The RTÉ Sport Awards take place this coming Saturday, and Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and the recently-retired Jonathan Sexton have been nominated in the Manager of the Year and Sportsperson of the Year categories respectively.
2023 saw Ireland win their fourth Men’s Six Nations Grand Slam, and their first on home soil since 1948. They set a new national record of 17 consecutive Test victories, while also spending 15 months at the top of the World Rugby rankings.
Their Rugby World Cup hopes were agonisingly dashed by New Zealand at the quarter-final stage, but it was still a year to remember for Farrell, the World Rugby Coach of the Year, and talismanic captain Sexton, who brought the curtain down on his stellar 17-year career.
Sexton retired as Ireland’s record points scorer, overtaking Ronan O’Gara during the World Cup pool triumph over Tonga. He bowed out of the game with 1108 points in 118 appearances for his country.
The 38-year-old captained Ireland 30 times, leading them to 25 wins for an enviable winning rate of 83.33%. He was the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year in 2018 following the team’s previous Grand Slam success, and was also nominated in 2013 and 2014.
A number of injuries, most notably away to Scotland in March, failed to derail Farrell’s men from Triple Crown and Grand Slam glory. October’s gut-wrenching defeat to the All Blacks in Paris was only an eighth loss for Ireland in 43 Tests under the Wigan man.
He has a winning rate of 81.4% and has given debuts to 33 players since his first game in charge in 2020, including Ciaran Frawley, Tom Stewart and Calvin Nash this year.
Showing the consistent heights he had reached with the team, he was nominated for the award last year too when Ireland won their first ever Test series in New Zealand, reached the top of the rankings, and beat both South Africa and Australia at the Aviva Stadium.
The aforementioned O’Gara is also among the nominees for the 2023 RTÉ Sport Manager of the Year, following his superb achievement in coaching La Rochelle to their second successive Champions Cup title.
Both Munster and Grand Slam winners Ireland have been shortlisted for the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year honour. Munster had an epic run through the knockout rounds to win a long-awaited United Rugby Championship crown.
Munster Academy back rower Brian Gleeson, who starred for the Grand Slam-winning Ireland Under-20s who were also World Rugby U-20 Championship finalists, is in contention to win the RTÉ Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year honour.
Joanne Cantwell and Darragh Maloney will present the RTÉ Sport Awards live from Studio 4 in RTÉ this Saturday night. The annual ceremony will be broadcast live on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player from 9.30pm.
The winners will be selected by an independent panel of expert judges from across the Irish sporting media and performance world.
2023 RTÉ SPORT SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
While the Leinster and Ireland great may not have had the fairytale send-off he dreamed of, there was still plenty to celebrate in his retirement year.
Sexton captained Ireland to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2023, helped them to a famous victory over South Africa, and took Leinster to the final of the Champions Cup before bringing the curtain down on a glittering career.
Katie McCabe led the Republic of Ireland Women’s team to their first major finals after they qualified for the 2023 World Cup before she became the first ever Irish women to score at the tournament. She also played a starring role in Ireland’s successful Nations League campaign, gaining promotion with a 100% record.
She brought her appearances in an Arsenal shirt up to the 200 mark and played a key role for the Gunners as they won the Women’s League Cup and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Just when you start to think that Katie Taylor has nothing left to accomplish in the sport of boxing, she somehow finds another level to break new ground and set another landmark achievement.
Taking a late decision to step up another weight level for an undisputed world title at a second weight level, Taylor first fought champion Chantelle Cameron in May when she narrowly lost by a majority decision. Not to be denied, the Bray bomber won the rematch with Cameron last month to become a two-weight undisputed champion.
At the tender age of 24, Rhys McClenaghan became a back-to-back World champion after claiming the gold medal in the pommel horse event at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. The Irish Olympian booked his place at the 2024 Paris Games in the process.
McClenaghan also won gold on the European stage, winning his second European Championship pommel horse gold.
2023 has been a banner year for Paul Townend who further cemented his status as a horse racing great.
Winning his third Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Galopin Des Champs, Townend lit up Cheltenham with wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Arkle. He also steered Galopin Des Champs to Irish Gold Cup glory and claimed his sixth Champion Jockey title.
Róisín Ní Riain
Paralympic swimmer Róisín Ní Riain has become such a familiar feature on the podium that it is easy to forget she is still only 18-years-old.
The Limerick swimmer already has the experience of the Tokyo Paralympics in her pocket and secured her place in next summer’s Paris Games by winning gold and silver at this year’s Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester, all while balancing her Leaving Cert with her training.
Aaron Gillane continues to do his bit to keep Limerick’s trophy cabinet makers gainfully employed.
The right corner-forward helped his county to their fourth consecutive All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship title, their fifth consecutive Munster crown, was personally named on the All-Stars team for the fourth year in a row and for the first time was named the GAA-GPA All-Star Hurler of the Year. Not a bad 2023 all things considered.
2023 RTÉ SPORT MANAGER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
The head coach led Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2023 and was named the World Rugby Coach of the Year.
The Dublin football manager brought Sam Maguire back to the capital as the Dubs reclaimed the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship title.
John Kiely has steered Limerick to win five of the last six All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championships.
Managed Shamrock Rovers to a historic fourth successive League of Ireland title, becoming the first manager to do so.
The La Rochelle head coach steered the French club to back-to-back Champions Cup titles.
The Clontarf man guided Dublin to to a sixth All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship title, the fifth of his reign.
Under Twomey’s stewardship, Cork defeated Waterford to win the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship title for the first time in five years.
Galopin Des Champs gave Mullins a third Gold Cup and 94th Cheltenham Festival victory overall.
The Skibbereen rowing mastermind was behind Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy as they retained their World Championship title.
2023 RTÉ SPORT TEAM OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
Cork Camogie team
Cork won a 29th All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship title in August, beating Waterford in the final for their first All-Ireland success since 2018.
Dublin Gaelic football team
The Dublin men’s football team beat Kerry in the decider to reclaim the Sam Maguire Cup after a three-year wait.
Dublin Ladies football team
Likewise for the Dublin Ladies football team as they also overcame the Kingdom in the All-Ireland final.
Ireland Rowing team
World gold again for Irish rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, a fourth in a row for O’Donovan and a third for McCarthy.
Ireland Men’s Rugby team
A fourth Grand Slam for the Ireland Men’s rugby team and a first completed in Dublin.
Limerick Hurling team
League champions, five-in-a-row Munster champions, and joint-record four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.
Munster Men’s Rugby team
A first piece of silverware in 12 years for Munster as they won the United Rugby Championship in memorable fashion.
Katie-George Dunlevy and Linda Kelly
Double gold for Katie-George Dunlevy and Linda Kelly at the Para Cycling World Championships.
Shamrock Rovers Men’s Soccer team
Stephen Bradley’s side were crowned League of Ireland champions for the fourth season in succession, equalling the record of the 1984-1987 Hoops team.