ON the surface, as a 39-year-old mother-of-three in the process of qualifying as a doctor, Sinead Jennings doesn’t have the feel of someone who could find the time to compete in sport, let alone reach an Olympic final.
Then again, Jennings, from Hawthorn Heights in Letterkenny, was always a cut above the rest.
Last night, Jennings was named as the 2016 Donegal Sports Star of the Year.
It was her third time, following previous accolades in 2001 and 2006, to collect the gong, before a crowd of 730 guests who packed into the Mount Errigal Hotel.
“This one is massive,” Jennings said.[adrotate group=”90″]
“I did have success earlier and maybe didn’t appreciate how much it meant. Fifteen years later, it means so much. I’ve come through so many set-backs and near misss. This is brilliant.”
Jennings tried three times previously, without success, to reach the Olympics.
However, in August, Jennings reached the final of the lightweight women’s double sculls after finally realising her Olympic dream, coming sixth in the final alongside her partner, Claire Lambe.[adrotate group=”46″]
Jennings said: “The Olympics was unbelievable. We decided that we would enjoy it and we really did.
“It was very special to make the final.
“If we hadn’t rowed the best we could, it would have been hard to live with that. We wanted to compete and leave everything on the water.
“I nearly let it go in 2012, but my sister Caitriona inspired me and my husband, Sam Lynch, encouraged me. I’m so happy I did.”
Patsy McGonagle was the special guest at last night’s awards. The Ballybofey man was manager of the Irish Athletics Team at four Olympic Games, including Rio.[adrotate group=”53″]
McGonagle doesn’t do patronising and a spade is most certainly a spade so when he says that Jennings reaching the final was the greatest EVER achievement by a Donegal sportsperson, it’s a sentence worth heeding.
Jennings made light of let downs, set backs and countless kicks in the teeth, never mind her hectic family and personal life, to make a dream come true.
She said: “If you want to do it enough, you’ll find a away.”
2016 DONEGAL SPORTS STAR AWARDS – AWARD WINNERS
Athletics: Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny AC)
Badminton: Chloe Magee (Raphoe)
Basketball: Seán Mac Gettigan (North Star, Derry)
Boxing: Brett McGinty (Oakleaf ABC)
Camogie: Rhianne McDermott (Burt)
Clay Pigeon Shooting: Joe O’Donnell (Carrigans and St Johnston Gun Club)
Cue Sports: Sean Devenney (North West Snooker Club, Letterkenny)
Darts: John Flood (Milford)
Rugby: Nora Stapleton (Fahan)
Special Athlete: Cormac Sweeney, Eoin Rooney, Ethan Daly and Laoise Lennox (all Nemo Special Olympics Swim Club, Ballyshannon)
Cycling: Claire McIlwaine (Letterkenny & Phoenix CC, Belfast)
Equestrian: Gavin Harley
GAA: Ryan McHugh (Kilcar)
Golf: Patrick Page (Letterkenny)
Gymnastics: Emily E O’Connor (Letterkenny Community Gymnastics Club)
Hanball: Avril McNamee (Sean MacCumhaills)
Hockey: Alexander Tinney (Raphoe)
Hurling: Lee Henderson (Sean MacCumhaills)
Martial Arts: Stephen John Carlin (North West Shotokan Karate Club)
Motor Cycling: Rhys Irwin (Kilmacrennan)
Motorsport: Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett (Glenswilly and Milford)
Olympic Recognition: Brendan Boyce, Chloe Magee, Mark English, Patsy McGonagle, Rena McCarron-Rooney, Sinead Jennings, Tori Pena
Power Lifting: Paulina Coleman (Stranorlar)
Professional Sport Achievement: Conrad Logan (Rochdale AFC)
Rowing: Sinead Jennings (Letterkenny)
Soccer: Roma McLaughlin (Peamount United)
Surf Lifesaving: Paddy Bond (Letterkenny)
Swimming: Éadaoin O’Raw (City of Derry Swimming Club)
Triathlon: Aidan Callaghan (Letterkenny 24/7 Triathlon Club)
Primary School Sports Boy: Luke Mac Fhloinn (Scoil Náisiúnta, An Choimín)
Primary School Sports Girl: Hannah Murray (St Mary’s NS, Castlefin)
Secondar School Sports Boy: James Kelly (Royal & Prior, Raphoe)
Secondary School Sports Girl: Amy Boyle-Carr (St Columba’s, Glenties)
Coach: Mandy McNulty (North West Shotokan Karate Club)
Appreciation: Seamus Maguire (Donegal Bay Rowing Club)
Team: Donegal Under-15 Sportshall Athletics Team
Primary School, Small (<100): Náisiúnta, An Choimín
Primary School, Large (>100): St Patrick’s NS, Lurgybrack, Letterkenny
Primary School Sports Teacher: Orla Sullivan (Scoil Mhuire NS, Ramelton)
Secondary School: Carndonagh Community School
Secondary School Sports Teacher: Aoife De Naois (Gairmscoil Chú Uladh)
International Achievement: PJ Gallagher (Dungloe)
Brendan McDaid Memorial Special Achievement: Jim Doherty (Newtown)
Special Achievement (Junior): Labhaoise Clarke (Carndonagh ABC)
Special Achievement (Senior): Shaun Paul Barrett (Donegal minor manager)
Sporting Acknowlegement Award: Martin, Mark and Ryan McHugh (Kilcar and Donegal GAA)
Hall of Fame: John Campbell (Ballybofey)
2016 Donegal Sports Star of the Year: Sinead Jennings (Letterkenny)Tags: