise they deserve.


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A week after that race, Lynch was back in Ireland and won a half marathon in Donegal. Some woman.

Brid Stack

Perhaps the greatest endorsement of Brid Stack's season came from Cora Stauton, who gave the Cork back her vote for player of the year this season. Staunton was neutralised by Stack in the league final, so she would know best. Of the many bewildering stats about Stack, perhaps this is the most amazing one: she has played every minute of each of the 11 Cork All-Ireland wins since 2004. Defenders never really get their fair due, but the 2016 footballer of the year was a magnificent leader in a transitional year for the one of the greatest Irish sports teams of all time.


Becky Lynch

In 2006, Becky Lynch’s wrestling career seemed all but over after suffering a potentially serious head injury. Up until 2013 Lynch remained in apparent in-ring retirement until, out of nowhere, rumours started spreading that she had signed a contract with WWE.


Fast forward to today and she’s a celebrating a year where she was the #1 female pick for the Smackdown show in the WWE draft (scripted, I know, but it still shows how highly McMahon et al rate her), before going on to become the first ever WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion. Not a bad achievement for someone who was still working as a flight attendant three years ago.

Joanne Cantwell

We finally got a glimpse of Bill O'Herlihy's long-term fill-in at Montrose this summer. We enjoy Darragh Maloney's work but feel he's better suited to live commentary. It was Joanne Cantwell who stepped up big time this August when confronted with a maelstrom of scandal and unprecedented events. Cantwell's debut as Champions League anchor in April was overwhelmingly praised and she provided plenty of gravitas on the proud days for Irish sport, like after the O'Donovans' won silver.

Similarly, she asked the hard questions when they were required, especially in the face of the massively underwhelming performance of the Irish boxers.

Amid the conversation about the lack of prominent female voices in Irish sports administration, Irish sports media and Irish sporting life as a whole, Cantwell was a rock during one of the maddest months in Irish sporting life.

Susan Whelan

Football's most unlikely story in 2016 had one very Irish angle. Leicester's chief executive is Howth woman Susan Whelan. Whelan had worked with the clubs's Thai owners and was  appointed Leicester chief executive in 2011, overseeing the complete reversal in the club's fortunes. She also oversaw the hiring of Claudio Ranieri, a decision that forever altered the power dynamics of the Premier League. Whelan has already won the Global Irish Outstanding Achievement in Business Award this month and winning the Woman of the Year would be the icing on the cake.



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