Rhys McClenaghan was crowned the RTÉ Sport Sportsperson of the Year

Rhys McClenaghan was crowned the RTÉ Sport Sportsperson of the Year

Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan was crowned the RTÉ Sport Sportsperson of the Year for 2023 on Saturday.

The back-to-back world champion beat out the likes of Ireland's women's football captain Katie McCabe, Irish boxing phenom Katie Taylor, Irish jockey Paul Townend, Paralympic swimmer Róisín Ní Riain, and Limerick's All-Ireland hero Aaron Gillane.

In April, the Co Down native secured his second European gold medal on the pommel horse, followed by a successful defence of his World Artistic Gymnastics Championships title in Antwerp, Belgium, six months later.

McClenaghan, who was also nominated for Sportsperson of the Year in 2022 and is a previous winner of the Young Sportsperson of the Year after taking home that award in 2018.

Speaking about his achievement on Saturday, the Irish gymnast admitted that he was proud to be Northern Ireland's first gymnast to hold a world title.

"I can't believe I’m holding this in my hands. It’s amazing. It’s just incredible that I’m an Irish gymnast taking home world titles, and that’s never been done before. I’m so proud to be able to do that," he said on Saturday.

The 24-year-old also thanked several Irish athletes for inspiring him to achieve the things he has. The thanks went to the likes of Ireland's former captain Sexton and Bray boxer Taylor.

"I want to thank all of the nominees for this award for inspiring me and every Irish athlete at the highest level in this country. It’s incredible—from Johnny’s beautiful leadership for the Irish rugby team to Katie’s undeniable success in the boxing ring and leaving a legacy unmatched. It is inspiring for me, so I want to thank all those athletes," he added.

"Although it’s an individual sport, there is a team behind us as individual athletes, and it’s incredible that I have that support from Gymnastics Ireland and from everybody at Sport Ireland. It all works towards that ultimate goal of bringing home medals for the country, and hopefully, we can go one further at the Olympic Games in Paris."

On the same night, Brighton and Ireland striker Evan Ferguson won Young Sportsperson of the Year.

The Meath native has scored 12 Premier League goals this calendar year so far and bagged three times for Ireland.

Also, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was named Manager of the Year for leading his team to a grand slam victory in the Six Nations and a notable win against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup pool stage, despite a narrow defeat to the All Blacks in the quarterfinals.

Limerick earned Team of the Year for securing their fourth consecutive All-Ireland Hurling title in 2023. In the final against Kilkenny, John Kiely's team mounted a comeback in the second half, ultimately clinching their fourth Liam Macarthy Cup crown.

Finally, former sprinter Jason Smyth, with six Paralympic gold medals, eight world championship titles, and six European victories, was inducted into the RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame.

Awards won:

  • RTÉ Sport Sportsperson of the Year: Rhys McClenaghan 
  • Young Sportsperson of the Year: Evan Ferguson 
  • Manager of the Year: Andy Farrell (Ireland head coach) 
  • Team of the Year: Limerick (All-Ireland Hurling champions) 
  • RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame Inductee: Jason Smyth (former sprinter, six Paralympic gold medals, eight world championship titles, six Europeans)