Akpe-Moses named July’s Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for July: Gina Akpe-Moses (Athletics)

If you ever wonder what kind of talent is coming through from the youthful ranks of Irish sport then the rather lengthy shortlist for our July award would warm the heart. In the end we opted for Gina Akpe-Moses after her outstanding form at the European Under-20 Championships in Italy saw her triumph in the 100 metres, but her competition for the award was as stiff as she faced en route to winning gold.

There was Dubliner Aoife Hopkins following in the path of you-know-who when she won the Under-21 Laser Radial European Championships in France, with Nenagh’s Aisling Keller making it a one-two for Ireland by winning silver.

Teenager Noelle Lenihan, meanwhile, added to her medal collection when she won silver in the discus at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, a feat matched by fellow Corkonians Orla Barry and Niamh McCarthy.

Over in Hungary, Athlone’s Kate Derwin and Cork’s Abbie Sweetnam helped the Irish Under-16 team to gold in the European Pony Championships, with 15-year-old Derwin going on to win silver in the individual event, while Kildare trio Zara Nelson, Hannah Adams and Isabelle Comerford and Laois’s Jennifer Kuehnle combined to win team Eventing bronze.

And Hungary was the host nation again for the European Youth Olympic Festival where six Irish girls collected medals, Sarah Healy winning the 1500m, Rhasidat Adekele taking silver in the 200m, Lara Gillespie doing likewise in the Cycling Time Trial, Patience Jumbo-Gula winning bronze in the 100m before teaming up with Adekele, Niamh Foley and Miriam Daly to come third in the 4x100m. To complete the medal haul, Jade Williams won bronze in the Hammer.

No short of promise, then, with Akpe-Moses’ future prospects looking especially hopeful after she earned herself the title of the best women’s under-20 sprinter in Europe, at the age of just 18, winning Ireland’s first European women’s sprint title at under-20 to senior level.

While she’s now based in Birmingham, where she’s a member of Birchfield Harriers, moving there from Dundalk three years ago, there’s no disputing the Nigerian-born runner’s allegiances having gained Irish nationality at the age of eight and represented her adopted country since she was fifteen. Her potential was first spotted when she joined St Gerard’s Athletic Club in Dundalk when she was seven, and it was fitting that her former coach there, Michael O’Connor, was in Grosetto to see her win gold.

She’ll only be 21 come the Tokyo Olympics, but she’s set her sights on making it there. She’s dreaming big.