Four local sports stars are left in the hunt to crown the Best in the West

June 12th, 2020 3:31 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Paul O'Donovan met Phil Healy at the 2018 West Cork Sports Star Awards.

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WE started off with 16 local stars in our search for West Cork’s greatest sportsperson and now we are down to the final four.

There have been plenty of shocks and entertainment over the last few weeks as you have voted in your thousands in our online Twitter polls – and now we are getting closer to crowning the Best in the West, thanks to Access Credit Union.

This Saturday and Sunday, the two semi-finals will take place and they promise to be two epic battles. The headline clash will be the face-off between Ireland’s greatest-ever rower Paul O’Donovan and Ireland’s fastest-ever woman Phil Healy, as it pits two of the biggest current stars in Irish sport against one another.

The beauty of Best in the West is that it pits different sports in opposition that would never normally cross paths – when would you ever have Paul O’Donovan take on Phil Healy?

In his quarter-final against Castlehaven and Cork football great Niall Cahalane last weekend, O’Donovan surged to a win that was every bit as emphatic as his gold-medal triumphs in the single scull at the 2016 and 2017 World Rowing Championships when he won by open water. The Skibb rower took 62 percent of the vote and eased into the last four.

Phil Healy’s win was even more impressive as she garnered 75 percent of the vote when she saw off two-time world hockey goalkeeper of the year David Harte in their quarter-final on Monday. Healy sprinted to victory, but her clash with O’Donovan on Sunday is certain to be a lot closer. Both need their support bases to come out in numbers to vote for their favourite.

The Best in the West semi-finals, like the last-16 and quarter-finals, will be held on sports editor Kieran McCarthy’s Twitter page (@KieranMcC_SS) and the polls will open on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10am and run through ‘til 2am that night.

Before O’Donovan and Healy collide, we’ll see the first semi-final on Saturday when former two-time world road bowling champion Bill Daly of Leap takes on Ballylickey’s motorsport ace Keith Cronin, a four-time British Rally Championship winner. Again, this has the potential to be an epic.

Daly has taken out two Bantry and Cork football legends en route to the last four, having got the better of Declan Barron and then Graham Canty. He’ll look to build on that momentum against Cronin, but the latter has clocked up the biggest number of votes in the two rounds to date. Cronin’s quarter-final against camogie great Jennifer O’Leary went right down to the wire as thousands voted, and after the lead swapped hands several times it was Cronin who was first past the chequered flag, but only just. Cronin will be favourite against Daly, but the road bowling community is confident that they can take another scalp here.

As ever, the power is in your hands so make sure you vote for your favourite. After this weekend we will be one step closer to crowning the Best in the West so get on Twitter and cast your vote, as the search for West Cork’s greatest sportsperson, thanks to Access Credit Union, moves up a gear.

Quarter-finals results: Bill Daly 51% Graham Canty 49%; Keith Cronin 51% Jennifer O’Leary 49%; Paul O’Donovan 62% Niall Cahalane 38%; David Harte 25% Phil Healy 75%.

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