GIFTED soccer and ladies football ace Saoirse Noonan was crowned the overall Evening Echo Ladies Sports Star award winner at a glamourous function at the Ambassador Hotel yesterday.
The brilliant 18-year-old was selected by the judges from a list of 13 athletes to become the 11th overall recipient after excelling for the Irish international soccer team underage, hitting the goal-trail when the Cork minor footballers retained their All-Ireland and playing a key role with the Cork City team who landed a historic first FAI Cup.
Noonan followed in the footsteps of the likes of Rena Buckley, Olive Loughnane and Denise O'Sullivan in being chosen as the overall winner from a field of brilliant sportswomen in a number of fields from basketball and camogie to swimming and hockey.
Also honoured by the Evening Echo in front of a packed attendance in the Ambassador, which included Tánaiste Simon Conveny, deputy lord mayor Cllr Fergal Dennehy and FAI president Tony Fitzgerald, were Tina Murphy and Sinead Kane.
Murphy picked up the Hall of Fame award for a lifetime of service to Passage club and women's soccer on Leeside, while Kane collected the Special Achievement prize for completing an incredible seven marathons across seven continents in seven days.
The visually impaired Cobh athlete pulled off the feat with her guide runner John O'Regan last year and told MC John McHale: "I'm don't count how many marathons I've done but I make them all count."
The importance of drive and work-ethic was also mentioned by special guest Allison Donnelly. The East Cork native established the Evening Echo awards along with Mary White and the sports department when she was a reporter with the paper.
Donnelly has since progressed to working with the BBC, Sky Sports and is now in the communications department with British Prime Minister, while also administering the hugely-popular website for women's rugby Scrumqueens.
"You can achieve whatever you want by working very hard but also being nice to people," she explained.
The rise in the popularity of basketball was reflected by the fact three Glanmire aces were on the shortlist, Claire Rockall, Gráinne Dwyer and Louise Scannell, and they are in pursuit of a record five women's National Cup titles in a row when they compete in the final tomorrow evening. The club's U18s were also in action this afternoon.
There are 12 prizes given out across the four quarters by the Evening Echo, though Bandon hockey duo Emma White and Victoria Burns were joint-winners in 2017, making it 13 for the year.
Cork City dynamos Clare Shine, the goal hero in the cup final, was honoured across the year, along with the likes of swimmer Sharon Semchiy, Cork camogie legend Aoife Murray, runner Jilly Hodgins and international rower Denise Walsh, from the Skibb production line.
The Evening Echo Ladies Sports Star quarterly winners for 2017:
1. Sharon Semchiy (swimming)
2. Aoife Murray (camogie)
3. Louise Scannell (Glanmire basketball)
4. Claire Rockall (Glanmire basketball)
5. Jill Hodgins (athletics)
6. Denise Walsh (rowing)
7. Saoirse Noonan (soccer and ladies football)
8. Emma White/Victoria Burns (hockey)
9. Gráinne Dwyer (basketball)
10. Emma Farmer (ladies football)
11. Clare Shine (soccer)
12. Orla Finn (ladies football)