Gráinne crowns a year to savour
Ballinaboola swimmer wins sportswoman of the year
STILL A teenager, Gráinne Murphy added another prize to her glittering collection of European medals when she won the 'Irish Times/Irish Sports Council' sportswoman of the year award. In doing so she beat off what many commentators observed was the best array of talent since the awards were established in 2004.
Picked out from a host of top Irish athletes that included world champion boxer Katie Taylor, Curtis Cup golfer Danielle McVeigh, European silver medal hurdler Derval O'Rourke, and five-times All-Ireland ladies' football medal winner Valerie Mulcahy, the 17-year-old from Ballinaboola hit a number of landmarks this season in the pool and single-handedly raised the reputation of Irish swimming on to the world stage.
Now at college in Limerick to be close to the 50-metre pool at the university and her coach, Belgian Ronald Claes, Murphy swam into the silver medal position in the 1,500 metres freestyle at the Senior European championships in Budapest during the summer, before winning two bronze medals at the Senior European short course championships in Eindhoven last month.
While the 1,500 metres is not an Olympic event, Murphy's consistently outstanding performances throughout the year have marked her out as a genuine medal prospect for the London Games in 2012.
Over the longer distances she is already ranked third in the Fina international rankings, with her 16.02.29 time trailing just that of Australian Melisa Gorman and Danish world number one Friis Lotte. She is also ranked eleventh in the world in the 800 metres freestyle.
'I'm delighted to be named sportswoman of the year especially given the fantastic year that it's been for all the Irish sportswomen,' she said.
'It was an honour to even be included as a finalist with women such as Derval O'Rourke, Katie Taylor, Madeline Perry and Katie Walsh. I would like to congratulate all the other finalists on their amazing successes.'
Murphy was a joint winner of the August monthly award along with Madeline Perry from squash, who had an exceptional summer with success in the Australian Open in Canberra.
'I'm sure the choice was tough because Derval had a good year and Katie too,' added Murphy. 'My training has been working very well with my coach Ronald. All the facilities are there and I just take it day by day.'
While everyone was telling her there is much more to come at World championships and Olympic level, Murphy wasn't having any of it.
'I haven't really looked that far ahead,' she said. 'I really am just taking it one day at a time. I've got the World championships in Shangai and I'll just see how they go and then kind of take it from there.'
Between now and then Murphy has the Leaving Certificate to contend with as well as her strict training regime.