A champion day as our sporting elite honoured
IT'S not often that champion footballers, boxers, jockeys, golfers and soccer players gather in one room together -- but when it does happen it makes for something very special.
The cream of Irish sport turned out for the annual Irish Independent Sports Awards yesterday to toast the glittering successes of some of our country's finest across 18 fields.
The event, held in the Westbury Hotel in Dublin and MC-ed by Sky Sports presenter Rachel Wyse, marked its silver jubilee this year and it was a celebration worthy of the elite sports personalities that have excelled at home and abroad.
Among the professionals providing thrills and triumphs throughout 2013, a year of plenty in Irish sport, were the three winners on the day: jockey AP McCoy, Clare hurler Tony Kelly and horse trainer Jim Bolger.
McCoy, who claimed his 4,000th career win over jumps in November, was named the Sports Star of the Year, a title previously won by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Katie Taylor and Brian O'Driscoll. The award was handed over by Irish Independent Editor Claire Grady.
Kelly took home the Young Sports Star of the Year prize, an accolade that was won last year by flat jockey Joseph O'Brien.
"Winning the All-Ireland was just one of the best moments of my life," he said.
Kelly attended the awards with his county team mates Shane O'Donnell and Podge Collins, but after a phone call from their manager Davy Fitzgerald, they were unable to let their hair down and were called back to the training ground after the ceremony.
The sporting afternoon was complete when host Wyse invited legendary trainer Bolger, the man behind the 2013 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, to join her on stage. He became the latest face to be initiated into the Hall of Fame for his achievements over what has been a victorious career on the race course.
Although they were not receiving any awards, the Republic of Ireland's "dream team" management partnership of Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill drew plenty of attention on the day.
They attended with the FAI chief executive John Delaney and posed for a number of pictures with delighted fans prior to the three-course meal.
Other guests included Fionnuala Britton, Michael Carruth, Packie Bonner and Martyn Irvine, while three-time Major-winning golfer Padraig Harrington was accompanied by his mother Breda.
"My mum usually represents me at this event when I can't make it, so it means a lot for me to be able to come with her," Harrington said.
He received special recognition before the official proceedings kicked off, for winning the Irish Independent's Sports Star of the Year three times throughout its 25 years history.