18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Shannon R. F.C., winners of the AIB League trophy have been voted Club of the Year, while the two new members to the Guinness Hall of Fame are Ray McLoughlin and Syd Millar.
RTE's Fred Cogley, Chairman of the Rugby Writers of Ireland and Clive Brownlee, Assistant Managing Director, Guinness Ireland Group presented the trophies.
Club of the Year Winners: Shannon. 2002 saw Shannon the AIB League title for a record fifth time. Shannon also won the Munster Senior Cup and the Munster Senior League, an achievement without equal. But the strength in depth of the club was reflected in the fact that Shannon also won the J1 Millennium Cup, The Webb and McInerney Cups. This year was the third occasion that Shannon have completed the AIB League and the Munster Senior Cup double.
Player of the Year: Denis Hickie. Denis Hickie is a former Ireland Schools and Under-21 international. He was a member of both schools and Under-21 teams that won the Triple Crown. He was also a member of the St. Mary's College team that won the AIB All Ireland League two years ago. He has been capped on 29 occasions at senior level having made his international debut in 1997. He missed the 1999 international campaign following a serious injury sustained in South Africa in 1998 and a loss of form and confidence. But he made an auspicious return to the international team in 2000. He has scored 13 tries for Ireland, including one on his international debut against Wales. Unfortunately injury rules him out of the forthcoming tour to New Zealand. Capped over 50 times for Leinster, he made a major contribution to the Leinster team that this season won the inaugural Celtic League, regained the Guinness Interprovincial Championship and reached the quarter-final of the European Cup.
Tom Rooney Memorial Award: Niall O'Donovan. Niall is a former Munster Interprovincial, capped 15 times for his province and he won five Munster Senior Cup medals with Shannon. He was coach to the Shannon team that won the AIB Ireland League three years in succession, during which time Shannon became the first club to complete the AIB League and Munster Senior Cup double. He was director of rugby when Shannon won the League title for a fourth successive season in 1998-99. He has been a central figure as assistant to Declan Kidney and as forwards coach to the Munster team that over the last four years has reached the quarter-final of the European Cup, the final, the semi-final last season and the final again this season and won the Guinness Interprovincial Championship three years in succession. He was also forwards coach to the Ireland A team that won the Triple Crown two seasons ago and now occupies that position with the Ireland senior side.
Guinness Hall of Fame: Ray McLoughlin. Educated at Garbally College, Ray McLoughlin played for UCD, Athlone, Gosforth and Blackrock College. He made his interprovincial debut for Connacht in 1959 and represented his province in three decades as he made his last appearance in 1975. He won the first of his 40 international caps against England in 1962, and was a regular on the Ireland team until 1966. A remarkable feature of his international career was that, following a troublesome knee injury, he was out of international rugby for the next five years before making a great comeback in 1971 and for the next four years was again a regular on the team. The first Connacht man to lead his country, he was a most innovative captain when he led Ireland during the 1965 and 1966 championships. He toured Australia and New Zealand with the Lions in 1966 and played in three tests. He was also a member of the 1971 team that toured New Zealand and while injury ruled him out of test contention, such was his contribution to the team and its tactics that he remained on the tour during which the Lions won the test series for the first time against New Zealand. He also played for the Barbarians and was an accomplished athlete.
Guinness Hall of Fame: Syd Millar. Educated at Ballymena Academy, Syd Millar has left a profound impact on the game nationally and internationally as player, coach, manager and now administrator. During his playing career, he was capped on 37 occasions for Ireland. After making his debut against France in 1958, he was on the side until 1964 and was then remarkably omitted until he made a great comeback in 1968 and played for Ireland for three more seasons. He toured with the Lions three times as a player, - 1959 Australia & New Zealand, South Africa in 1962 and again in 1968. He played in nine tests and also played for the Barbarians. He coached the Ireland team that won the Championship in 1974, the first win in the Championship since 1951. He was coach to the Lions in 1974 when his side won 21 and drew one of their 22 matches, to become the most successful Lions teams of the century. He was manager of the Lions team that toured South Africa in 1980 and was manager of the Ireland team for the inaugural World Cup in 1987. He has been president of the Ulster Branch and in 1995-96 president of the IRFU. He has been one of Ireland's representatives on the International Rugby Board since 1993 and in that capacity is widely recognised as one of the most astute and perceptive administrators in the game.