THE Mayo Young Person of the Year must be someone whose achievements reflect positively on the county.
Michaela Walsh accomplished this by taking the road less travelled, but it’s a path that may well lead her all the way to the next Olympics in Tokyo.
She is described by her local Athletics Club in Swinford as a “home-grown heroine”.
Once one of Mayo’s most promising young footballers in a county where the sport is a valuable currency, Michaela chose instead the less glamorous world of field sports where, in the words of her club, she is “the most outstanding junior athlete not just in Mayo, but in the country.” Michaela is the flag-bearer for Ireland’s 4,000 year history with the hammer throw.
Having helped bestow enormous honour and success on Swinford through her GAA efforts she turned to the discipline of throwing events where at 15 years of age she won the Irish schools’ championship in the shot put and hammer.
She competed in the 2014 Beijing Youth Olympics where she finished sixth, despite competing against throwers from around the world aged one year older.
Michaela has set a number of new Irish records for her age group and has been recognised locally, nationally and internationally. This culminated in her winning a bronze medal in the hammer at the European Junior (Under 20) Championships in Grosseto, Italy in 2017.
She also finished in seventh position in the shotput at these championships, again remarkably the only athlete to qualify for both throwing finals.
This is the first medal won in the hammer in an open international championship by an Irish athlete since 1932. The previous winner was Dr Pat O’Callaghan at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Michaela’s bronze is also the first-ever Irish medal in the hammer event at European Championship level. She is currently ranked second on the Irish all-time list for the women’s hammer and fourth in the shot put.
Like Katie Taylor she is a young woman breaking sporting ground in unfamiliar territory. Her story is a positive one both in terms as a female role model for young girls and the prestige she will bring to her native Mayo.
The award will be presented by the Mayo Association Dublin at a gala function on February 10 at the Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin.