All Star O’Hanlon lands awards double
By Richard Bullick
There was double delight for the magnificent Caroline O’Hanlon at last Saturday night’s All Stars banquet in Dublin, which has put the seal on a memorably successful season for the rejuvenated Armagh ladies.
With the Ulster and All Ireland Intermediate trophies already in the Orchard County cabinet, it was left to one of the country’s best sportswomen to put the icing on the cake by bringing home more silverware from ladies football’s own Oscars ceremony.
Still in the prime of a career garnished by a stack of high-achievement awards, O’Hanlon will be needing another extension to her heavily-laden trophy cabinet after claiming an historic second All Star and also taking the All Ireland Intermediate Ladies Footballer of the Year title.
However, her typically self-effacing comments afterwards confirmed that the humble 28-year-old Bessbrook woman won’t need extra space to accommodate any expanding ego on the back of this latest personal recognition.
Although understandably delighted with the honour, she generously shared the credit in paying tribute to fellow players and the Armagh management, insisting it was very much a team effort and declaring herself proud to be picking up the award as their representative.
As much of a class act off the field as she is on it, O’Hanlon like Ireland’s Olympic champion Katie Taylor remains utterly unchanged by her long list of triumphs and always seeks to deflect the limelight.
The jewel in the Orchard crown, O’Hanlon is a credit to the county not only as a fantastic footballer but by being a brilliant role model and ambassador who should serve as an inspiration for young girls growing up in sport.
An influential figure in Armagh’s rise from nowhere in the middle of last decade, she won her first All Star back in 2006 when the Orange Women sensationally reached the All Ireland final in their very first season at senior level, only losing by a point to perennial champions Cork.
Some things haven’t changed in the intervening period, with Cork again crowned champions last month and dominating the 2012 All Stars line-up in the form of a magnificent seven selections.
However, their former captain Juliet Murphy, O’Hanlon’s midfield partner six years ago, loses out this time with Dublin’s rising star Sinead Goldrick getting the No 8 jersey alongside Carrickcruppen captain Caroline.
The other midfield nominees to miss out on a place in the final line-up were Bernie Breen, who skippered Kerry to a first All Ireland decider appearance in the modern era, Monaghan’s Amanda Casey and another Dub, Gemma Fay.
Beaten All Ireland finalists Kerry received three All Stars with only two going to Ulster champions and National League winners Monaghan. Dublin and Mayo, Leinster and Connacht champions respectively, picked up one apiece with the incredible Cora Staunton again flying the flag for the west.
O’Hanlon is the only All Star from outside the senior ranks but she showed her class in the highest company when winning player of the tournament as Ulster lifted this year’s interpro title at the start of June.
The former NI Sportswoman of the Year becomes the first Armagh player to win two ladies All Stars and now holds half of the four bestowed upon Orchard County players down through the years.
Within 20 minutes of receiving her All Star, O’Hanlon was back on stage picking up another honour – All Ireland Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year, an award which was voted on by fellow players from across the second tier counties.
Having been hugely influential in steering Armagh to the All Ireland Intermediate title last month, it was unsurprising that Caroline lifted the top player prize ahead of Waterford’s Elaine Power and the third footballer shortlisted, Sharon Treacy of Longford.
It is a richly-deserved double and incredible considering that O’Hanlon has typically combined her heavy footballing commitments with playing international netball and working full-time as a hospital doctor throughout 2012.
The weekend before the ladies Gaelic interpros she won player of the match in the crunch clash with Wales which secured Northern Ireland silver medals for the first time ever at the European Netball Championships.
Then in July, having helped Armagh to the Ulster Intermediate title, Caroline – eligible through part-time studies on top of everything else – was vice-captain of the Irish Students side that finished a fantastic fourth at the inaugural World University Championships in South Africa.
It was straight back from Cape Town to star in Armagh’s All Ireland qualifier victory over Down and she even managed to captain her Lisburn-based netball club Larkfield on the opening night of the NI Premier League a week before the Croke Park clash with Waterford.
Like her talent, this supreme sportswoman’s dedication, drive and desire are second to none and it was no surprise that she is already relishing the prospect of Armagh returning to the top table next season after dropping down for a year.
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