Sunday 11 December 2016

Rivalries put to the side for night of GAA glamour and awards

Published 07/11/2015 | 02:30

All Star arrivals: Dublin footballer Cian O'Sullivan with Danielle Byrne
All Star arrivals: Dublin footballer Cian O'Sullivan with Danielle Byrne
Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly with Leslie Devlin
Kerry footballer Brendan Kealy and his wife Catherine

It was a night for putting their rivalries aside and leaving them on the pitch as football and hurling's royalty came together for the most glamorous event on the GAA calendar.

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From early evening, inter-county stars from the four corners of the country descended on the Dublin Convention Centre – flanked by their other halves, mentors and loved ones – for the GAA’s GPA All-Stars award ceremony.

And as they swapped their kits for tuxes, it was also their partners turn to swap the draughty sideline for the luxurious surroundings of the black tie event in the capital.

Reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin were the toast of the evening and Jim Gavin’s men were led onto the red carpet by the winner of the footballer of the year gong, 22-year-old Jack McCaffrey.

After picking up the prize, the Clontarf native said it has been an “absolutely fantastic year” for the squad.

“It is an absolutely unbelievable honour. It could have been any Dublin lad. The last couple of years have been a bit of rollercoaster for me,” he added.

He was up against teammates Bernard Brogan and Philly McMahon for the coveted award, which celebrates players individual contributions to the GAA championship.

Dublin corner-back Philly McMahon looked dapper as he arrived sporting a polka-dot dickie bow, but it was his girlfriend Sarah Lacey who turned heads in her black gown with sheer, full-length sleeves.

Sarah said she supported the All-Star in “whatever he does”, but added there was great camaraderie between the squad’s wives and girlfriends.

“All the girls are great and we are good friends and support each other through everything. And it is great to see the guys coming together to be awarded for all their hard work,” she added.

Corner-forward Bernard Brogan, who was joined by his girlfriend Keira Doyle – a successful PR executive – said the “special night” was a chance for the different teams to share drinks and to swap war stories.

“It is always a special night when you come off the back of winning the All-Ireland,” he said.

“There is a good crowd of Dubs here so we will be able to let the hair down and have a drink and reminisce.

“It is always good to meet the other guys from other counties as well and share a drink with the team and tell stories of the battles we have had on the pitch,” the International Rules captain added.

“It is a really nice night and it makes it a little bit more special when you have the Sam Maguire and a lot of the lads around you.”

A total of seven Dublin stars won a spot on the All-Star team of the year, bringing their total haul to over 100.

Hurler of the year went to Kilkenny’s TJ Reid, from the reigning All-Ireland winning team.

Waterford’s Tadgh de Burca won the young hurler of the year prize. And Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor scooped the young footballer of the year prize and said it was a “great honour”.

Other stars who swapped the dressing room for the red carpet on the evening was Kilkenny’s Kieran Joyce, who arrived with Lorna Ferncomb and Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan with Lauren Browne.

GPA president Dermot Earley said all 90 nominees, 45 hurlers and 45 footballers, should be proud of themselves as they were “excellent ambassadors for the sport”.

Irish Independent

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