Rachael Blackmore has been crowned the 2021 RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year.
The first jockey to win the award since Tony McCoy in 2013, Blackmore claimed the prize after a sensational year in the saddle, which saw her become the first woman to win the Grand National and the first to claim the leading rider title at the Cheltenham Festival, with six wins, including in the Champion Hurdle.
Blackmore was presented with her award live on RTÉ One television, having beaten off competition from fellow nominees – Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington, Paralympic gold medallist Ellen Keane, Limerick hurler Cian Lynch, Solheim Cup hero Leona Maguire, Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth, unified world lightweight boxing champion and 2020 award winner Katie Taylor, and Meath star Vikki Wall.
In an unprecedented year for women's sport in Ireland, Blackmore’s achievements shone brightest in the eyes of the judging panel.
Rachael Blackmore has been crowned the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year after a remarkable 12 months in the saddle. pic.twitter.com/nf5WdCCzPx— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
The 32-year-old secured her place in racing folklore when she became the first woman to be crowned leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival with six winners, which included the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle.
That was on the opening day of the festival but her success continued throughout the week.
Bob Olinger, Sir Gerhard, Allaho and Telmesomethinggirl provided doubles on the Wednesday and Thursday before a Triumph Hurdle victory with Quilixios rounded off a memorable week.
She took her fame to new heights when becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National on Minella Times in April, garnering international attention after landing the world's most famous steeplechase.
The year did hit a sour note after she suffered a fall during a hurdle race in Killarney in July.
Blackmore's recovery saw her spend a few weeks confined to a wheelchair and, in total, she went over three months on the sidelines.
Her determination and drive came to the fore as she returned in fine style with 11 wins from 35 rides in November and the festive period is sure to bring more success in what has been a special year for the Tipperary woman.
A humble Rachael Blackmore is left 'overwhelmed' after landing the RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year award for 2021. pic.twitter.com/SLJHK5dRCk— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was named Young Sportsperson of the Year as he enjoyed several nights to remember after becoming a permanent fixture in Stephen Kenny’s side.
The 19-year-old stopper produced a string of world-class saves for the national team, including thwarting Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo from the penalty spot.
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is the RTÉ Young Sportsperson of the Year. pic.twitter.com/PoynFjEPCJ— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
Ireland’s lightweight rowing head coach Dominic Casey won the Manager of the Year gong after a campaign in which he again oversaw success on the water with Ireland’s first ever rowing Olympic gold medal.
The 2018 World Rowing Coach of the Year celebrated as Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy put in several dominant displays throughout the year, firstly in the lightweight doubles sculls at the European Championships and then the Tokyo Olympics.
Ireland's lightweight rowing coach Dominic Casey is the RTÉ Sport Manager of the Year. pic.twitter.com/eAXkb3f0ma— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal were named as the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year.
The tandem para-cycling stars delivered their best Paralympic Games performance to date, winning two gold medals and a silver at Tokyo 2020. They inspirationally seized silver at the velodrome in the B 3,000m individual pursuit. On the roads of Mount Fuji, they retained the time trial title they won in Rio five years ago, before completing their triple medal haul in the B road race at the Fuji International Speedway.
Ireland's tandem para-cycling stars Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal have been named as the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year. pic.twitter.com/DZT58RRFfl— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
Two-time World cross country champion and Olympic silver medallist John Treacy became the latest inductee to the RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame. Treacy, who currently serves as chief executive of Sport Ireland, will retire from the position at the end of the year.
A look back at the career of RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame inductee John Treacy. pic.twitter.com/rezq124G2f— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) December 18, 2021
The Sportsperson of the Year is selected by a judging panel. The criteria can be read here.