Katie McCabe is the 2023 Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year
- Katie McCabe is the 2023 Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year
- This year’s Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award goes to Fiona Coughlan, who led Ireland to a rugby Grand Slam in 2013
Arsenal star Katie McCabe, the first Republic of Ireland soccer player to captain her country at the Women’s World Cup, has been crowned The Irish Times / Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2023.
McCabe, who has been capped 79 times for her country also became the first Irish player to score a goal at the World Cup; her ‘Olimpico’ (a goal direct from a corner) in the match against Canada being nominated for goal of the tournament.
In another action-packed year for Ireland’s high achieving sportswomen, McCabe stood out for the quality of her own performances in Australia and for the leadership qualities she demonstrated, not just during a challenging World Cup campaign but also on her return to international action in the UEFA Nations League, where Ireland won six games on the bounce and earned promotion to League A.
McCabe was the beating heart of the team over those six games, scoring five goals, including a long-range cracker against Hungary in Budapest and a hat-trick against Albania in Tallaght, while also providing six assists, chiefly for striker Kyra Carusa.
But it isn’t just in the green jersey that the versatile left-back / winger has been shooting out the lights. In June she was named as Arsenal’s Player of the Season, while her winning goal against Manchester City in April won WSL Goal of the Season. A stellar year for McCabe was capped with selection on the Champions League team of the season, the only non-finalist to make the XI, as well as a nomination for the Women’s Ballon d’Or - the first Irish footballer to be nominated for the prestigious award.
While McCabe, who’s from Kilnamanagh in Tallaght, described her team’s exit from the World Cup as heartbreaking, it was clear even in the immediate aftermath of that tournament that the 28-year-old fully understood the importance of qualification.
“I’m so proud and honoured to be able to lead the team to our first ever major tournament. For us it was about creating history getting here, but it’s also about leaving a legacy behind as well. I want young girls and young boys in Ireland to dream and look up to us, because it could be them one day sitting here, playing and representing their country.”
But McCabe won’t be resting on her laurels. In a recent interview she showed she is looking forward for Ireland, not back. ”We are trying to develop a different philosophy of playing. We want to be brave and not sit back. It’s going to be a really massive 2024 and we need to be prepared for the step-up in quality.”
McCabe, who made her international debut against Hungary back in 2015 and just two years later became the youngest player to ever captain her country at 21, began playing soccer with boys’ teams at Kilnamanagh AFC and Crumlin Utd before joining her first girls team, Templeogue Utd, when she was 10-years-old. When the Women’s National League was formed in 2011, she signed with Raheny Utd, going on to win two league titles and three consecutive FAI Women’s Cups with The Pandas.
For the 2015/16 season McCabe remained with the club now called Shelbourne Ladies until December, before signing for Arsenal where her career has gone from strength to strength. Two months ago, she signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners – with whom she has won an FA Cup, Women’s Super League and two League Cups - and just last month she celebrated her 200th game for the club with a 2-1 win over Manchester City.
Unfortunately, McCabe was unable to attend the awards ceremony at the Shelbourne Hotel and her sister Vanessa accepted the award from Minister Catherine Martin on her behalf.
In a video message Katie said: “Sorry I couldn’t be with you but I’m actually on a break for the first time in God knows how long, so big apologies for that. What a special year this was. I’d like to thank my teammates for club and country and all the staff who’ve helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without them. And a special thank you to The Irish Times for selecting me as this year’s winner. It’s an absolute honour to be even mentioned amongst so many inspirational Irish sportswomen, so this one really, really means a lot. Thank you so much and hope you have a great Christmas.”
Fiona Coghlan honoured with Outstanding Contribution Award
This year’s Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award went to former rugby player Fiona Coghlan who captained Ireland to the Grand Slam and the country’s first women’s Six Nations championship in 2013.
During that campaign Ireland beat England for the first time, before going on to beat the New Zealand Ferns for the first time at the World Cup in France the following year. That famous 17-14 win was the first time New Zealand had ever been beaten at a World Cup.
Ireland qualified for the semi-finals of that tournament, their best ever result, with Coghlan retiring shortly afterwards, after collecting 85 caps for her country.
The prop forward and Clontarf native made her international debut in 2003 against Spain and went on to represent Ireland for the next 11 years and at three World Cups. She first captained Ireland in 2008 before taking over the role permanently in 2010.
At club level the PE / Maths teacher and TV commentator won an unprecedented 11 All Ireland Division 1 titles with UL Bohemians as well as three interprovincial titles with Leinster.
Coghlan has played a key role in the development of women’s rugby in Ireland and in her work as a commentator and analyst continues to be a key advocate for the women’s game both in Ireland and beyond.
Exactly a decade after she was presented with The Irish Times / Sports Ireland Sportswoman of the Year Award she was back in the Shelbourne Hotel, the most deserving winner of this year’s Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award.
The Sports Editor of The Irish Times Noel O’Reilly paid tribute to all the 2023 winners.
“With every passing year, the bar keeps being raised with soaring new standards set by Irish sportswomen for those who will come after them. The past 12 months have been no different with inspirational performances and unprecedented achievements across the board. It’s been an honour for The Irish Times to follow their journeys through 2023, and we look forward to savouring their achievements in the years to come.”
This is the 20th year of the awards and other recipients of the 12 monthly awards include:
Sprinter Rhasidat Adeleke, who rewrote Irish records over both 200m and 400m both indoors and outdoors; boxer Katie Taylor, who won her rematch with Chantelle Cameron to become Ireland’s first two-weight world champion; jockey Rachael Blackmore, who guided Honeysuckle to a fourth Cheltenham Festival win; cycling’s Katie-George Dunlevy who won five gold medals at the Paracycling World Cup ; Thammy Nguyen, who won Ireland’s first European Weightlifting Championship senior medal; and golfer Leona Maguire, who won her second LPGA title.
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD commented:
“Over the past year we have witnessed some remarkable successes in a wide range of sports with our sportswomen making history and breaking records on a regular basis. Their commitment to their sport and their determination to succeed is so inspiring for young girls all over the country. I want to congratulate all of this year’s award recipients and acknowledge their enormous contribution to Irish sport.”
The Minister for Sport and Physical Education, Thomas Byrne TD, said:
“Sport has the ability to bring happiness and joy to the lives of many, not just the athletes themselves, but to the clubs, coaches, volunteers, communities, families and friends which they represent. Our incredible athletes have made many sacrifices and I want to sincerely thank them for their continued dedication to sport. Congratulations to all of the monthly Irish Times Sport Ireland winners”.
Paying tribute to all the 2023 winners, Sport Ireland CEO Dr Una May commented:
“The unparalleled performances by Irish sportswomen in 2023 captivated the Irish public. The inspiration these outstanding women and teams provide for the next generation of aspiring sports stars is invaluable. I would like to congratulate all of the monthly winners and also pay tribute to their families and all of the coaches, volunteers and support teams who have helped them to reach the highest levels of sport.”