If Frankie Dettori had given Max Dynamite a better ride in the Melbourne Cup a couple of weeks ago and the horse had won instead of finishing a gallant and fast closing second then surely Willie Mullins would have had a very strong claim on the Irish Sports Person of the Year award for 2015.
Victory in the ‘race that stops a nation’ would have capped an unbelievable year for Willie Mullins whose continued rise to the very top of racing has to be recognised on a wider scale sooner rather than later.
I suspect that I’m not the only sports writer that finds it difficult to be impartial when it comes to sports award but Mullins’ credentials speak for themselves.
The Closutton trainer currently boasts a 31 per cent strike rate in Ireland and last season won an amazing 22 of the 34 Grade 1 races run here. That was on his way to his eighth successive trainers’ championship and 10th in total.
Mullins won another nine Grade 1 races in England and considering there were five Irish trained winners at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival Mullins’ haul of eight in 2015 was a record as was his massive tally of 15 wins at the Punchestown Festival.
Although I fully believe Mullins would be a very creditable sports person of the year in his own right, his position as head of a mighty team at Closutton probably entitles him to be also considered for manager of the year. Regardless of whether Mullins is recognized in the wider sporting arena or not there is simply no doubt as to the destination of the national hunt award when the Horse Racing Ireland gongs are handed out next month.
It seems incredible that for all of Ireland’s racing success at home and abroad only two racing personalities have won the RTE Sports Person of the Year since the inception of the award in 1985; Barry Geraghty in 2003 and Tony McCoy two years ago.
Boxing has fared slightly better. Barry McGuigan took the inaugural award in 1985, Michael Carruth won in 1992, Katie Taylor was recognised for her Olympic success in 2012 and
the sport has another creditable contender this year in Michael Conlan.
In August the Belfast boxer won the gold medal in the bantamweight division at the European Championships and also scooped Boxer of the Tournament. In October Conlan became the first Irishman to win gold at the World Championships when he defeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the bantamweight final in Doha.
Whether he makes the shortlist for 2015 or not I fully expect Bertram Allen to become one of Ireland’s most successful sports stars in the years ahead. The 20-year-old Wexford showjumper became the youngest rider to win a round of the Global Champions Tour when he won the Longines Grand Prix and a prize of €105,000 in Paris in July. He subsequently broke into the top five in the World before he suffered a broken collarbone after a fall in Austria.
Allen has returned to action and is currently the highest-placed Irish rider in the World rankings at number seven; a meteoric rise that should continue to the very top.