THE SHORTLIST FOR RTÉ Sports Person of the Year is packed with worthy contenders. Today, Fintan O’Toole argues why Denise Gaule deserves to be on the shortlist.

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Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN KILKENNY LIFTED the O’Duffy Cup in 1994, they hardly reckoned on Noreside that they would be waiting 22 years to claim the title again.

The painful and frustrating wait that ensued featured six All-Ireland final losses. Denise Gaule shared in those setbacks, starting against Galway in 2013 and Cork in 2014 but feeling the crushing sense of defeat at the final whistle on both occasions.

2016 was different. It opened brightly when she helped Kilkenny get past Galway in the camogie league final. When those counties clashed again at the All-Ireland semi-final stage in August, Gaule was again instrumental in a Klikenny win over Galway.

Her 0-9 return in a match that went the distance to extra-time was fittingly recognised with the player of the match award.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

To the All-Ireland final then, the biggest day of the camogie calendar and all the pressure hovered over Kilkenny to end their drought against a Cork team chasing three-in-a-row.

But Kilkenny stood up. Gaule’s free-taking was flawless as she shot 0-7 and in a defensive-minded game, the Windgap player revelled in a free role around the middle where she was able to orchestrate the direction the match went.

By the final whistle Kilkenny were four-point victors and Gaule had been central to that triumph. In November she was one of eight Kilkenny players who were honoured with All-Star awards.

And Gaule’s consistency was also marked with the Camogie Association/WGPA Players’ Player of the Year award.

For the best camogie player in the country, 2016 was a season that created memories which will last.

Denise Gaule

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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