Danielle Walsh Ronan
Despite ongoing difficulties with the Covid-19 pandemic, sports fans were treated to a myriad of spectacles in 2021, from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to an exciting GAA season.
After being delayed a year due to the pandemic, the Olympics brought much excitement as Irish athletes competed across various competitions.
In one of the sporting highlights of the year, Kellie Harrington became the third Irish boxer in history to win a gold medal the Olympic Games following a win over Beatriz Ferreira in the lightweight decider in Tokyo.
Boxer Aidan Walsh was forced to withdraw from the welterweight semi-final against Pat McCormack of Britain due an ankle injury he picked up celebrating in his victory over Merven Clair of Mauritius. That win over Clair guaranteed Walsh a bronze medal, which he had to settle for due to his injury.
As well as boxing, Ireland also excelled in rowing competitions. Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan won gold in the lightweight men’s double sculls competition. Meanwhile, the Irish women’s four rowers Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty claimed bronze.
The GAA season had some major surprises with underdogs Meath beating Dublin in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship final.
The winning streak of the Dublin men's senior football team was also brought to an end by Mayo in the All-Ireland Football Championship semi-final. However, it was Tyrone who managed to bring the Sam Maguire home after beating the westerners in the final.
Limerick finished their season in style by beating Cork 3-32 – 1-22 in the All-Ireland Hurling Championship final. Meanwhile, Galway snatched the title of All-Ireland Camogie champions after coming out on top over Cork in Croke Park.
On the soccer front, Stephen Kenny faced significant criticism this year after his Republic of Ireland team went 11 games without a victory - a barren spell which ended with a 4-1 win over Andorra in June. While soccer fans may not have had a lot to cheer about this year, 11-year-old Addison Whelan receiving Cristiano Ronaldo's match jersey after she stormed the pitch at the Ireland vs Portugal game certainly put a smile on many faces.
Irish rugby star Johnny Sexton also experienced an unforgettable moment this year as he received his 100th cap for Ireland while togging out against Japan at the Aviva Stadium. The Ireland captain was also part of the Leinster squad who were crowned PRO14 champions in March.