PÁIRC Uí Chaoimh hosted a celebration of some of Cork's most gifted athletes at the Echo Women in Sport Awards on Thursday.
In attendance was a host of top performers from multiple disciplines, including MMA world champion Louise Brady, basketball star Claire Melia, and Gaelic footballer Annie Walsh.
Cork camogie captain Amy O’Connor was there and she won the overall prize and Glen Rovers stalwart Mary Newman was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
O’Connor was commended for winning the Munster Senior Camogie Championship and driving Seandún to their second successive Cork Senior Camogie Championship title.
She collected the prize and joined a long list of Leeside legends that includes Republic of Ireland international Denise O’Sullivan, boxing champion Christina Desmond, and Olympian Derval O’Rourke.
Newman was recognised for her lifelong service to the Glen Rovers and Cork GAA as she has held almost every role possible with the two organisations. She’s a fixture on the side-lines in Blackpool and she helped her club win a number of All-Ireland club championships during the 1980s. Newman was joined by her large family, which made it a real family affair for the Glen stalwart.
It was a night of celebration that brought together people from all across the sporting spectrum, which honoured the past while teasing the future.
One athlete who made sure not the miss the event was Olympian Louise Shanahan, as she arrived at Páirc Uí Chaoimh straight off a flight from London.
That was the end of a crazy day for the runner, who was recognised for becoming the British Universities indoor 800m champion in 2022 and breaking the Irish 800m record.
“I only left at lunchtime so my flight was at twenty to three and I landed at four. Cork Airport is a dream. You go straight out from the plane to the car park. It was a quick dash home to get changed and out here tonight!”
Shanahan was delighted to have an opportunity at the event to look back over a landmark 2022.
It was a really great year for me so I was delighted with the progress and to get the national record on top of that, that was the icing on the cake.
"I’m looking forward to hopefully bigger things in 2023 and then on to 2024,” she said.
“The main goal this year is to secure qualification to the 2024 Olympics and we have the World Championships in Budapest in August so that will be another goal. The big thing is the Olympics and kicking on into 2024.”
She was joined by guest of honour Clare Shine, who gave a moving speech on the pressures facing modern athletes and how sport saved her during her darkest days.
“It’s nice to see a few familiar faces that I haven’t seen in a very long time but coming back to Cork, nothing really changes. Everyone is still where they are meant to be, especially with the camogie board.
“It was nice to see Amy pick up the annual award tonight and that is brilliant. It is a credit to her, she is an incredible athlete.”
An underlining theme during the event was the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Shine cannot wait to see Ireland make their debut on the biggest stage.
“I’m so excited, I can’t wait to support the girls. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them and I know that they are very excited. So I can’t wait for it to start and all the games to begin so we can start cheering them on,” she said.
Michael Sheehan, Managing Director of The Irish Examiner & The Echo, praised the event organisers for their coverage of women’s sport.
“We’re in a privileged position here, we have a platform to help promote the women’s games. A lot of people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
“ The Echo walk the walk. It is incredible what they produce on a daily basis, moving online primarily and in print.
“If all media across the country could do that it would be in a much better position. The Echo team deserve huge gratitude for doing that.”