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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

14 sportspeople who had a 2016 to remember

This year was a special one sports-wise, especially for this lot.

1. Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps 9/8/2016 Source: ©Inpho/Photosport/Marty Melville

The swimming legend said goodbye to the Olympics in style this summer as he won his 23rd gold. In Rio, he took home titles in the 200m butterfly, the 200m medley, both the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays, and the 4x100m freestyle. Phelps may consider silver in the 100m butterfly a blot in his copybook, but we have to disagree. Despite ‘retiring’ after London 2012, the American insists that his days in the pool are finished this time around, but what a year to end his career with.

2. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor celebrates winning Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

It has to be said that McGregor had a phenomenal 2016. November brought a truly memorable night in Irish sporting history as the Dubliner did something that has never been done before. He defeated Eddie Alvarez in Madison Square Garden to become the first man in the 23-year history of the UFC to hold two titles simultaneously – lightweight and featherweight. The 28-year-old also avenged his UFC196 submission loss to Nate Diaz with a significant win in Vegas in August.

3 & 4. Gary and Paul O’Donovan

Gary and Paul O’Donovan

The two brothers from Skibbereen both had a fantastic 2016, and lit up the lives of Irish people worldwide while they were at it as they had a massive Olympic Games in Rio. They stormed to second in the men’s lightweight double sculls final in Rio, to make history and win Ireland’s first-ever medal in rowing. Paul then blew the competition away in Rotterdam two weeks later to win gold at the World Championships with over four seconds to spare.

5. Usain Bolt

2016 Christmas Sport Package Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Bolt brought the curtain down on his Olympic career in style with a record-equalling ninth gold medal. In Rio, he became the first man to win a hat-trick of 100m gold medals, followed it up with a 200m gold, repeating the feat and completed the triple as he anchored Jamaica to relay glory. Bolt topped off his year as he was named the IAAF Male World Athlete of the Year for the sixth time.

6. Annalise Murphy

Annalise Murphy arriving at People's Park in Dun Laoghaire Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

2016 was the year of redemption for the Olympian. Annalise Murphy buried her London 2012 demons as she took home a silver medal in the women’s laser radial sailing in Rio. She put in a magnificent performance to claim Team Ireland’s second medal in Brazil, and first sailing medal since 1980. The Dubliner was also deservedly named the Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year.

7. Daryl Horgan

Daryl Horgan celebrates their goal with David McMillan and Robbie Benson Source: Dov Halickman/INPHO

The 24-year-old winger was the key man in Dundalk’s memorable 2016 season as the Lilywhites lifted their third Premier Division title in a row amid a historic European run. Horgan showed that he had all the qualities that helped the Louth club capture the hearts of the Irish public. Because of his efforts, he was rewarded with an inclusion in the Ireland squad and a move across the water to Preston towards the end of the year.

8. Andy Murray

2016 Christmas Sport Package Source: Steve Paston

The Scotsman retained his Olympic gold medal this year in Rio, becoming the first tennis player to win back-to-back golds. He also shone at Wimbledon, taking home the title for the second time. Murray recorded a season’s best tally of 78 victories and ended the year on a 24-match winning streak and as world number one. He also brought his 2016 to a close on a high, voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for a historic third time.

9. Cristiano Ronaldo

Japan Soccer Club World Cup Source: Shuji Kajiyama

2016 has treated the Portuguese star pretty well – a Ballon d’Or, a European Championship, a Champions League and a Club World Cup. He scored 16 goals to help Real Madrid win their second Champions League title in three years, nailing the last penalty in the final shoot-out. The Euro 2016 title had been a long time coming for Portugal, their first ever major trophy. And then to top off the year, he scored his 500th goal for Real, and became the first player in history to score a hat-trick in the Club World Cup final.

10. John Muldoon

John Muldoon celebrates Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 33-year-old captained Connacht to their historic Pro12 victory in May. It was also his 275th appearance for the provincial side, as he put in a monstrous shift and impressive performance to see him named man of the match. In his 13th season, it was a long time coming. Pat Lam also asked him to retain the captaincy role, and lead his side into the Champions Cup.

11. Carl Frampton

Sports Personality of the Year Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Frampton became only the second Irish boxer ever to simultaneously hold two different weight world titles (after Steve Collins) when he defeated the previously unbeaten and three-weight world champion Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico in a pulsating July bout in New York. It was the first time Santa Cruz was defeated in his 10 years on the professional stage. He also prevailed against a previously unbeaten opponent in February, as he beat Scott Quigg to the world super-bantamweight title.

12. Leanne Kiernan

Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 17-year-old striker from Cavan had a dream 2016. She took the Aviva by storm as she starred for Shelbourne in the WFAI Cup final, scoring a hat-trick to lead her side to glory. Kiernan also scored and received player of the match on her first start for the Ireland Women’s National Team and was a pivotal goal-scorer for the international U17 and U19 sides throughout the year.

13. LeBron James

Cavaliers 76ers Basketball Source: AP/Press Association Images

The city of Cleveland had been starved of success in any sport for 52 years before the Cavaliers won their debut NBA Championship. Lead by star LeBron James, the Cavs topped the Golden State Warriors, coming from behind against the odds. In Game 7, he posted a triple-double and made a number of key plays, including a memorable chase-down block in the final two minutes, becoming the just the third player in history to record a triple-double in an NBA Finals Game 7. He also made NBA history again in December, netting a season-best 44 points while becoming the first man to reach 27,000 points with 7,000 rebounds and 7,000 assists.

14. Simone Biles

End of 2016 Rio Olympics Package Source: PA Wire/PA Images

At the tender age of 19, Biles took the biggest stage in the world by storm and marked her Olympic debut with a record-equaling four golds, just short of the record five she sought. Her golds came in team and individual all-around, women’s vault and women’s floor exercise. The only blip standing between her and history was a slip on the beam on the penultimate day of competition, which meant she finished in the bronze position. She left Rio as one of the best Olympic gymnasts of all time

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Emma Duffy

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