Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Waterford’s Thomas Barr with his Athlete of the Year award at the recent Irish Life Health National Athletics Awards 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry. Amazingly his Rio exploits weren’t enough to get him nominated for the RTE Sports Person of the Year Award. Photo: Sportsfile.

Why do we get so worked up about shortlists?
I have no idea but we do, oh boy we do. The Oscars, the Ballon D’Or, the All-Stars, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, you name the awards and there has been a controversy (or two) about who has or has not been nominated over the years but this year’s RTE Sports Awards, which were on the telly last Saturday night, seem to have taken it to a whole new level.
The major controversy of the night centred around the list of nominees for the Sports Person of the Year Award. The list, compliled by an RTE selection panel, contained 13 very fine Irish sportspeople, all of whom did great things in 2016 but where the controversy arose is that there were glaring omissions from the list and I mean glaring.
Without doubt the biggest sporting event of 2016 was the Olympic Games in Rio but yet two of the real stars of the games from an Irish viewpoint were not included on the list. Waterford’s own, Thomas Barr, who smashed his personal best in a season ravaged by injury to make the final of the 400m and then top that by finishing 0.05 of a second from a bronze medal in fourth. A brilliant performance and one that caught the hearts and minds of the Irish sporting public near and far back in August.
Of course the two highlights of the Olympics from an Irish perspective were the silver medals won by Annalise Murphy in sailing and by the O’Donovan brothers in rowing. Annalise Murphy was on the list (and rightly so of course), as was Paul O’Donovan but there was no place on the list of nominees for Gary O’Donovan …really? That beggars belief.
But my friends it doesn’t end there. You might have heard of a chap from up the North by the name of Rory McIlroy. He had a pretty good year too, winning the FedEx Cup and the $11m dollars that went with it along with the Irish Open. He was also pretty decent for Europe in the Ryder Cup even if they did lose to the USA in America. But yet there was no room on the shortlist for Rory either.
Apart from the Olympics what was the major sporting event from an Irish viewpoint in 2016? The European Soccer Championships in France I would have thought. But despite a decent showing from the Irish team, which included a great win over Italy, no Irish player makes the list. Robbie Brady anybody? And we could go on and on but these really are the standout ones and to say the exclusion of these Irish sporting stars has raised a few eyebrows would be somewhat of an understatement. Eamonn Sweeney and Paul Kimmage were two of the main ones who have spoken out as did former nominee and World Champion Race Walker , Rob Heffernan who said, “It’s extremely disappointing that Tom (Barr) won’t be athletics representative for the RTE sports star of the year award when you consider the magnitude of his performance, not only in this Olympic Games but in the history of the sport with his 4th place finish in Rio . People who run these awards need to realise the value of performance!” Well said Rob and he knows a thing or two about it.
There was no surprise on Saturday night that Conor McGregor was chosen as the winner by the public vote. I’m not a MMA fan but I have great respect for Conor McGregor and what he has done and continues to do in his sport and good luck to him and even if Thomas Barr, both of the O’Donovan brothers and Rory McIlroy were on the list, he probably still would have won but that doesn’t change the fact that they should have been on the list. A bad own goal by RTE.

Despite winning the Team of the Year Award, only one of the O’Donovan brothers (Paul) was nominated for the RTE Sports Person of the Year Award. Photo: Inpho.

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