Rhys McClenaghan crowned RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year

Rhys McClenaghan holding his award trophy.
Rhys McClenaghan, who was named RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year on Saturday night.

Co Down’s reigning back-to-back world champion gymnast Rhys McClenaghan has been named RTÉ Sportsperson of the Year for 2023.

It caps off an astounding year for the 24-year-old Newtownards athlete, who won a second European gold medal on the pommel horse in April before retaining his World artistic gymnastics title in Antwerp in October.

The Co Down gymnast was crowned in a glittering awards ceremony broadcast live on Saturday night, where he was selected from of a strong list of nominees that included boxer Katie Taylor and former Ireland rugby captain, Johnny Sexton.

McClenaghan, who was also nominated for Sportsperson of the Year in 2022, previously won RTÉ Young Sportsperson of the Year in 2018.

“I can’t believe I’m holding this in my hands,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s just incredible that I’m an Irish gymnast taking home world titles and that’s never been done before. I’m so proud to be able to do that.

“I want to thank all of all of the nominees for this award for inspiring me and every Irish athlete at the highest level in this country it’s incredible from Johnny’s beautiful leadership for the Irish rugby team to Katie’s undeniable success in the boxing ring and leaving a legacy unmatched is inspiring for me so I want to thank all those athletes.

“Although it’s an individual sport there is a team behind us as individual athletes and it’s incredible that I have that support from Gymnastics Ireland, from everybody at Sport Ireland.

“It all works towards that ultimate goal to bring home medals for the country and hopefully we can go one further at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Saturday night’s ceremony also saw 19-year-old Republic of Ireland and Brighton striker Evan Ferguson named RTÉ Young Sportsperson of the Year, while Irish Paralympian Jason Smyth was inducted into the RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame.

The Co Derry sprinter, who announced his retirement in March 2023, was last week named as one of the Irish celebrities set to join the line-up of RTÉ's new season of Dancing with the Stars.

Elsewhere, the head coach of the Irish men’s rugby team, Andy Farrell, was awarded Manager of the Year after guiding the team to Six Nations Grand Slam glory in March and to October’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final, which they lost to New Zealand, while Team of the Year went to Limerick’s hurlers, who achieved four-in-a-row All Ireland titles in 2023.

Jason Smyth smiling after being presented with an award.
Jason Smyth was inducted into the RTÉ Sport Hall of Fame on Saturday night.