Why Katie Taylor shouldn’t win Sports Person of the Year

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With RTE’s 2012 Irish Sports Person of the Year award hovering into view in the next couple of weeks, it seems Katie Taylor is many people’s favourite to take home the prize. Even if it has been a 12 month spell which has seen so much notable achievement by Irish competitors in all types of codes, the boxer from Bray still seems to be something of a shoe-in. As fantastic an athlete as she has proven to be since emerging on the world stage, this would be a bit of a travesty. Even if Taylor deserves and has received plenty of acclaim at home and abroad this past few months, this is not an award she should be winning this year.

There seems to be a conspiracy of silence in Ireland about a rather large elephant in the room. At the Olympics, Taylor fought three times to win gold. Three times! Now, those of us who have never stepped through the ropes and put our bodies in the line of fire may have a bit of a cheek to say this but, it’s still worth saying. She won three fights to win a very soft medal. Again, that word soft may offend many but you know what I mean. This was hardly the most keenly-contested discipline in the London Games, was it? What does it say when at the biggest tournament in its short history as a women’s sport, you get a bye in the first round?

I know Taylor put years into preparing for what happened last August. I appreciate that. I also admire wholeheartedly the way she has bravely worn her religious beliefs on her sleeve and conducted herself with so much class. She is a great role model for young people and living proof of what can be achieved with determination and dedication. Indeed, she is such a great story that it’s not surprising that there is talk of a movie being made about her life. As Clint Eastwood will testify and as somebody like Saoirse Ronan (the bookies’ favourite to play her) may discover, female boxing is box office gold in Hollywood.

That’s all very well but how can Taylor win this award when an Irishman is currently the number one player in golf. Not only is he the world number one (a boast that has been devalued a tad by majorless Englishmen in the past few years), he has just come to the end of a three and a half month stretch during which he has dominated the sport completely. His peers are running out of superlatives to describe the stuff he’s been doing on the course although one particular competitor came up with the perfect description for his form.

 “Rory is playing like Tiger did in his young days,” said South African Charl Schwartzel who finished third behind the victorious Mcllroy at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai a few weeks back, “and it’s amazing to see.”

Counting last December’s victory in the Hong Kong Open, Mcllroy has won six tournaments in 12 calendar months. In the middle of the run, he rattled off one of the most impressive victories at a major since, well, since his first major at the US Open in 2011. On its own, his win at Kiawah Island in August should have been enough to make him sports star of the year in Ireland. Remember, the USPGA is the major which boasts the best field of the big four so Mcllroy had to go out and beat more than 140 of his peers over the course of four days. And he did this by eight strokes in the end.

In contrast, Taylor fought three times in London and the third victory wasn’t, ahem, exactly clear-cut as the Russian can rightly claim to have been the victim of some rather weird judging. Not to mention too there were only nine other fighters in the lightweight category at the Excel Arena in the first place.

This isn’t an attempt to put Taylor down. It’s just an attempt to put her achievement in context. She won a gold medal in a sport with not enough competitors to have a fully-populated first round. Mcllroy is currently sitting astride one of the most popular sports in the world and evincing the kind of form that is causing serious pundits to talk about him having the potential to be one of the best ever. Taylor was in the first wave of female boxers. Nothing she did in London suggests she’ll end up in the pantheon of the greats.

As we’re on the subject of greatness, there’s also a case to be made for Henry Shefflin receiving the award in recognition of winning his ninth All-Ireland medal. Again, the argument in his favour is that he played a crucial role in the winning of all nine of those titles and breaking the record of Christy Ring and John Doyle is truly historic stuff.  He won this award back in 2006 but, if anything, his claims for the trophy this time around are even more compelling. Or at least they would be if Mcllroy wasn’t ripping golf’s record book apart after a season some in American golf regard as one of the greatest in the history of the game.

