‘I’m just a normal country lad from Clara’ – Lowry scoops top gong at RTÉ Sport Awards

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By Cóilín Duffy

Shane Lowry claimed the ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ for 2019 at the RTÉ Sport Awards at the RTÉ TV Studios in Donnybrook.

The Offaly golfer scooped the coveted accolade after an unforgettable 2019, which saw him claim his first major title, by winning the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.

Tipperary Hurler Seamus Callanan; Dublin Footballer Stephen Cluxton; Galway Camogie player Niamh Kilkenny; Athlete Ciara Mageean; Gymnast Rhys McClenaghan; Soccer player Denise O’Sullivan; Rower Sanita Puspure; Para-Athlete Jason Smyth and Boxer Katie Taylor, were also short-listed.

“I’m just a normal country lad from Clara,” Lowry said after receiving the award from his Dad Brendan.

Speaking of his Offaly hometown, Lowry dedicated the award to local man John Buckley who passed away recently

“Family, my hometown, my county and my country mean a lot to me,” he said.

Earlier Lowry spoke of being able to reflect on the magnitude of his success this Summer.

“It’s been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible few months,” he said.

“I’ve had a few weeks off now, and I get to reflect on it. I never knew how much I was going to achieve in the game, but I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would do something like this. It’s just been great!”

The accolades continue to roll in for now former Dublin manager Jim Gavin, who after scooping the Signify Sports Manager of the Year, added the corresponding RTÉ Sport honour to his trophy cabinet.

Gavin received the award from Dublin Football Legend Tony Hanahoe.

'I'm just a normal country lad from Clara' - Lowry scoops top gong at RTÉ Sport Awards

“I’m absolutely honoured to receive this, but I’m really accepting it on behalf of a magnificent backroom team. I’ll really miss all of them. They have been superb.

“I’d got a great coaching and management team. I’m part of it, and we’ve always done our best to get the players in the best shape to perform.

“Shane O’Hanlon, Paul Clarke, and in particular Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock have been phenomenal for me in the last couple of seasons.

“You can bestow awards like this on managers and coaches, and even organisations, but at the end of it, it’s about the players, it’s about the athletes, and I’m just really fortunate enough to share a journey with some fantastic players.

“That’s the bit I will really miss – the connections I made with them, but I’ll have friendships for life, and I will cherish those.”

Dublin Senior footballers were named as the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year on a shortlist that also included the Dublin Ladies Footballers, Dundalk FC, Galway’s Senior Camogie team; the Irish Womens Hockey team; the Irish Showjumping Team; Rowers Gary O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy; Team Tiger Roll, and the Tipperary Senior Hurlers.

“Credit to the lads, eventhough a lot of them are still young, these are lads I looked up too in 2011, seeing Ciaran Kilkenny out there (in the Minor All-Ireland), and Brian (Fenton) – getting the opportunity to play with him also with Raheny,” Dublin forward Brian Howard said.

“It’s special when you get to play with your friends and the lads you looked up too, on the pitch on the special days in September.”

Gymnast Rhys McClenaghan once again claimed the RTÉ Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year.

McClenaghan picked up the same accolade 12 months ago, and rightly received the award again for 2019, after a year which saw him become the first Irish gymnast to medal at the World Championships, taking bronze in the pommel horse.

He also secured a place at the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

“I really wasn’t expecting this award this year too be honest,” he said.

“It’s been an incredible year, of course qualifying for the Olympic Games – a childhood dream come true. It was the first ever Gymnastics final (for an Irish athlete) at a European Championships, and to come out with the medal was just the cherry on top!”

Meanwhile, the accolades continue to roll in for Olympic 5,000 silver-medallist and former World 5,000m champion Sonia O’Sullivan.

After recently being honoured by her peers with an Athletics Ireland Hall of Fame award on her 50th birthday, she was honoured with the corresponding RTÉ Sport accolade tonight, recognising what was an outstanding career for the Cobh athlete.

“It just seems like a lifetime ago, it’s always amazing to look back and see how you looked over the years!,” O’Sullivan said.

“A lot of my Irish records have been there for a long time, some nearly half my life-time, and it’s about time that some of them are broken now too.”

Also on the night, tribute was paid to some of those in the Irish Sporting World who passed away in the past 12 months.

Gaelic Games stalwarts Dick Blanchfield, John Nallen, Cathal O’Leary, Eugene McGee, Eamonn Burns, Brídín Uí Mhaolagáin, Ned Wheeler, John Morrison, Dónal Kelly, Darren Connell, Eugene Aylward, Anton O’Toole, Sean Clohessy, Scott Doran, David Weldrick, Mick O’Rourke, Art Foley, Joe McCabe, Padraig Carney, Fr. Sean Hegarty, Pat Griffin and John Bailey; Soccer players Joe Colwell, Mick Kennedy, Ray Keogh, Noel Melvin; Rugby’s Jim Tydings; Motorsport’s Manus Kelly; Boxer Kevin Sheehy; Cyclist Sean Lynch; Athlete Craig Lynch; Toss Taaffe, Ferdy Murphy and Stan Cosgrove from the world of Horse Racing along with RTÉ Broadcasters Pat McAuliffe, Noel Reid and Michael Fortune were fondly remembered in a special video tribute.

A panel determined the RTÉ Sport Sportsperson of the Year award, the RTÉ Sport Manager of the Year award and the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year award while the RTÉ Sport Young Sportsperson of the Year was chosen by a separate panel made up of senior RTÉ Sport staff.

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