Provincial and local heroes honoured with awards
The annual Munster Rugby Awards, in association with the Irish Independent, took place last week at the Maryborough Hotel in Cork with 11 awards presented to worthy recipients involved in professional and domestic rugby in Munster.
The full Munster squad, head coach Anthony Foley and team manager Niall O'Donovan were all in attendance, joining domestic game volunteers in recognising and honouring rugby achievements across the province.
CJ Stander, Duncan Casey and Jack O'Donoghue picked up the Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Academy Player of the Year awards respectively.
The Women's Player of the Year Award was collected by Ciara Griffin. A former Munster U-18 player who made her Munster senior debut in 2012, Griffin plays her club rugby with Tralee RFC and was part of a young Munster side that won this season's Interprovincial championship.
Playing at flanker, she has blossomed into a leader for Munster on and off the pitch and started all three games in this season's successful Interprovincial series.
Andy Brace received the Referee of the Year Award after a season that saw him officiate a number of important games including the final of the British and Irish Cup. As well as officiating in the All-Ireland League, Brace took charge of a number of British & Irish Cup pool fixtures and a quarter-final before being selected to referee the final. The Welsh native, who works as a Community Rugby Officer for Limerick and Tipperary, also took charge of the U-20s Six Nations clash between England and Scotland and has been touch judge in the Pro12 and European Challenge Cup.
Noel Murphy became the newest member of the Munster Rugby Hall of Fame. Murphy was born in Cork City into a vibrant sporting family, which to date, has had three generations representing Ireland at international level.
In his school days he represented Christian Brothers College and went on to play for Cork Constitution and Garryowen, making his international debut against Australia in 1958 and winning another 40 international caps, mostly at flanker.
Murphy captained Ireland for the first time in 1964 and led his country for the 1967 Five Nations Championship. He also toured with the Lions on two occasions and coached them on their 1980 tour to South Africa. After retiring as a player, Murphy coached Cork Constitution, Munster and Ireland between 1977 and 1980, later serving as President of Cork Constitution, the Munster Branch and the IRFU. He is currently a trustee of the Munster Branch.
The Senior Club of the Year Award was given to Young Munster RFC. The Cookies had an incredible run this season at various age grade and senior levels. Their senior team finished fourth in Division 1A of the All Ireland League and only a late score from Lansdowne in extra time at the Aviva Stadium last month denied them a place in this weekend's final.
Their second team reached the semi-final of the Munster Junior Cup and final of the Munster Seconds League while their U-20s won the North Munster Cup and reached the quarter-final of the All-Ireland Cup. The club's U-16s also made it to the final of the Munster Youths competition and the U-13s won the league and cup double.
Clonmel RFC were the runaway winners of the Junior Club of the Year Award as they retained the accolade. A year of unprecedented success has seen the men's side win Division 1 of the Munster Junior League for the first time in the club's 123 year history. This was followed up with another win in the Munster Junior Clubs Cup and they face Shannon in the replayed Munster Junior Cup final on Sunday as they look to secure an incredible treble.
Clonmel's second team won the Dave Dineen Cup and their women's side did the double in winning Division 1 of the Munster League and the Munster Cup. Ennis RFC claimed the Youth Section of the Year Award. With over 180 members in their youth section, Ennis have had considerable success this year with their U-13s reaching the Cup final, U-14s winning the conference, U-15s winning the league and their U-16s reaching the Munster Youths and North Munster League semi-finals.
Listowel RFC were deserving winners of the Mini Section of the Year Award.
With memberships growing all the time, Listowel has blossomed into one of the biggest clubs in west Munster. At mini level they fields two teams in each of the U-8, U-10 and U-12 age grades.
The School of the Year Award went to Cork's Bandon Grammar School. In existence since the middle of the 17th century, students at this school have been playing rugby since the 1890s.
This year has seen them win the Mungret Cup and Mungret Shield, along with section C of the McCarthy Cup at U-15 level.