Saturday 20 July 2019

Blarney set to honour its Person of the Year for 2018

Sean Underwood
Sean Underwood
Donal Ring
Eoin Murphy
Emily Coleman
Tom O'Byrne
Sean and Chris McCarthy

Bill Browne

Excitement is building ahead of one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the annual social calendar in Blarney. 

On Friday night more than 100 invited guests will attend a gala bash at the The Castle Hotel to find out which of the 11 monthly nominees will be unveiled at the 'Blarney Person of the Year' for 2018. Awards co-organiser Kate Durrant said that, as in previous years, the standard of monthly nominees was exceptionally high. 

"This is the ninth year these awards have been running, and with so many worthy monthly winners during 2018, our panel of judges has once again had a particularly difficult task on their hands to choose an overall winner," said Kate. 

She said that while the nominees come from a wide range of different backgrounds and interests - including sport, the arts voluntary and community work, business the environment - they all had one thing in common: "Through their lives and achievements, each and every one of them has excelled in their own special way and has made immense contributions to the local community. In that regard, they are all winners," said Kate. 

"These awards recognise and reward the all-too-often unsung heroes that live and work within our midst and whose leadership, altruism and willingness to go that extra step make them role models for the entire community. They have helped make Blarney and the surrounding district such a wonderful place to live and work in."

January: Sean Underwood

After almost 33 days at sea, 25-year-old Sean from Tower - along with Eoin O'Farrell from Ballinlough, Patrick O'Connor from Castletownroche and Thomas Browne from Dublin - arrived in Antigua on January 16, 2018, having rowed more than 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic to raise awareness and money for CUH Children's Unit.

The 'Relentless Rowers' raised more than €30,000, which went towards helping equip the new unit with state-of-the-art equipment; purchase high-flow oxygen for respiratory conditions; and provide resources to look after children's educational needs during hospital stays.

February: Jo Ann O’Connor

For almost 25 years, Jo Ann has been the organist in The Church of The Immaculate Conception, Blarney. With the exception of holidays, she plays the organ every Sunday, Church Holy Days, and on many other special church ceremonies.

She can be found sitting at the organ every Monday night as the choir practices, and she travels with the choir when they play different venues. It is an exceptional commitment she has given, and continues to give, to the village, and whilst it is true that she loves to play, she gives her time humbly, unselfishly and voluntarily.

March: Donal Ring

Not many can boast that they have been performing professionally for six decades, but that is the milestone that local man Donal Ring celebrated in a tribute night in Vienna Woods Hotel last April.

Donal has been playing Céilí music since 1952, founding the Donal Ring Céilí Band in 1958. Over the years, he has won numerous awards including the All-Ireland Hohner Championship in 1961; The Jack Lynch Perpetual Shield in 2011; the Cork Person of the Month; and is included in Cork Music Archives.

Through the years Donal has had many talented band members but readily acknowledges that the major factor contributing to his band's 60 successful years was from his own family.

April: Eoin Murphy

Eoin is the owner of EMF Fitness, which has a unique business ethos of 'lifting and laughing'.

In addition to the personal training programmes, circuit-training classes, specialised weight-loss program and online coaching on offer, Eoin has helped many people both physically and mentally.

He gives a huge amount back to the community and often donates the proceeds of classes and competitions to various local charities, including the Blarney Community First Responders and Dogs for the Disabled.

He organises teams for the city marathon and participated in the first Blarney Wellfest, where he spoke about how important exercise is in improving people's lives and lifting their moods.

May: Julia Downey

Julia has been an integral part of the Whitechurch Community for many years and has lived her life believing that you should treat those around you better than you treat yourself.

In addition to working with 'Meals on Wheels' for many years, she serves as sacristan in St Patrick's Church in Whitechurch, showing phenomenal dedication to the role.

All this work is done on a completely voluntary basis and with a welcoming smile to everyone. In 2013 Julia received the Benemerenti Medal from Pope Benedict, in recognition of her years of service to the Church.

June: Emily Coleman

Emily is an amazing, determined young lady whose success in the 2018 Special Olympics earned her this monthly award.

Emily is a long-standing member of the Owenabue Special Olympic Gymnastic club and has represented Ireland at a number of competitions in the UK. However, these were overshadowed by her most recent achievement, when she represented Munster at the Special Olympic Ireland Games held in Dublin.

Emily came with an incredible three medals: a gold medal for her excellent floor work; a silver medal for the uneven bars; and a bronze for the high beam.

July: Tom O’Byrne

One of Blarney's hidden gems, Tom O'Byrne, is a renowned environmental ecologist with over 40 years' experience and a passion for preserving and protecting our local habitat.

When the N20 Mallow Road was being built in 1991, Tom was the visionary who ensured that the lands surrounding it would not be turned into a concrete spin-off and his endeavours resulted in 100 acres of biodiversity now known as the Clogheenmilcon Fen. Tom has undertaken a wide range of projects on both large and small scales, and for 24 years he has acted as an ecological consultant to national and international TV and radio.

August: Will Roche

WIll Roche agreed to step in as Group Leader (chairman) for the 45th/62nd Blarney Scouts in 2005 at a time when Blarney Scouts was on the verge of closing due to a lack of adult volunteers.

He is still Group Leader today and remains as committed as ever.

His expertise and quiet dedication is a major reason why the fortune of Blarney Scouts has seen such a change

Since 2005, the hall itself has been improved; the gear owned by the club has been modernised, improved and increased; and the group is on a firm financial footing.

Mr Roche is also involved in other charities including the Mercy University Hospital Foundation, where he is a director, and the Wellsprings organisation.

September: Sean and Chris McCarthy

Talented twin brothers Sean and Chris are currently taking the Karate world by storm.

Sean won gold in the 2018 Irish Karate Open's -76kg category, while Chris won Gold in the +76kg category.

Chris went on to compete in the Banzai cup in Berlin, and Sean competed in the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last October and has the distinction of being the first-ever Irish Karate athlete to fight for Ireland in any Olympic Games

Both have their eyes firmly set on the Olympics in 2020 and representing Ireland at the very highest level.

October: Hannah O’Mahony

Hannah gets up every morning at 5.30 to go and run, and has completed five half marathons.

She has also completed many mini marathons, including the 'Night Run in the City' and the 'Airport Run', all for various charities.

In 2018 she climbed Carrauntoohill and Gleninchaquin in aid of Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin - raising more than €8,000 in the process

Outside of her charitable work, Hannah thinks of everyone before herself and always has her family and grandchildren in her heart, loving nothing more than when she is surrounded by family.

November: Dr Shane O’Neill

Last October Dr Shane O'Neill finished his working professional life at Blarney Medical Centre and, after many years of long hours and hard work, began a new chapter of his life.

The manner in which Dr O'Neill has helped so many during his 40 years of service and care to the people of Blarney village and surrounding areas is admirable.

At all times he has treated his patients with dignity and respect and has contributed in so many ways to the community over his long professional career. His kind words, sense of humour and sympathetic ear have always been noted.