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The future's bright: 7 Irish sports stars who made 2015 their own

It was a very special year for these athletes.

THE FUTURE OF Irish sport is safe with this group. 2015 was a breakout year for many athletes but these seven really had 12 months to remember.

Jon Walters

James McCarthy celebrates Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

He has been around the Irish team for a few years but 2015 was when Walters reached hero status among Irish fans.

Key goals against Georgia and Bosnia ensured Ireland qualified for only their sixth major tournament but the forward’s tigerish work-rate without the ball has helped endear him to supporters too.

Shane Lowry

Source: PGA TOUR/YouTube

What. A. Shot. Lowry’s down to earth nature has won him a lot of fans and, if for some strange reason you sat down and made a list of Irish sportspeople who you would like to have a pint with, Lowry would definitely feature highly.

But even leaving all that aside, Lowry also showed in 2015 just how much promise he has. His performance in the WGC at Bridgestone and at the US Open bodes very well for his future.

Paul Dunne

Golf - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - Day Four - St Andrews Source: PA WIRE

While he admits nerves got the better of him when he started the final day of the Open Championship in the lead, Irishman Paul Dunne was still the talk of the tournament.

The then amateur grabbed peoples attention with his assured performance at the major and he followed that effort up by winning his European Tour card.

Still only 23, Dunne has plenty of developing still to do but we’ve liked what we’ve seen so far.

Robbie Henshaw

robbie

It seems ridiculous that Robbie Henshaw is only 22. The centre is built like a hulking superstructure and smashes opponents and carries the ball like a far more experienced player.

Henshaw developed into one of Ireland’s key men throughout 2015 and as Joe Schmidt looks to move on from the disappointing World Cup, the Connacht back will be one of his most influential players.

Thomas Barr

Thomas Barr before the race Source: Ian MacNicol/INPHO

After winning the 400m hurdles at the University Games, big things are now expected from the Waterford runnner. He was also awarded the European Athlete of the Month award for June and picked up the Irish Athlete of the Year prize too.

Sophie Spence

Sophie Spence tackled by Nuala Deans Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Spence was part of the Irish women’s rugby team who won the Six Nations after a emphatic final day thumping of Scotland and capped 2015 off by being nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year.

Women’s rugby is getting stronger by the day in Ireland and Spence is leading the development.

Michael Conlan

Michael Conlan is declared the winner Source: Francis Myers/INPHO

The Belfast-born fighter is arguably Ireland’s most improved boxer since the last Olympics. After picking up a bronze in London, Conlon is probably the gold medal favourite in the bantamweight division.

He made history at the World Championships in Doha by being the first Irish male boxer to win a gold medal.

‘I thought that journey, from smoking opium to winning an All-Ireland, would make a great story’

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