2014 was a stand-out year for women in sport, nationally and globally. Here, Mary White looks at the rising stars in Irish sport who are likely to make their mark in 2015
Irish basketball teenage sensation Edel Thornton took a huge step in her career in December signing a four-year scholarship in the United States.
A rapid-fast forward, Thornton signed the dotted line for Quinnipiac University of Connecticut having been approached by seven colleges, before visiting four, and then signing for the Bobcats.
Another to keep an eye on is her Cork compatriot Orla O’Reilly, formerly of Team Montenotte Glanmire, but whose running riot in this her second season with CB Bembibre in the top Spanish league.
(Ashleigh Baxter, Cooke RFC & Ulster)
Having established herself on the wing for the Ireland 15s in the three years she’s been in the squad, Baxter has brought her game to a new level.
With the likes of Lynne Cantwell and Grace Davitt retiring after the 2014 World Cup in France, Baxter could possibly be the one to move into No. 13 for new head coach Tom Tierney.
Baxter is also a contracted 7s player so is in full-time training, but first up however will be the 6 Nations before the Europeans with the 7s in June which is a 2016 Olympic qualification tournament.
Others to watch in 2015 are Mary Healy of Galwegians and Connacht, and Jamie Deacon of Blackrock.
(Gaby Lewis, YMCA)
At just 14 years of age, Gaby Lewis — daughter of international rugby referee Alan Lewis — is the rising star of women’s cricket.
A right-handed batter, the YMCA player from Dublin is known for her fearless playing style.
She’s already high up in the batting order for YMCA, alongside Irish cricket legend Clare Shillington, and at such a young age she has already displayed a natural flair for scoring runs.
Last summer she was called up to the Irish senior team and made her debut across the water in a county championship game.
She is also in the squad for this year’s World Cup qualifiers, which will be held in Bangkok.
Eimear Scally (Cork)
Super sub Eimear Scally became a household name in 2014 when she scored the equalising goal in the Senior Ladies Football All-Ireland final in Cork’s comeback against Dublin.
Rumour has it that when the Cork management team called her from the bench, the Éire Óg teenager told them she’d score the goal they needed.
Scally and Olivia Divilly of Galway are two youngsters in this realm with big futures ahead of them if they can stay injury-free.
(Lisa Dilleen, Galway)
Rowing since the age of 13, Lisa Dilleen has come a long way in the last decade since taking up the sport with Tribesmen Rowing Club.
While in college she rowed with CIT and is now a member of Gráinne Mhaol Rowing Club, as well as being a Rowing Ireland High Performance athlete.
The 23-year-old represented Ireland at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam where she and her crew member Leonora Kennedy finished eighth in the Women’s Pair race.
Presently training at the National Rowing Centre in Farran Woods, Cork, the focus for Dilleen is now on preparing for the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France, again in the Women’s Pair with Kennedy, where she can qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Katie-George Dunlevy is a visually impaired cyclist, who rides the tandem as a stoker, and who has made huge strides since finishing fifth in the time-trial at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
The 33-year-old is originally from Maidenhead in the UK, but now rides for Ireland alongside her pilot, Eve McCrystal from Dundalk.
A relatively new pairing, the duo won silver at the Paracycling World Championships in 2014 in the road race on the tandem, and the only way is up ahead of the 2016 Championships.
(Caoimhe Costello, Limerick)
Caoimhe Costello was excellent in the 2014 All-Ireland minor final replay against Cork, scoring 2-6 in both games to give Limerick their first All-Ireland Minor A success.
The Adare woman is a notable rising star in the game, and also lined out at midfield with the Limerick Intermediate team that took All-Ireland honours in Croke Park four months later scoring 0-2.
Aged 18, Costello is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from Limerick in recent times, with her dynamic style making her an exciting player to watch.
(Lauren Dwyer, Raheny Utd)
18-year-old Lauren Dwyer from Carlow recently burst onto the WNL scene for Raheny United, whom she made her debut with in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in Cluj, Romania, back in August.
Formerly with Wexford Youths, Dwyer has in a short time already solidified her position in midfield.
Having made waves last summer as part of Dave Connell’s triumphant U19s squad, as well as putting in a stellar performance in the 2014 FAI Women’s Cup final, Dwyer quickly caught the eye of senior Ireland manager Sue Ronan and as a result was called into the January training camp in La Manga, Spain.
(Jean O’Driscoll, Cork)
19-year-old O’Driscoll has been turning heads at Muskerry Golf Club and having represented UCC and the Irish university team at the World University Golf Championships in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, last summer, she’s continuing to blossom.
The Cork student finished 12th overall out of a field of 70 or so — a huge achievement considering that the winner, Tiffany Chan Tsz-ching of Hong Kong, was on the verge of breaking into the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
O’Driscoll also finished the highest of the Irish contingent.
(Niamh Murphy, Wicklow)
Irish netball captain Niamh Murphy is on a mission to increase Ireland’s world ranking from 27 in 2015.
Murphy from Roundtree in Wicklow was voted MVP by her peers at the annual Nations Cup tournament held in Singapore in December.
Personal success aside, the big name centre is eager to put Ireland in a position to qualify for a future Netball World Cup having played six of the 16 nations who have qualified for the 2015 Netball World Cup taking place in Sydney next August.