Big thank you from

Caroline claims top title

Caroline 0'Hanlon receives her award from Leona Barr Centre Manager of Junction One International Shopping Outlet.

Caroline 0'Hanlon receives her award from Leona Barr Centre Manager of Junction One International Shopping Outlet.

Larkfield's all-conquering captain Caroline O'Hanlon has been named Northern Ireland Sportswoman of the Year to crown a remarkable 12 months of sustained success in netball and Gaelic football.

Bessbrook-born O'Hanlon, who joined the Lisburn club as a schoolgirl almost a decade ago, saw off several world-class competitors including recent Commonwealth Games cycling silver medalist Wendy Houvenaghel to take the Junction One-sponsored title at the Women of the Year Awards.

As well as leading Larkfield to an unprecedented Northern Ireland netball league and cup double - the first time the title had gone outside Belfast this century - the 25-year-old excelled at international level.

She was instrumental in Northern Ireland winning their first ever trophy in international netball when they defeated five other countries to lift the prestigious Nations Cup in Singapore last December.

O'Hanlon then was named official overall player of the tournament at the European Championships in April before helping Northern Ireland book their place at next year's World Cup by winning the regional qualifier event two months later.

Having led Larkfield to their double, clinched by beating big guns Belfast Ladies in the knockout final, inspirational captain Caroline enjoyed similar success with her club Carrickcruppen in ladies gaelic.

O'Hanlon's unfancied underdogs upset champions Clann Eireann of Lurgan to be crowned Armagh county champions for the first time in their history.

Typically rising to the big occasion, Caroline claimed player-of-the-match in both finals and her superb personal performances for Armagh in Gaelic's Ulster Championship saw her named all-Ireland player of the month for June.

Even more remarkably, Caroline combined her hectic sporting schedule with working her first year as a junior doctor - initially at the Royal Victoria Hospital and more recently St Luke's in Armagh.

Typically modest and self-effacing, O'Hanlon dedicated the award to her team-mates and attributed it to "being privileged and fortunate to captain successful sides in the two sports in the same year," but her Larkfield club coach Denise Prue paid tribute to a worthy winner.

"Having spotted Caroline's great potential as a schoolgirl, I invited her to join Larkfield at age 17 and she's been a very loyal club member. She sets high standards and has always been very professional, competitive and dedicated in spite of her medical career commitments.

"She is also a lovely person and a great ambassador for her sports and all who know her will share my delight that she has won this prestigious award - it is richly-deserved recognition."

Prue's praise was echoed by Glenavy-based Northern Ireland coach Elaine Rice, who described Dr O'Hanlon - who previously played basketball for Ulster at Under 19 level - as "an exceptional athlete with a great aptitude for a number of sports.

"This award recognises not only her playing prowess but professional attitude, commitment to her sport and ability to bring out the best in her team-mates," she said.

Ulster Star