TRAILBLAZING RUGBY REFEREE Joy Neville added another prestigious accolade to her cabinet last night as she was named Rehab Sports Person of the Year.
The former Ireland international and 2013 Grand Slam winner was honoured at the 43rd People of the Year awards in the Mansion House in Dublin, and was presented with her award by legendary jockey AP McCoy.
Neville has been breaking boundaries and smashing firsts aplenty over the past few months and years, and rounded off a glittering 2017 with the title of World Rugby Referee of the Year.
In her playing career, the Limerick native won 70 caps in the back row for Ireland and captained her country. She also lined out for Shannon, UL Bohemians and Munster.
The 34-year-old said a few words as she accepted the accolade, thanking all who helped her to where she is today and noting that all young sportswomen should be able to dream and achieve.
“My family, particularly my wife Simona, have shown unconditional support throughout my entire career,” she said. “Without them, I don’t think I would be accepting this award.
Rugby veteran @JoyNevilleRef has been a mould breaker all her life. Wearing #8 for @IrishRugby she won a #grandslam and capped 70 times. She continues to excel as a referee and break down barriers. #peopleoftheyear pic.twitter.com/woJy5ZAS3H— People of the Year (@peopleawards) April 15, 2018
“I want to dedicate this award to all the young sportswomen in Ireland, and beyond, so that they too can dream and achieve.
“I’m receiving this award on behalf of my family because I’m just so lucky to have them supporting me, particularly my father at home who hasn’t been able to be here today. This is for you dad and everyone else down there at the table.”
She also shared a laugh or two with former teammate and friend Fiona Coghlan, who said of Neville:
“Joy, as a player, was probably the most instinctive, natural player I’ve ever player with. She just seemed to be in the right place at the right time, her skill-set was unbelievable.
“The fact that Joy has gone on to become a referee is, I think, brilliant but also hilarious. She would have been one of the last people that I would expect to be a referee. She broke every law when she was playing the game!”
Neville’s fellow IRFU professional referee George Clancy acknowledged her feats, saying: “Joy has quickly gained the respect of everyone in the elite referees and in the game.
“That’s not only due to her performances on the field, but also her attitude in training with us. She’s very professional and very dedicated.”
And Andrew Brace echoed his words: “Joy is very, very much in control.
“She’s calm and she’s firm at the same time in terms of the delivery of her decisions. Very accurate, she knows the game inside out.
“Being World Rugby Referee of the Year is just another accolade that she’s achieved in her career, in such a short space of time. To achieve that alongside some of the best referees in the world, like Nigel Owens and Jerome Garces, is amazing.”
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