Praise for Paulie as Stander and Murphy win Munster awards
Former Lions player and coach Noel Murphy has hailed Paul O'Connell as the greatest Irish player he has ever seen.
Murphy was speaking at the annual Munster Rugby Awards in association with the Irish Independent in Cork, where he was presented with the province's Hall of Fame award.
He was one of 11 award winners at the annual event in the Maryborough Hotel in Cork, which was hosted by the President of the Munster Branch of the IRFU Mick Goggin and attended by over 270 people.
South African flanker CJ Stander is the first overseas player to win Munster Player of the Year.
Former Irish captain Murphy was a key figure on the International Rugby Board when the game went professional after the 1995 World Cup. He said that helping the move to professionalism was worthwhile when players like O'Connell came through.
"I think there have been some wonderful players, but probably the best player I have ever seen playing for Ireland - and I have been following rugby for over 60 years - is Paul O'Connell.
Hooker Duncan Casey won the Young Player of the Year, Jack O'Donoghue took home the Academy honour, and Ciara Griffin won the Women's award. Referee of the Year was Andy Brace, while Young Munster (senior), Clonmel (junior), Ennis (club youth), and Listowel (club mini) won the club awards, with Bandon Grammar the School of the Year.
The Munster professional team - led by coach Anthony Foley, manager Niall O'Donovan and captain Peter O'Mahony - were also at the awards.
Also in attendance was Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan, head of sports content David Courtney, Independent News & Media marketing director Geoff Lyons, and marketing and partnerships manager Niamh Boyle.