Emmet Ryan's 2016 Sports Awards

The Friday column dishes out its awards for the best - and worst - across the globe

Emmet Ryan

Technology Correspondent @emmetjryan
16th December, 2016
Carl Frampton is a winner Pic: Getty

The year is nearly done, with only a couple of weeks to go before 2016 finally ends, and it's time to look back on the year in sport. As ever the Friday column has gone out of its way not just to find the obvious big winners but those who impressed from across the world of sport.

Individual sports person of the year – International: Andy Murray

As ever, the field was stacked. Tennis alone produced two other legitimate contenders in Angelique Kerber (winner of the Australian Open and US Open) and Novak Djokovic (winner of the Australian Open and French Open). Katie Ledecky and Usain Bolt both put in showings worthy of serious consideration but, in the end, Scotland's finest won out through his route to the top of the charts in the men's singles rankings. Kerber and Ledecky stood out from the rest of the field in pushing Murray, the duo really had a substantial gap over the rest. For Murray however it was the road to the top and his decisive wins in crucial head to heads that gave him the edge. Winning Wimbledon, a second Olympic gold, and then taking the Tour Finals in a head to head to decide the year-end number one proved just enough. It was tight but Murray edges it.

Honourable mentions: Angelique Kerber, Katie Ledecky, Novak Djokovic, Usain Bolt, Sarah Storey, Simone Biles

Individual sports person of the year – Irish: Carl Frampton

This wasn't anywhere near as tough a call as it looks. Much as the efforts of Annalise Murphy and last year's winner Conor McGregor were extraordinary, Frampton had one of the greatest years ever for a sportsperson from this island. His victory over Scott Quigg in February made him the first boxer from this island ever to hold two world title belts in the same weight class at the same time when he added the WBA super-bantamweight crown to the IBF title he had held since 2014. Then in July he managed to go up a weight and claim the WBA crown at featherweight by beating Léo Santa Cruz.

Honourable mentions: Annalise Murphy, Conor McGregor

Underdog story of the year – International: Leicester City

The odds were against them from the off, 5,000 to 1 to win the English Premier League and widely expected to get relegated. We all know what happened, Claudio Ranieri guided Leicester to one of the most improbable title runs in history and it all got capped off by Andrea Bocelli singing at King Power Stadium.

Honourable mentions: Western Michigan American football, Iceland men's football, Danny Willett

Underdog story of the year – Irish: Connacht men's rugby

Given the future of this team was in doubt barely a decade ago, going out and winning the Pro 12 was an extraordinary achievement. Add in that Connacht has long been the fourth of the four provinces in terms of standing and the team's utter domination of Leinster in last summer's Pro 12 final and this one is an easy call.

Honourable mentions: Gary and Paul O'Donovan, Annalise Murphy, Tipperary men's gaelic football team

Team of the year – International: Chicago Cubs

When you end the most famous curse in sports and end a 108 year wait for a title, you are going to get some love here. This was, by far, the deepest category in terms of extraordinary achievement. The Cubs didn't just win, they spent most of the season kicking ass and then delivered one of the greatest comebacks ever to win the World Series.

Honourable mentions: Cleveland Cavaliers, British women's hockey team

Team of the year – Irish: Gary and Paul O'Donovan

Now those of you playing close attention will notice the Pull Like a Dog brothers got an honourable mention for underdog and Connacht rugby are listed as one here. It wasn't a case of splitting the difference as much as seeing them in the context of what they did. While not favourites to even reach the final in Rio, the strategy deployed by the Skibberreen duo was breathtaking to watch in action and delivered a silver medal out of the ordinary. Paul O'Donovan adding individual gold at the world championships didn't hurt but it didn't prove decisive here. What the duo did in Rio was enough for the win.

