This week, in the final Sports People of 2021, Seamus Duke takes a look back over the past year and some of the local sporting highlights…
Roscommon U-20s at Croker
The Roscommon U-20s footballers provided GAA fans in the county with a memorable championship campaign which culminated in a narrow defeat to Offaly in the All-Ireland which was played in front of 22,000 people at Croke Park.
Liam Tully led his charges to a Connacht final win over Mayo in Castlebar as well as a thrilling extra-time win over Down in the All-Ireland semi-final in Cavan before losing out to the Faithful County by 1-14 to 1-11 at headquarters last August.
Aoife O’Rourke’s Olympic heroics
The 2019 European Middleweight champion from Castlerea qualified for the 2020 Olympics by defeating Poland’s Elzbieta Wojik in Paris last June.
O’Rourke was handed a tough draw in Tokyo which saw her pitted against number two seed Qian Li from China. Following another very impressive showing, the Castlerea fighter lost out on an unanimous points decision.
He can now set her sights on another Olympics appearance in Paris 2024.
Pádraig Pearses’ provincial assault
Pat Flanagan’s men now have another Connacht final appearance to look forward to having dispatched Galway champions Mountbellew-Moylough in a tetchy semi-final.
Mayo champions Knockmore now await the Roscommon champions in early January.
Clash of the Parish ash!
Not too many observers would have predicted a senior hurling final pairing of Athleague and Tremane in 2021 but that’s exactly what happened as the two teams from the same parish set up one of the most interesting deciders in decades.
Tremane, with Niall Kilroy on fire, were on top early on but crucial goals from Robbie Fallon, Eoin Ward and Cormac Kelly turned the match in Athleague’s favour and they held out to win their 20th title by 3-12 to 0-15.
A teenage golfing sensation
With all that she has achieved so far it’s hard to believe that Olivia Costello is still only 13-years-old. The Roscommon Golf Club members had a memorable year, the highlight of which was reaching the semi-finals of the Irish Close Championship in Ballybunion.
Olivia also finished in the top ten at the Leinster Woman’s Championships (3rd), Irish Girls’ Close Championship (7th), Munster Women’s Open (4th), and the Leinster Girls’ Championships (6th). Olivia is already part of the Irish girls elite squad and her graph is only going in one direction.
Daire continues cycle of success
Having finished 2020 at the top of the Cycling Ireland rankings, Daire Feeley was quick off the mark in 2021, winning three of his first six races and turning heads in the Noel Teggert Memorial (Banbridge Cycling Club). The All-Human VeloRevolution rider also took victories in the John Holian Memorial and Athenry Grand Prix before finishing a very impressive second in the Irish National Road Race Championships, narrowly edged out by Ryan Mullen.
The 25-year-old is also a performance endurance coach and works as a sports tutor with Roscommon Sports Partnership.
Timothy at Tokyo Paralympics
When Ballymoe woman, Richael Timothy, suffered an acquired brain injury in 2016 it only increased her desire to compete in sport at the top level. The former Roscommon Ladies footballer and international soccer player turned her attentions to cycling and by the start of 2021 was ranked 8th in the world on the road and 4th on track.
She travelled to Tokyo to compete in the Paralympics in September where she performed brilliantly and set a number of personal best times.
Clubs on FAI Junior Cup run
Roscommon & District Football League clubs, Boyle Celtic and Ballinasloe Town, are still going strong in the FAI Junior Cup.
Both sides have reached the last 32, with ties to take place in early January.
Boyle Celtic, who reached the semi-finals of this competition in 2017, will travel to Waterford to take on Villa FC while Ballinasloe have a home tie against Mayo side, Ballyheane.
Carty continues to shine
Following the Rugby World Cup in 2019, Kiltoom’s Jack Carty seemed to become Ireland’s forgotten man. But the former Roscommon minor footballer is now playing the best rugby of his career and the pressure is increasing on Andy Farrell and his selectors to recall him to the international fold.
A string of excellent displays and a number of new records for Connacht should have Carty back in the frame for the Six Nations next year.
Sky’s the limit for local horse
‘Skyace’ was the ultimate ‘rags to riches’ story in 2021. The horse which was bought for €600 by a local syndicate which features former St. Brigid’s and Roscommon footballer, Cathal McHugh, won the €100,000 Grade 1 Mares’ Novices Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Grand National day. Trained by ‘Shark’ Hanlon, the horse also ran in Cheltenham and Puchestown and the owners are looking forward to more success in 2022.