Cream of the crop recognised
The cream of the Kerry sporting world was out in full glory last week with the announcement of the first nine recipients of the much coveted and highly regarded annual Kerry Sports Star Awards.It’s coming close to that time of year again when the achievements of the finest sports men and women in the Kingdom are fully recognised with the awarding of annual Kerry Sports Star Awards, co-sponsored by The Kerryman newspaper, Kerry Group and The Gleneagle Hotel.
It’s coming close to that time of year again when the achievements of the finest sports men and women in the Kingdom are fully recognised with the awarding of annual Kerry Sports Star Awards, co-sponsored by The Kerryman newspaper, Kerry Group and The Gleneagle Hotel.
So, fittingly the Brehon Hotel – part of the O’Donoghue family Hotel Group – was the venue for the informal and thoroughly enjoyable ceremony to mark the monthly winners from January through to September.
All 12 monthly winners will be formally feted at the gala banquet in January but last week’s occasion was a more relaxed affair where the first nine award winners were lauded in front of family and close friends.
While the five-person judging panel agreed that in the end all nine recipients were hugely deserving of their awards and most were voted in unanimously, they also acknowledged the huge amount of exceptional sports people across a vast array of disciplines, which made the final decision very difficult.
Nonetheless, that the bar was and is set so high in the county by so many talented teams and individuals makes the first nine monthly winners all the more special.
In the end the panel of judges – Paul Brennan, The Kerryman sports editor, Frank Hayes, Kerry Group, Eamon Quigley, Gleneagle Hotel, Weeshie Fogarty and Mary Geaney – chose nine recipients who have excelled in a diverse range of sports and who achieved huge recognition and success in 2005.
Abrakebabra Tigers, Tralee basketball club was the January recipient, and it is a wonderful indictment of the success of the club that they also won the same award in 2004. On that occasion they were being recognised for wining the Men’s Superleague title but this year the Tigers went one better and claimed the National Cup for the first time.
The National Cup is the blue ribbon event on the Irish basketball calendar and the Tigers crowned another magnificent year when they became the first Kerry team to win the Cup. Team captain Kevin O’Donoghue accepted the award oln behalf of his team mates.
The February award, in a sense, has been awarded to three recipients – two men and a dog!
Back in February Castlepines swept to glory to win coursing’s top prize, the Irish Cup.
Tralee native Patsy Byrnes is the popular and successful owner of Castlepines while another great Tralee greyhound man, Pa Fitzgerald, trained the dog to that remarkable win.
Sadly, Patsy was unable to attend the ceremony but there was a great welcome for Pa Fitzgerald who accepted the award.
Presenting the March award, Paul Brennan described this as the ‘Cinderella award’, with Finuge GAA club receiving the unanimous vote for their achievement in winning the All-Ireland Club Junior Football Championship.
It was a remarkable journey for such a small, dual club, which culminated in a historic win on Easter Monday when they defeated Tyrone’s Stewartstown in Portlaoise.
Finuge club chairman Aidan Galvin was present to accept the award on behalf of the whole team, management and officials of Finuge GAA club.
Killarney’s Derry McCarthy was the popular winner of the April award after his exploits on the pitch and putt circuit.
A hugely successful member of the Deerpark Club, Derry has represented club, county province and country with tremendous distinction, but in April he was nominated captain of the Irish team for the European Team Championships in Arnhem, which Ireland won in August.
Derry said it was a very special honour for him to receive the award. He thanked the sponsors of these awards and said the Award would help give wider recognition to the sport of pitch and putt.
May’s winner was handballer Maria Daly from the Ballymacelligott club. Like Derry McCarthy, Maria has represented here club, county, province and country, and has won honours right to the top level, including National and USHA titles, and culminated in Maria winning her first All-Ireland Senior Singles title.
Such is the busy schedule of these amazing sports people, it was almost inevitable that one of the nine recipients would be unable to attend, and that unfortunate ‘honour’ went to cyclist Eugene Morairty, who was on the other side of the world last week competing in Australia.
Moriarty was another unanimous choice from one of the minority sports that is rapidly expanding its profile in Kerry because of the wonderful achievements of people like the Listowel cyclist.
Coming from an extremely famous cycling homestead, Moriarty has been to the forefront of his sport for several years now, challenging for and winning honours at the highest level, including cycling for his country on the international stage. John Mangan accepted the award on behalf of Eugene.
With Kerry coming up just short of All-Ireland honours on the GAA scene, it was still impossible to look beyond the remarkable individual talent and contribution of Colm Cooper to the gaelic football year.
Cooper took the award for July, which reflected his overall contribution in helping Kerry successfully defend their Munster title.
Frank Hayes of Kerry Group, presenting the award, said Colm “consistently demonstrates the very best of footballing skill and ability, with brillant tactical awareness and vision, unrelenting capacity to gain possession, excellent support play and distribution, and his scoring ability is truly awesome” while Cooper thanked all those who have helped nuture his career, especially those in the Dr Crokes club and his parents and family.
The August award went to a Kerry Olympian and a man who has genuine hopes of winning a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Paul Griffin is a rower of awesome talent and helped Ireland to reach the final of the Men’s Lightweight Coxless Fours at the Athens Olympics last year. Despite injury problems this year Griffin helped Ireland win gold ahead of Germany and Poland at the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne.
Finally, September’s winner was a quintessential Kerry man from a staunchly GAA family, but who has achieved international recognition in a sport totally foreign to Ireland.
Tadgh Kennelly has always been to the forefront of Kerry people’s imagination for his brave and successful move to Australia where he has made a hugely successful career in the Australian Rules code.
In September, Kennelly achieved a unique place in both Irish and Australian sport by becoming the first Irish man to win an AFL Premiership title, when he played a huge part with his club the Sydney Swans.
Kennelly has been a real success story Down Under and his continued association with Kerry GAA matters – he played minor and U-21 football for the Kingdom – continues to make Tadgh a very popular figure, and he was a very welcome guest at the awards ceremony in the Brehon Hotel, where he said that “while it is great to win awards and championships around the world, nothing matches the recognition you get from your own people in your native county.”
n Three more winners for October, November and December have yet to be chosen, before all 12 winners will be celebrated at the gala awards banquet in Killarney in January.
Full profiles on all the monthly recipients will be published in the lead up to the 2005 Kerry Sports Star Awards banquet.