Munster and Ireland lock Paul O'Connell has been named Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year and will receive his award at a luncheon in the Killiney Castle Hotel on Wednesday next (November 1).
Shannon RFC has, once again, has been voted Club of the Year and the Tom Rooney Award for making an exceptional contribution to the game over a substantial number of years, goes to former noted referee Kevin Kelleher, Hon. Secretary of the Schools Section of the Leinster Branch, IRFU, for over 50 years.
A new award, the Rugby Writers of Ireland Dave Guiney (Perpetual) Award for the Team of the Year goes to Munster, in recognition of their defeat of Biarritz in the final of the European Cup.
Two new members of the Hall of Fame will be inducted. Willie John McBride and his formidable second row partner for several years, Mick Molloy.
Michael Whelan of Guinness and Irish Independent Rugby Correspondent Kieran Rooney, the chairman of the Rugby Writers of Ireland, will present the awards.
...O'Connell doing what he does best at Lansdowne Road last season, beating Perpignan's Rimas Alvarez to a lineout ball...
Currently captain of Munster in succession to Anthony Foley, Paul O'Connell has made an immense impression in the last few years since his debut against Wales in 2002, as an Irish international with 36 caps and a British and Irish Lion with three Test caps.
His gigantic stature and undoubted skills have put him on a par with some of the great locks of recent years. He is regarded perhaps as one of the greatest of the professional era.
Paul went to school in Ardscoil Ris in Limerick and excelled at other sports, most notably swimming, before going on to play for Young Munster and then Munster, Ireland and the Lions. To date he has scored five tries for Ireland.
...The Shannon team that won last season's AIB League Division One title - the Limerick club's eighth in all...
Shannon, coached by Mick Galwey, are AIB League Division One champions yet again this year and have been voted Club of the Year by the Rugby Writers and Broadcasters who make up the Rugby Writers of Ireland.
Not only did the Shannon club win Division One of the AIB All-Ireland League for the eighth time, but six other titles as well, including their 18th Munster Senior Cup.
Three of those titles were at Under-20 level and the remaining two were at Under-16 and Under-13 grades, surely a sign that Shannon will be competing at the top level for a long time to come.
Kevin Kelleher made his international debut as a referee in the Wales v Scotland game of the 1959/1960 season, and was a dominant figure in international refereeing throughout the 1960s. He officiated in 23 internationals and in 1966, he refereed no fewer than five Test games.
He is well remembered as the man who sent off the great All-Black Colin Meads against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1967, an act which brought Kelleher a lot of attention in both Hemispheres, and one which he has often said he would repeat in similar circumstances.
In recent years Kevin Kelleher has concentrated on his renowned activities as Honorary Secretary of the Schools Section of the Leinster Branch, IRFU, which he has looked after for over 50 years. A formidable man, he has the respect of anyone who has been involved with the game in Ireland for almost 60 years.
...Peter Stringer, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell and Anthony Foley - just five of the players who have helped to make Munster such a formidable force on the domestic front and in Europe...
"If at first you don't succeed" Munster won the European Cup in their third final on a never to be forgotten day, Saturday May 20, 2006.
Runners-up in 2000 and 2002, the memories of Northampton and Leicester were expunged in a performance of the kind we had seen in the south of France and Thomond Park over the preceding years, but this time executed when it was most needed, to copperfasten the coveted silverware at the Millennium Stadium.
The scoreline was 23-19, and in a match full of memorable moments none stands out more than Peter Stringer's spectacular dive to score his side's second try, adding to Trevor Hallstead's earlier effort. These added to five successful kicks from Ronan O'Gara, to Munster the victory so eagerly sought after by the whole country.
Mick Molloy succeeded Bill Mulcahy as Willie John McBride's second row partner in the match against France in 1966. The two played 26 Tests together, a record for such a partnership.
Raised in Cornamona in County Galway, his international career spanned 11 years and included 27 international caps. He scored two international tries, against France in 1967 and against Scotland in 1970.
An all-round sportsman in his youth, he opted for rugby at UCG and made his mark at College and for Connacht before being chosen to make his international debut.
Mick, like many at that time, moved to London to further his career and played with London Irish and Surrey County. He was a member of the Irish team that defeated Australia in 1967, his personal rugby career highlight.
After retirement and returning to Ireland to live and work, he became medical officer to the IRFU and he continues to be a familiar and always welcome figure in the hallowed halls of Irish international rugby. He is currently working as the International Rugby Board's first Medical Officer, a role he took on last October.
WILLIE JOHN MCBRIDE:
...Willie John McBride...
Willie John McBride is a rugby legend by any standards. He won 63 Irish caps, toured five times with the Lions and has 17 Lions Test caps, and he was also captain of the most successful Lions tour of all time - the 1974 tour to South Africa.
On that tour the Lions played 22 matches, won 21 and drew one. A record still unequalled in Lions tours.
He was manager of the somewhat ill-fated Lions tour to New Zealand in 1983.
Bill McBride was born in Toomebridge in County Antrim, and brought up by his mother on a small farm, his father having passed away when McBride was only four years-old.
He made his international debut against England at Twickenham in 1962 - one of nine new caps that day - in a match that Ireland lost 16-0!
He was captain of Ireland from 1973 until he retired, and during his career played with a panoply of some of the greatest Irish rugby players unlucky enough never to win a Triple Crown.
McBride retired from international rugby in 1975 - the Centenary Year of the IRFU - after the game against Wales and at that time he was the world's most capped player.
Cliff Morgan wrote of McBride: "Bill is a man's man and is at his most comfortable when in the company of people who share his love of sport and his attitude towards it. No one played with more commitment or harder but he always said 'Let's have a ding dong for eighty minutes, and a bloody good night after.'"
Of himself he says: "I'm a very boring person, I've only had one employer, I've only had one club and I've only had the one wifeto me loyalty is paramount..."
We should all be so boring!