Welcome to the Leitrim Observer Sports Review of 2017 as we look back over a year filled with triumphs, disappointments, highs and lows and plenty to talk about.
In this week's review, we have asked Leitrim Men's captain Donal Wrynn and Ladies captain Michelle Guckian to join with our own Philip Rooney and P.J. Leddy to give us their highs and lows of 2017.
Next week, it is the turn of This Sporting Life columnist Colin Regan, former Shannonside commentator John Lynch, Leitrim Sports Star of the Year Eanna Madden and our own Willie Donnellan and John Connolly to look back on 2017.
Also keep an eye out this holiday season for more stories looking back on Leitrim's sporting year on www.leitrimobserver.ie over the coming days.
DONAL WRYNN - LEITRIM MEN'S SENIOR TEAM CAPTAIN
Highlight of the Year: From a personal point of view, beating London in the re-developed McGovern Park in the first round of the championship. From an overall perspective, Galway’s dramatic win in the hurling championship for the first time in 29 years was also one of those moments that had hairs standing on the back of your neck.
Personality of the Year: Not too close to home, but it’s got to be Cristiano Ronaldo for me. Breaking records around and about him on his way to guiding Real Madrid to a second Champions league in a row, deservedly collecting his 5th Ballon D’Or in the process. At 32, he is just relentless.
Team of the Year: After winning three All-Ireland titles in a row, the Dubs probably deserve the nod here. Mohill also showed their class and their strength in depth, winning the county championship and competing strongly in the Connacht club championship.
Best Match: I’d have to say the Men’s All-Ireland Senior Football final this year between Mayo and Dublin. It was an incredible spectacle and the fitness levels on display were jaw dropping.
Lowlight of the Year: On a personal level, losing to Roscommon in the Connacht championship in the manner which we did this year was a real low light. Outside of that, I thought the Conor McGregor Floyd Mayweather circus was a lot of hype about nothing.
What are you looking forward to in 2018? - For Leitrim a very fresh squad with an average age of just over 22 can only be promising. The trip to New York on the May bank holiday weekend is something to really look forward to. I think the club scene in Leitrim strengthened a lot last year and with a number of 17 year olds making the step up to Fenagh’s first team in 2018 makes for exciting times.
One to Watch in 2018 - I could pick any number of individuals for this one. Darragh Rooney only showed a glimpse of what he is capable of in 2017. He hasn’t turned 19 yet and if he can stay injury free I can see him being a real star for Leitrim for many years.
P.J. LEDDY - OCEAN FM
Highlight of the Year: For me, when Carrick-on-Shannon Athletic Club’s Eanna Madden retained his Irish 200 metres title at the AAI senior track and fields championships in Santry on Saturday, July 22 it was the outstanding Leitrim sport’s performance of 2017. Eanna took a silver medal in the AAI 100m final on the following day in Santry. He also turned in some impressive performances as well in high quality international track & field events during the season.
Personality of the Year: Ballinaglera’s Michael Cornyn would seem to me to be the ideal 2017 Leitrim (Sports) Personality. Michael is ranked number one Irish Masters athlete for his age group in the 400m and 800m. The former North Leitrim Athletic Club runner is now a leading member of Dunboyne AC for whom he regularly competes. He also takes charge of the Ballinaglera GAA players training in Dublin and attends most of Ballinaglera’s games. No doubt the training from a delighted Michael helped Ballinaglera win the 2017 Leitrim Division Two league final, the Club’s first major success since winning the 1996 county intermediate title.
Team/Club/Group of the Year: Mohill had an outstanding year when winning the 2017 Leitrim senior football club championship for the second time in three years and claiming their third Leitrim Division One league title in a row. Despite suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of Castlebar Mitchels in the Connacht senior club championship semi-final in Castlebar, Mohill still put up a good performance in that game. Other impressive contenders the Leitrim Team of the Year are the Leitrim U14 Ladies (All-Ireland ‘B’ champions), the Leitrim Junior Men (Connacht champions) and the Leitrim Hurlers (Lory Meagher Cup finalists.
Best Occasion/Match: It was certainly a delight for me to be present when Leitrim won their seventh Connacht junior football title in Fr. O’Hara Park Charlestown on Wednesday, May 17 with a 1-16 to 0-16 win over Mayo. The Leitrim Junior team displayed tremendous spirit that evening when one considers they trailed by 0-7 to 0-1 after 18 minutes. A James Campbell goal helped to turn the tide for Leitrim and although Mayo closed the gap to a point near the end, Cathal McCrann ensured a Leitrim victory with two coolly converted frees.
Lowlight/Disappointment of the Year: Even though Roscommon went on to defeat Galway impressively in the Connacht final afterwards, Leitrim’s 17 points drubbing by the Rossies (2-23 to 1-9) in the Connacht semi-final in Hyde Park on Sunday, June 18 was a bitter pill for all the loyal supporters that travelled to Roscommon Town that day. Roscommon simply walked all over Leitrim with consummate ease that day. Leitrim put up very feeble resistance to the Rossies from the start to the finish of the game.
What are you looking forward to in 2018 - In 2018, I am looking forward to further success for Carrick-on-Shannon AC’s two leading Irish senior athletes, Eanna Madden and Gerard O’Donnell at National and International level; plenty of excellent achievements by other young Leitrim athletes at Connacht and National levels; Connacht senior football championship wins over New York and Roscommon; more success for the Drumshanbo Vocational School volleyball teams; good results for Leitrim boxers in the Connacht and Irish championships, more success for Leitrim swimmers like Dromahair’s Carrie McDaid and Kinlough’s Eanna O’Hara; the Leitrim hurlers maintaining their Nicky Rackard Cup status; plenty of sports enjoyment for everyone.