It needs to be pointed out that this end of year prize stuff shouldn’t be taken too seriously. What is good fireside chatter for the rest of us tends not to matter too much to the athletes themselves. They are too concerned with winning the serious prizes in their chosen fields to worry overmuch about an RTE award at Christmas. However, scanning the list of probables in contention to be crowned Ireland’s sportsperson of the year, we are happy enough about one thing. At least the winner of the Irish version will not be somebody later discovered to be on steroids. The same can’t be said for some of the supposedly cleaner than clean champions on the BBC’s shortlist.
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8 thoughts on “Why Katie Taylor shouldn’t win Sports Person of the Year

  1. Rory Mcilroy!, great golfer but yu're obviously forgetting that whole allegiane controversy over Rio 2016, and Henry Shefflin, probably the greatest with a caman since Christy Ring but how many great hurlers are there across the world. Katie has restored a sense of national pride in us when all seemed lost from us in the last couple of years, she deserves the gong no question.

  2. Sadly Dave on this subject, you have not done your 'homework'. There were 'hundreds' of women boxers who could – and would- have have competed in the Olympics as they did at the 2012 World Championship but boxing overall was only allowed 284 places in London 2012 of which only 36 were for women ie: 12 for each of three weights.Katie also won the World championship in 2012 (her fourth in a row as it happens) and was unbeaten throughout 2012.She was also voted Female Boxer of the Olympics and won the AIBA Female boxer of the Year award for the third year in a row not to mention the prestigious USA award WBAN Amateur Boxer for the 6th time. She has also won four European and four European Union championships in succession.Indeed another notable point was that when several of the top 10 boxers did not qualify for the Olympics, Taylor pleaded with the organisers to give them a wild card, which more than adequately proves she was determined to showcase womens boxing and even if that damaged her own chances. Your comment : “She won a gold medal in a sport with not enough competitors to have a fully-populated first round” reinforces the point that you did not fully research the topic.
    Katie Taylor has now overtaken her childhood here Sonia O'Sullivan as Ireland's greatest ever sportswoman and is already recognised as one of the top boxers worldwide, male or female.TypicalTwitter messages from great boxing champions included: ““Irie“land was definitely in the house for Katie Taylor. Congrats Katie. #WorldClass Lennox Lewis @LennoxLewis”, from Oscar de la Hoya “
    “Katie Taylor congratulations on winning gold. You are amazing
    Oscar De La Hoya @OscarDeLaHoya” and from Joe Calzaghe “Well Done Katie Taylor!!! Awesome! 🙂 Joe Calzaghe @RealJoeCalzaghe plus quite a few others. Former world champ Barry McGuigan speaking to U.S “The World” Public Radio after the Olympic quarter finals,on why he was a convert to womens boxing :”Then came Katie Taylor, watching her train and box has completely converted me. Anybody who has any reservations about whether the girls are good enough, they just have to plop eyes on Katie Taylor. She’s an exceptional talent, and they will be converted. She’s brilliant, and I’m pretty sure she’ll win the gold medal”.

  3. MJon, thanks for your comments and the benefits of your research. You make valid points but the lack of numbers participating in the sport inside and outside the Olympics devalues the achievement and makes it far less of a feat than being the world's best golfer – that is the point I'm trying to make.

  4. Interesting article. As much as I hate to say this you are probably right. However are we all not feeling a bit sore about Rory? He's British apparently and as a Northern Ireland Catholic we feel the betrayal. The fact that Katie is a 'Southern Ireland' Protestant adds to the intrigue.

    Anyway in an Olympic year it should be an Olympian and God knows we have not had many successful (clean) ones!

  5. On Rory McIlroy, the man is doing great but maybe there is a weighting subconsciously attached to each sport. Golf requires great skill and a degree of mental toughness but I always think back to Bernard Dunne's title fight against Riacrdo Cordoba, round 5, Dunne has been down twice, once more and and it's over. He is seeing 3 Cordobas out there, he survives the round. Fights on for another 6 were he stops his opponent in the 11th. Everything was at stake, not just his career but his life, his health. Add to the skill and mental toughness required by McIlroy and co on the pro golf circuit, incredible fitness, stamina, conditioning, incredible guts and bravery. It is hard to compare a sport with such a little physical aspect as golf with boxing, it just doesn't tick as many boxes.

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