McCleary named Queen's Sportsperson of the Year

Armagh star Sinead McCleary has been named Queen’s University Sportsperson of the Year after leading their ladies gaelic team to historic success this spring.

In March, McCleary captained the Queen’s side which lifted the prestigious O’Connor Cup for the first time ever and that triumph has now been recognised at the university’s sporting oscars night.

Queen’s had never even reached a final before but the vastly experienced McCleary, in the last year of her second degree, led a team containing six county colleagues to a convincing victory over fancied Dublin City University in the decider.

The previous day, the Belfast side had shown considerable character in coming from behind in injury-time of their semi-final with a last-gasp goal before going on to defeat title holders University College Cork in extra-time.

The Queen’s success had a distinctly orange flavour with Armagh manager James Daly in charge of a team featuring his daughter Katie as well as McCleary, Malone, Fionnuala McKenna, Sarah Marley and Danielle Morgan.

It was an outstanding success for Daly and his players, with McCleary, Malone and McKenna earning particular praise along with Westmeath’s Ruth Kearney, who scored 2-3 in the final.

Their exceptional efforts were recognised at the recent end-of-term Queen’s Blues Awards as the ladies gaelic team deservedly scooped the Team of the Year title and McCleary lifted the individual honour.

Daly himself missed out in the Coach of the Year category but expressed delight that the side’s historic success had earned them the tag of best student side at Queen’s.

“It was a special season for the Queen’s ladies and this award underlines how proud the university is of what was a fantastic achievement – something that hadn’t been done before in spite of the top players who have previously pulled on the jersey.

“As for Sinead McCleary, you have to be pretty exceptional to win the individual award considering the calibre of sportsperson across the board that attend a major university but she’s a special player who definitely deserves this accolade.

“I said when Sinead was named in the National League Team of the Year that she’s the most under-rated ladies footballer in Ireland so I’m pleased she’s getting a bit of recognition.  She’s such a great athlete, a very versatile player and brought real leadership too.”

“I’m hugely honoured to receive the individual award considering the number of hugely talented and high-achieving sportspeople who are students at Queen’s, but it too is a reflection of the great team effort which brought us this historic success,” reflected McCleary.

“It was a privilege to captain this team and I’d like to thank every player for their committed contribution and of course our manager James Daly for his tireless, effective efforts to make us successful. 

“We did the university proud in winning the O’Connor Cup and in turn we’re very proud to have been awarded Queen’s Team of the Year.  Every player dreams of winning with club and county but, whatever any of us achieve on those fronts, I think this will always count as a special chapter in our careers.”


By Richard Bullick

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