Honourable mentions: Dundalk FC, Connacht rugby, Cork ladies football

Fight in the dog yet – International: Mathew Hayman

The Aussie cyclist's best days looked a long way behind him and had basically been a water carrier in recent years, right up until Paris-Roubaix. A few months prior to the most prestigious classic in cycling, he broke his arm. At 37, not a whole lot was expected. Then in April he went and just got the job done. He won the big one.

Honourable mentions: Nick Skelton, Alex Zanardi

Fight in the dog yet – Irish: Sinead Lynch

This wasn't even close, and I mean that kindly to Pete Mahon who showed what he can still do on a sideline in 2016. Lynch, a world champion in 2001, finally represented Ireland at the Olympics in Rio this year alongside Claire Lambe in the women's double sculls. Unfavoured to progress far, the duo made the final against the odds with Lynch finally getting her deserved moment with the nation cheering her on.

Honourable mention: Pete Mahon

Coach of the year – International: Dimitris Itoudis

It takes something extraordinary for the coach of the richest club in a competition whose club regularly makes it to the business end of competitions to stand out. Itoudis did just that however as he finally ended a stretch of choke jobs by CSKA Moscow's basketball team stretching back to 2012. In the four previous seasons, CSKA had reached either the semi final or final of Euroleague (basketball's answer to the UEFA Champions League). On each of those occasions CSKA found a way to grab defeat from the jaws of victory in increasingly implausible ways. Having lost a huge lead against Fenerbahce in this year's final, and facing a crowd that was 85 per cent Fener fans, Itoudis vanquished the ghosts from his team forever with an exceptional display of coaching.

Honourable mention: Ben Ryan

Coach of the year – Irish: Stephen Kenny

This was not an easy one, and for those curious Pat Lam was considered for this rather than the international honour as it's related to Irish teams/competitors than where the coach is from. Lam gave Kenny a fantastic run for his money but what the Dundalk gaffer did, to retain the League of Ireland title, finish runners up in the FAI Cup, and put in the best performance by an Irish side in European football in the modern era, will be near impossible to surpass.

Honourable mention: Pat Lam

Dominance you didn't notice – International: Gwen Jorgensen

Jorgensen won gold in triathlon at the Rio 2016 Olympics to the surprise of absolutely no-one who follows the sport. The American, still a relative youngster for the sport at 30, has been virtually unstoppable in one of the most gruelling sports going in recent times with 15 wins in her last 16 races. As for the race she didn't win, she came second.

Honourable mention: Peter Prevc, Kielce men's handball, US women's basketball team

Dominance you didn't notice – Irish: Shelbourne women's football

Undefeated champions of the women's National League, winners of the WNL Cup, and dominant victors in the women's FAI Cup final, this was an extraordinarily impressive performance from Shels. Having never claimed any of the aforementioned honours in previous seasons, this was an exceptional year.

Honourable mention: Jade O'Connor

Facepalm award – International: Ford GT

You probably haven't heard about this but, wow, here we go. Ford were running in first, third, and fourth in the GT class at Le Mans this year and that simply wouldn't do for the photo opportunity of having three of their cars cross the line in formation to close the race. A plucky privately run American team was running a Ferrari in second so Ford went down to the underdog's garage to point out a minor infraction committed that would force the Ferrari to take a penalty. While technically breaking the rules, an illuminated number was faulty, it was the type of thing that doesn't get called with an hour to go in a 24 hour race. Ford wanted the Ferrari's error to be reported so that the big team could get its photo op.

What Ford didn't count on was Giuseppi Risi, an Italian-American made of 100 per cent badassery. He was team manager and told them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine, by all accounts he was more expressive in his language, so Ford lodged a protest with the stewards. Things looked grim until the stewards dug a bit deeper and found a penalty it could also dish out to Ford meaning both teams took time penalties but there was no change to the standings and, crucially, Ford missed out on the photo op. Bullying your way to a 1-2-3 is never cool.

Honourable mention: The English RFU

Facepalm award – Irish: Pat Hickey

I'll just leave this here

Honourable mention: The FAI

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