One to Watch in 2018 - Should Mohill falter, Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s would seem to be the dark horses for the Leitrim Senior Football Championship title in 2018. This is especially so after their impressive run 2017 championship run where they were the only undefeated team semi-final side prior to losing to Glencar/Manor on 3-8 to 0-10 score line.
After winning the 2016 Intermediate title and getting to the Connacht Intermediate club final, Ballinamore Sean O’Heslin’s 2017 progress means they would be worth a bet on to win 2018 Leitrim senior crown and bridge a 28 year gap, as their last senior title claimed was in 1990.
MICHELLE GUCKIAN - LEITRIM LADIES SENIOR TEAM CAPTAIN
Highlight of the Year: Leitrim U14 Girls winning the All-Ireland. It was a fantastic game, with so much talent coming up from our underage.
Team/Club/Group of the Year: Leitrim Men's GAA Junior team winning the Connacht final and putting up a great fight against a strong Kerry team.
Personality of the Year: Clare Owens, Leitrim County Player of the Year and Club Senior player of the year. Clare had a brilliant year with Club and County this year, topping it off with Senior Club Championship.
One to Watch in 2018: Glencar Manorhamilton Ladies GAA. There are a really talented group of underage teams winning in Manorhamilton the past few years and they will be breaking into the Senior ranking, making them an even stronger team for 2018.
Disappointment of the Year: Leitrim Intermediate Ladies losing to Tyrone in the All-Ireland Quarter final. Tyrone were a better team but its still very disappointing to be put out of the championship, knowing that we were better than the way we performed that day.
What are you looking forward to in 2018: Leitrim vs New York. Says it all really.
PHILIP ROONEY - LEITRIM OBSERVER
Highlight of the Year: The standard was set domestically this year by the Galway hurlers and once again the Dublin footballers while Cork City’s domestic double was an incredible achievement. However, the Mayo rollercoaster is a story that is becoming more and more gripping every year. A setback in Connacht could have derailed their year and the early rounds of the qualifiers weren’t always convincing but when it came to the business end of the campaign, they were brilliant to watch.
The replay victories over Roscommon and Kerry were full of incredible drama but there was to be no fairytale finish as they were pipped at the post by Dublin once more. Whenever they get over the line, these years of heartbreak will make the eventual victory all the sweeter.
Personality of the Year: Colin Kaepernick. One of the best quarterbacks in American football is currently out of work following his high profile protest that saw him ‘take a knee’ during the American national anthem in response to perceived racial inequalities in America. His stance was copied by many more players throughout the NFL but this season Kaepernick has found himself surplus to requirements as no club would offer him a contract. There is talk he is considering becoming a part owner in an NFL franchise which would certainly make for interesting clashes and conversations.
Team of the Year: I could never claim to be a baseball fan but the story of the Houston Astros is truly an incredible one.
The Texas side entered the National League in 1962 and barring the odd period of relative success have suffered a largely frustrating existence. Between 2011 and 2013 they registered three straight seasons in which they lost more than 100 games. In 2014 Sports Illustrated magazine believed they were on the verge of something special and carried a front page story introducing the Astros as the 2017 World Series champions. Incredibly in November of this year, the Astros defeated the LA Dodgers in game seven of the World Series to claim a remarkable 4-3 win and their first World Series title.
Best Occasion/Match: The Leitrim hurlers ended a wait that has gone on far too long when they became the first team from the county to play in Croke Park since the ladies won the Intermediate Championship in 2007. Unfortunately the result didn’t go to plan from a Leitrim point of view but for those supporting the green and gold it was a special day to see the county run out onto the famous turf. For those who have battled for the cause over a long number of years it was an extra special occasion.
Lowlight of the Year: So near and yet so far! After a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen it seemed reasonable to think Ireland were on course for a place at next summer’s World Cup. When Shane Duffy scored to give Ireland the lead in the second leg of the World Cup play-off at the Aviva Stadium that expectation grew further but those hopes and dreams were devastatingly dashed as Denmark scored five without reply to book their flight to Russia.
What are you looking forward to in 2018: Katie Taylor continuing her march towards global dominance. She has brilliantly put the heartbreak of the Rio Olympics behind her and has adapted superbly to the pro game. In interviews she is humble and modest while in the ring she is a fierce competitor with an unshakable sense of self belief. The manner in which she has defeated everyone put in her path to date in the pro game means she could become the nation’s biggest star, without the nonsense associated with watching a Conor McGregor promotion. Locally, a better league campaign from the county’s footballers will hopefully set us up for a more competitive summer.
One to Watch in 2018: Kerry’s David Clifford will be watched with real interest in the months to come after his incredible 4-4 in this year’s Minor All-Ireland Final while Gina Akpe Moses will be hoping to build on an incredible year that saw her claim gold in the European U20 Championships in Italy. Locally it will be hoped Leitrim’s young guns of Darragh Rooney, Dean McGovern, Conor Cullen, Jack Heslin and Donal Wrynn will be able to guide the county safely past the challenge of New York and Roscommon and into a Connacht Final. Leitrim fans will also be eagerly looking forward to the return to action of Emlyn Mulligan and Nevin O’Donnell after injury.
PART TWO IN NEXT WEEK'S LEITRIM OBSERVER