Saturday 20 October 2018

O'Connell wins Sport Star award

Paul O’Connell with his award. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Paul O’Connell with his award. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Republic of Ireland soccer international Stephanie Roche with her boyfriend Dean Zambra. Photo: Sportsfile
FAI chief John Delaney and partner Emma English, at the 27th annual Irish Independent Sport Star Awards in Croke Park last night. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Kevin Moran, centre, receiving his Hall of Fame award from INM chief executive Robert Pitt (left) and Pat King, CEO of the Doyle Collection. Photo: Sportsfile
Boxer Michael Conlan with his partner Shauna Olali. Photo: Sportsfile
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

They have been through hours of toil, tears and training.

But Ireland's leading sports stars took some well-deserved time off to attend the 27th Irish Independent Sport Star Awards with the Croke Park Hotel.

Former Munster and Ireland rugby captain Paul O'Connell was named the Irish Independent Sport Star of the Year for 2015.

O'Connell, who was unable to attend the event as he was presented to the media at his new club Toulon, said he was honoured to accept the award.

"I'm very honoured and very thankful to all the readers of the Irish Independent for voting for me," he said in a video message.

"It's a big honour for me considering the other nominees, the likes of Michael Conlan and Willie Mullins. Thank you."

It was a star-studded event with jockey Ruby Walsh, FAI CEO John Delaney, boxer Michael Conlan as well as soccer managers Brian Kerr and Martin O'Neill in attendance.

Former Dublin footballer and Ireland soccer player Kevin Moran was initiated into the Irish Independent Sport Star Hall of Fame.

"It's an honour," Moran said. "But I can't believe I'm at that stage of my life now!"

Moran cited playing for Ireland during the Jack Charlton era and winning an All-Ireland medal in 1974 as career highlights.

Leona Maguire, the first Irish woman to reach number one in the World Amateur Golf rankings, took home the Young Sport Star of the Year accolade, while Team Ireland took home the Outstanding Achievement Award.

Soccer star Stephanie Roche, golfer Padraig Harrington and Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton also attended the black-tie event.

"It's a great night out and a great way to acknowledge all the hard work athletes have put in," Padraig said. "It's a great evening filled with great athletes."

Dr Ronnie Delany enjoyed a pint of Guinness as he caught up with old pals.

"I have been coming for the past few years - I must be behaving myself well, because they keep asking me back," he said.

Legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh attended the first Sport Star of the Week awards in 1950 when Louth Gaelic footballer Sean Thornton picked up the top accolade. "It is a fabulous evening and a great reflection of the standard of sport in this country," he said. "And it's also a lot of fun."

Speaking at the event last night, Editor of the Irish Independent Fionnán Sheahan said: "The ethos of these awards remains to recognise excellence across all sporting codes and at every level - locally, nationally and internationally."

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