Friday 19 January 2018

Connacht Awards: A night to honour the best the province has to offer

Sligo had two teams competing at the top level of Connacht Schools Rugby in Sligo Grammar and Summerhill College
Sligo had two teams competing at the top level of Connacht Schools Rugby in Sligo Grammar and Summerhill College Newsdesk Newsdesk

The Radisson Blu Hotel played host to the annual Connacht end of year awards ceremony last Saturday night – a special night on the province’s calendar.

The well attended event celebrated the achievements of the clubs, volunteers and amateur and professional players within the province during the 2014/15 season.

The ceremony saw a series of awards presented on the night including Connacht Club of the Year, Connacht Senior Club Player of the Year, Connacht Coach of the Year and a special award which recognised Padraic McGann of Monivea RFC as the Volunteer of the Year.

Many of the clubs throughout the province were represented on the night and a fantastic evening was had by all in attendance.

Coach of the year: Dave Purcell

Dave Purcell received recognition for his stellar work during the 2014/15 season by coming out on top in the hotly contested category of Connacht Coach of the Year.

Dave has shown great foresight and vision to take an U-13 squad in CBS Roscommon and implement a three-year plan that culminated in Top Oil Junior Cup success this season.

His ability to both challenge and entertain players has kept the group together and helped them to achieve their potential.

Senior Player of the Year: Martin Cummins

Martin Cummins' achievements for Galwegians throughout the season were recognised when he received this award.

Having made the move from Junior to Senior club at the beginning of the season, Marty worked hard to develop the skills and commitment required to compete at the highest level.

His continuing hunger to learn, his work rate, his infectious motivation along with his focus and attitude won him the respect of his coaches, team mates, club and beyond.

His partnership with the experienced Brian McClearn made for one of the best second row partnerships in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League.

His contribution to Galwegians' promotion to Div1A cannot be understated. Martin Cummins is one of the best role models a club or a game could have.

Volunteer of the year: Padraic McGann

Padraic McGann was a worthy winner of this award.

A stalwart of Monivea RFC, he has held many roles within the club, including president, secretary, branch delegate etc.

Padraic is passionate about his club and about rugby.

He works tirelessly to promote the game and get new people, young people in particular, playing rugby.

The current Monivea RFC Schools project is Padraic's brainchild and it has been a huge success so far.

A lot of its success is down to Padraic's persistence and can-do attitude.

He richly deserves his nomination for his commitment to rugby and to Monivea RFC.

Referee of the Year: Dave Connolly

Dave wins for his representation of Connacht referees and the Referee's Association. He is dedicated to development, particularly that of the of the younger referees. Dave is always available to referee at any age or level within Connacht.

Club of the year: Sligo RFC

Sligo RFC won this prestigious award. Sligo have been steadily and consistently growing in the past number of years.

On the pitch, the club has had its most successful season in the AIL in over a decade, their seconds achieved promotion to J1B, their women's team won the Connacht Invitational Cup & their U-18s won the Connacht League & Cup double.

In addition, Sligo had two teams competing at the top level of Connacht Schools Rugby in Sligo Grammar and Summerhill College; both schools were heavily backed by Sligo RFC.

Off the field, the club has developed significantly in recent years, displaying best practice at committee level and driving excellent structures throughout the club as displayed by being the No 1 club in Connacht according to the IRFU Health check.

Women's Player of the Year: Grainne Egan

The Connacht Women's team survival hinged on denying the opposition opportunities to score and from this point of view Grainne's impact was truly inspirational.

Her diligence in defence was a constant throughout the season.

With or without the ball, Grainne is an inspiration as a player, spectator and fan.

U-20 Player of the Year: Rory Maloney

For a second year running, Rory has been a key member of the Ireland U-20s squad. This year he started in the back-row against England, Italy and France.

He continues to make great progress on and off the field and we hope to see him challenge for a place in the professional team next year.

U-18 Club Player of the Year: Luke Carty

Following in the footsteps of his older brother Jack - who plays out-half for Connacht - Luke is a former Roscommon minor footballer, and a Buccaneers RFC and Marist College man. 

He recently started at full-back for Ireland's club team in April's International Triangular Festival in Gloucester.

Junior Club Player of  the Year: Dave McDonagh

Dave took home the richly deserved award. He has been the standout player in the Connacht Junior Leagues all season, captaining Connemara to the J1A League title. 

He leads from the front with big hits and barnstorming runs. Dave is a great captain who does his talking on the pitch.

His award capped off a fantastic year for Connemara RFC.

Women's Club Player of the Year: Emma Cleary

Emma fought off stiff competition to take home this award.

Ferocious in defence and brilliant in attack, Emma consistently ignites the Galwegians backline with urgency and creativity; her ability to take the helm and steer her team when their captain Ruth O'Reilly was on international duty has cemented her reputation as a natural leader by both example and personality.

U-18 Schools Player of the Year: Cillian Gallagher

The Summerhill second-row - a former international basketball player - was a key member of the Ireland Schools team that travelled to Toulouse to take part in the FIRA tournament in March of this year. 

Cillian was also instrumental in the Summerhill College team who reached the Top Oil Schools Senior Cup final this year, for the first time.

U-19 Player of the Year: Conan O' Donnell

The 18-year-old Sligo native, who is already making a name for himself as an effective scrummager and tighthead prop, played with the Connacht Eagles this season.

His experience and hard work has led to his participation in all of Ireland U-20s' Six Nations games earlier this year. He now looks forward to the Junior World Cup in Italy later this summer.

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