Tony Ward: Here's to a fine 2011...
Published 03/01/2012 | 05:00
TEAM OF THE YEAR: LEINSTER: Despite coming off second best to Munster in the Magners League final, for style and substance the European champions currently stand apart.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
SEAN O'BRIEN: The type of player Munster would love to have in their ranks. There is no greater tribute to any forward than that. Equally at home at 6, 7 or 8 and with a work ethic to match his free-running ability.
CLUB OF THE YEAR
CASHEL RFC: Munster Junior Cup and Junior Clubs Challenge Cup winners, champions of Division 1 and Division 2 Munster Junior League, Webb Cup and Gleeson League winners and currently setting the pace at the top of Division 2B of the All-Ireland League. Add to that various titles and finals at underage from U-13 to U-19. A club on the move.
"CROUCH-TOUCH-PAUSE-ENGAGE": Never have referees been so prominent. Need we say more?
COACH OF THE YEAR
JOE SCHMIDT: Delivery backed by humility makes for a pretty impressive mix in my book.
THE MICHEAL O MUIRCHEARTAIGH 'GAME OF TWO HALVES' AWARD
HEINEKEN CUP FINAL LEINSTER V NORTHAMPTON: The turnaround of all time.
MOST PROMISING NEW COACHES
CONOR O'SHEA (Harlequins) & ANTHONY FOLEY (Munster): Ireland dream ticket somewhere down the road?
GREATEST EVER IRELAND WIN
Australia, Eden Park, September 17 2011: Given its context, it surpassed both Grand Slams (1948 & 2009) in terms of global impact and significance.
THE 'IF WE'D KNOWN THEN WHAT WE KNOW NOW' AWARD
THE CONNACHT FOUR: Sean Cronin, Fionn Carr, Ian Keatley and Jamie Hagan.
SCHOOL OF THE YEAR
SENIOR -- CLONGOWES WOOD COLLEGE: Back- to-back Senior Cup titles, Senior 2nd Premier Division Winners, Forster Cup 3rd Division Winners (supplying both finalists).
JUNIOR -- RICE COLLEGE, WESTPORT: Second successive Connacht Junior Cup final and first provincial title for school and for county.
SENIOR CLUB ACHIEVEMENT
OLD BELVEDERE: Maiden All-Ireland League title success.
COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTION AWARD
ALAIN ROLLAND: Technically right decision to red card Sam Warburton in RWC semi-final.
TRY OF THE YEAR
Luke Fitzgerald: This encapsulated courage, pin-point accuracy, support lines and angles of running, Fitzgerald's bonus-point securing try after half-time against Bath summed up what Schmidt and Leinster are all about: simple but brilliant.
WALLY OF THE YEAR
Mike Tindall: For crass stupidity Tindall takes the biscuit. Nice guy he may be but how the stand-in captain of England -- only recently married into the Royal family -- at the height of the Rugby World Cup could do what he did simply defies logic. Little wonder that England coach Martin Johnson threw in the towel upon returning home.
The 'IT'S HAD ITS DAY AWARD'
The Haka: A once great tradition and pre- match ritual is now being abused (throat slitting etc) for psychological advantage in the final minutes leading up to kick-off.
MOST IMPROVED IRISH PLAYER AND KEY PIECE IN IRISH JIG SAW
Mike Ross: With little elaboration necessary.
Conor Murray: Composure personified.
STILL SO MUCH TO PROVE
MATCHES OF THE YEAR
Ireland/Australia: The day we came of age at the World Cup. Other fine games include Leinster/Northampton, England/Ireland and France/New Zealand (World Cup final).
THE WILLIE ANDERSON AWARD
Thierry Dusautoir: Led by their captain, the French team took up the gauntlet and threw it back in All Black faces prior to World Cup final kick-off.
Touch Judge Peter Allen: The Scottish official's decision to confirm the Welsh match-winning try against Ireland in the Six Nations as legitimate, after the ball was kicked into the Millennium Stadium crowd and an alternative supplied by a ball boy on the touchline. A terrible error.
WORLD PLAYER OF THE YEAR
RICHIE McCAW: They made a cock-up of it in 2009 when awarding the main IRB gong to McCaw instead of Brian O'Driscoll and this year they repeated the dose, but this time in reverse when choosing to ignore the inspiration behind the All Black success and awarding it instead to Dusautoir on the basis of one, albeit outstanding, match.
NZ$6,000: Donated between the World Cup squad and IRFU to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal fund in New Zealand.
RUGBY PEACEKEEPING MOVE OF YEAR
Newgrange, south Belfast: Where an all-Ireland Police team (made up of gardai and PSNI officers) took on their British opposites in jerseys carrying the four provincial crests along with the badges of the Garda and PSNI.