Katie Taylor, Con O'Callaghan, Conor McGregor… Irish sports stars show world-class ability in 2017
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Katie Taylor, Con O'Callaghan, Conor McGregor… Irish sports stars show world-class ability in 2017

2017 was an incredible year for Irish sport where our top athletes once again proved their world class ability. We look looks back at some of the best moments from a memorable year.

Katie Taylor (Image: Getty)

Katie Taylor becomes Ireland’s first female boxing champion

The Bray Bomber turned professional after her disappointing quarter-final exit from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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The 2012 Olympic gold medallist signed for Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and has dominated the lightweight division since making her pro debut in November 2016 at Wembley Arena against Karina Kopinska.

Taylor has won her eight fights with four knockouts and became world champion against Argentine Anahi Sanchez at Cardiff ’s Principality Stadium in October and successfully defended her belt at York Hall against American Jessica McCaskill in December.

Taylor is a supreme fighter and her humility and professionalism is refreshing in an era of inflated egos among professional athletes.

All that is left for the 31-year-old to unify the world title belts with a bout in Dublin expected for 2018 to confirm her place as one of Ireland’s greatest ever boxers.

Dubs make it three in a row

Jim Gavin’s Dublin footballers created history following their 1-17 to 1-16 victory over Mayo in the All-Ireland senior football final last September by becoming the first team to win three Sam Maguires in a row since Kerry in 1986.

The Dubs have been a ruthless machine since winning their first All-Ireland in 16 years under Pat Gilroy back in 2011 with a one-point win over Kerry.

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The end of that drought has been followed by five Sam Maguires in seven years during an unprecedented period of dominance.

Gavin’s side were pushed very hard by a Mayo team that was seeking a first All-Ireland title since 1951 but Dublin shower their nerves of steel by sealing the narrowest of victories with Dean Rock’s clutch free in the game’s dying embers.

Conor McGregor (Image: inpho)

Conor McGregor steps into the ring

The Notorious created history by crossing codes from UFC to boxing when he took on Floyd Mayweather in a super welterweight world title fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on August 26.

The Crumlin native earned an approximate £22million from the fight alone and millions more in endorsements.

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The bout divided opinion with many fans and onlookers viewing the spectacle as a money-making exercise by the two fighters.

However, nobody can dispute McGregor’s magnificent achievements to earn a fight against Mayweather and his admirable performance in a 10th round defeat against the greatest defensive boxer of all time.

Ireland plays a key role in Lions series draw versus All Blacks

Peter O’Mahony became the 11th Irishman to captain a Lions side for the first test at Eden Park, Auckland in the tourists’ 30-15 defeat against the two-time defending World Cup champions.

O’Mahony joined Irish legends Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll to lead the Lions out against a southern hemisphere nation.

Tadgh Furlong, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton and Jack McGrath all played crucial roles in helping the Lions win the second test in Wellington and draw in Auckland to tie the series with the mighty All Blacks.

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Galway hurlers (Image: inpho)

Galway end 29-year wait for Liam McCarthy

Since winning back-to-back All-Ireland senior hurling titles in 1987 and 1988, the Galway hurlers earned the unwanted tag of being the token underachievers of the championship.

Blessed with magnificent hurlers, the Tribesmen always came up short on the big day and lost six All-Ireland finals before 2017, including a replay defeat to Kilkenny in 2012.

The team has also had to battle tragedy following the sudden deaths of 22-year-old Niall Donoghue in 2013 and 53-year-old Tony Keady last August.

But a team of young, hungry and battle hardened hurlers set out their stall for their year by winning the Allianz League Division One final against Tipperary.

Galway coasted through the Leinster championship and put away Tipperary again in an epic semi-final at Croke Park before seeing off Waterford in early September to win the county’s first All-Ireland title in either code since 2001.

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Paul O’Donovan proves he’s not a one-hit wonder

Lisheen brothers Paul and Gary O’Donovan could have been forgiven for resting on their laurels after their silver medal in the lightweight double sculls at the 2016 Rio Olympics which propelled the pair to celebrity status in Ireland and abroad.

But Paul proved the ambition that exists in the family by following this up by claiming the lightweight men’s sculls World Championship gold medal in Florida last September.

The pair will almost certainly be gold medal contenders at the 2020 Olympic games but appear to have the drive, ability and ambition to dominate the sport.

Con O'callaghan (Image: inpho)

Con O’Callaghan announces himself as Ireland’s next supreme athlete

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The 21-year-old dual star is already being compared to DJ Carey based on his fledgling hurling career, not to mention the fact he helped the Dublin footballers win the Sam Maguire this year from wing-forward.

In 2017, the Cuala player won the All-Ireland senior club hurling title, the under-21 Leinster football championship, the under-21 All-Ireland football title, the Leinster senior football title, and played a major role in Cuala defending their Dublin and Leinster senior hurling titles after picking up a football All-Star.

The kid is a superstar.

Paul Dunne claims his first European Tour victory

The Greystones native first came to prominence after holding the 54-hole lead at the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrew’s as an amateur.

But Dunne is now making his mark as a professional and the 25-year-old claimed his first European title with closing round 61 at the British Masters in October to see off the challenge of compatriot and four-time major winner Rory Mcllroy.

Dunne could challenge for majors if he retains his 2017 form.

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Scott Steele (Image: Getty)

London Irish win John Greene IPA Championship title

Director of Rugby Nick Kennedy led the Exiles back to the promise land of Premiership rugby after London Irish defeated Yorkshire Carnegie by an 84-66 aggregate scoreline in the Championship final.

Irish had a memorable season after winning 19 of their 20 league games before defeating Doncaster Knights over two legs in the play-off semi-finals.

Kennedy worked magic in his first year as Director of Rugby and the ex-England lock displayed his valuable coaching skills to rally a squad of players still reeling from a 2016 relegation.

The Exiles secured the title and promotion in front of their own fans at the Madejski Stadium last May with an enthralling 55-48 second leg victory over Carnegie thanks to six tries and the reliable boot of Tommy Bell.

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Fulham Irish claim first London SFC since 2011

Fulham Irish and Tir Chonaill Gaels produced a magnificent encounter to round off the London senior football championship.

Gregory McCartan’s side pulled off a surprise victory in the final against a TCG side playing in their third consecutive championship final.

Despite containing London captain Liam Gavaghan and a host of county players, TCG were edged out by well-drilled and skilful Fulham Irish side in an enthralling spectacle.

Former All-Star Owen Mulligan wrote himself into London GAA history by converting the winning free late on to give Fulham Irish their second senior football crown.