The Personality Of The Year is sponsored by AYA. This Personality of the Year Award recognises athletes that demonstrate inspiration, determination and/or resilience. This person will have inspired beyond the sporting arena, achieved in spite of the odds, and can be acknowledged in a personal and/or sporting capacity. AYA, the leading Irish vitamin and supplement brand for all the family, are proud to sponsor this Award that epitomises ’Living the AYA Way’’ – supporting a healthy lifestyle to make sure you’re feeling on top form, no matter what you’re doing or what life throws at you’.
Amelia McFarland defied the odds and exemplified resilience in the face of adversity, making her Energia All-Ireland League debut for Blackrock College in September, a mere year after her initial breast cancer diagnosis.
Rugby became a refuge for the 33-year-old, providing solace amidst the challenges of aggressive chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and other treatments. Throughout her courageous journey, McFarland’s teammates offered steadfast support, standing by her side every step of the way.
Beyond the rugby pitch, McFarland has become a passionate advocate for Breast Cancer Awareness, using her experience to inspire others facing similar battles. Looking ahead, she sets her sights on personal triumphs and is determined to pursue silverware with her new club in 2024. Amelia McFarland’s narrative is a powerful testament to the transformative impact of sport and the resilience found in the face of daunting challenges.
While Annalise Murphy is well-known for her world class sailing achievements, notably the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, this year saw the Dublin woman unveiling her versatile talents in another arena.
Stepping out of the boat and onto a bike, Murphy secured gold at the women’s scratch final during the Dublin Track Cycling International event in May. She continued to shine, claiming the same accolade in the individual pursuit at the Senior Track National Championships in August. Notably, every rider from Murphy’s newly established Longcourt Cycling Club earned national medals!
Riding on a bike borrowed from international cyclist Cian Keogh, Murphy has taken to the track in remarkable fashion. Her foray into cycling leaves many eagerly anticipating her aspirations for 2024, wondering what new dreams she might pursue in the coming years.
Fionnuala McCormack became the first Irishwoman to secure qualification for an astonishing FIVE Olympic Games. Remarkably, McCormack booked her ticket to Paris at the Valencia Marathon just five months after welcoming her third daughter into the world.
McCormack’s Olympic journey spans diverse events, competing consecutively in the last four Games in the 3,000m steeplechase, the 5,000m, the 10,000m, and now the marathon.
Beyond the Olympic stage, McCormack holds the women’s record for Irish international cap, underscoring her enduring commitment and excellence in athletics. In December, she added another remarkable chapter to her illustrious career, participating in her 18th European Cross Country championship, setting a new record across Europe.
Dublin’s Hannah Tyrrell achieved her dream of an All-Ireland title this year, after securing the title with the Blues in a hard-fought championship final against Kerry, which ended with a scoreline of 0-18 to 1-10. Tyrrell’s stellar performance played a pivotal role in the victory. Notably, she contributed 8 crucial points in the final and emerged as a key player throughout the season.
The Brendan Martin Cup adds to her impressive collection of accolades which now remarkably includes an FAI Cup, a Six Nations Rugby Championship, and a rugby Triple Crown. This remarkable achievement came in a year filled with personal milestones as she embraced motherhood, welcoming her first daughter, Aoife.
Embodying exceptional resilience at 71 years old, Mary Hickey-Nolan participated in her 42nd Dublin City Marathon this year, showcasing unwavering determination and resilience. A native of Arklow, she has been a consistent presence in EVERY edition of the race since its inauguration in 1980, persisting despite recurring Achilles problems.
In the inaugural marathon in 1980, a modest 2,000 individuals took part, with only 40 being women. Fast forward to the present day, and this year’s participation cap reached an impressive 22,500. Mary Hickey-Nolan’s enduring spirit and steadfast commitment serve as a poignant source of inspiration, infusing a heartening element into the marathon’s ongoing legacy.
Nicci Daly, a celebrated figure in World Cup and Olympic hockey, embraced a diverse journey post-retirement. After a hockey career which amassed over 200 international caps, she has since immersed herself in collaborations with organisations such as Motorsport Ireland, Formula Female, and the eSkootr Championship.
In a surprising twist since retirement from hockey, Daly debuted as a motor racing driver in 2018, finishing 10th in the eScooter Championship last year.
She has also channelled her focus on Formula Female, an all-female racing team, Daly aims to inspire, educate, and open doors for women in motorsport. Through this initiative, she underscores the role of STEM subjects in motorsport, emphasising the diverse opportunities available for women both on and off the track.
Irish footballer Ruesha Littlejohn has skyrocketed in popularity over the last 12 months, heighted by her contribution to Ireland’s historic debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Despite grappling with an injury setback, the current London City Lionesses player made a return in time for Vera Pauw’s squad selection for the start of the tournament.
Off the pitch, Littlejohn captivated women’s football enthusiasts globally through her vibrant social media presence and engaging ‘RueTube’ YouTube vlogs, providing an inside look into her compelling journey.
Expanding her off-field pursuits, Littlejohn co-launched the podcast ‘Life’s A Pitch’ alongside fellow Ireland teammate Lucy Quinn. In this podcast, the dynamic duo shares their unique perspectives on the latest footballing happenings, offering insights into their experiences both in club and country camps.
Olympian Sarah Lavin is an Irish athlete who specialises in hurdles. She’s the Irish record holder in the 100 metres flat, clocking a phenomenal 11.27 seconds in Switzerland in 2023, breaking the previous national 100m record held by Phil Healy.
This remarkable achievement, coupled with her previous record-breaking performance of 12.62 seconds at the World Championships in Budapest, where she eclipsed Derval O’Rourke’s long-standing national hurdles record, has solidified her position as the fastest woman in Ireland over both 100 metres flat and hurdles.
Those achievements are unbelievable in self, but even more so when put in the context the hardship Lavin has had to overcome this year.
Having tragically lost her boyfriend Craig Breen in a motorsport accident this year, the Limerick woman continues to defy expectations and compete in his memory, showcasing undeniable strength and triumph amidst adversity in doing so.
Shauna Bannon is one of Ireland’s greatest combat fighters, with world titles in jiu jitsu, kickboxing and MMA.
The Tallaght fighter manages her elite sport exploits alongside her life as a mother to her son Jayce, earning her the nickname Mama B.
She was signed by the UFC in June of this year, and a month later she fought her debut fight under that umbrella against Brazilian Bruna Brasil in the O2 Arena in London.
Going in to the fight her record she was unbeaten in five, and although she fell short on that occasion, she made a vow that she will return to the octagon to fight another day.
Siofra Lawless went viral on social media this winter, with her own Temple Carrig Secondary School welcoming her back from the World Junior Boxing Championships in Armenia after she took gold in the 63kg division.
The Greystones boxer and 5th Year student was cheered on by her fellow students as well as staff members upon her return, after they had all watched her defeat India’s Scahin Shurshti Sathe by 5 – 0 decision just days prior.