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Ulster Awards Success For Ferris

Ulster Awards Success For Ferris

The annual Ulster Rugby Awards ceremony was held on Thursday night at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast, sponsored this year by Magners, Ulster Rugby’s Official Drinks Partner.

Upwards of 320 guests gathered to celebrate achievements and development of rugby at all levels with the ceremony bringing together the cream of the crop in Ulster.

The 2008/09 Ulster Rugby Awards recognised the role that school, youth, club and professional players, as well as their teams and clubs, play in the development of the game in the province.

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Ulster’s latest Lion, Stephen Ferris, who will tour South Africa this summer as part of Ian McGeechan’s squad, scooped the top accolade of Magners Personality of the Year.

The gong marked his achievements for Ulster and Ireland this season, one which saw him cement his reputation as one of European rugby’s hottest talents and the huge role he played in Ireland’s Grand Slam glory.

The award winners in full were as follows:

Magners League Rugby Writers’ Award – Stephen Ferris

Stephen Ferris was selected by the Ulster rugby writers as their Player of the Year. Since Magners has come on board as sponsors of the League it has gone from strength to strength and next season will see the structure of the current league change to also include knock out stages.

This development is yet another illustration of the increasing status and profile the Magners League is enjoying within the world of rugby.

Calor Gas Ulster Youth Player of the Year – Stephen Irvine (Banbridge)

Stephen has played for two years in the Ulster Youth team and it was an easy choice for the coaches to appoint him as captain this year.

He has proved an inspirational in leading from the front and has the respect of every member of the squad.

He is, without doubt, the best ball carrier at number 8 in Irish Youth rugby, always breaking the gain-line and giving the forwards a point of attack. Although he did get an Irish trial he was unfortunate not to be selected this season.

Northern Bank Ulster Schools Player of the Year – Niall Annett (MCB)

Niall Annett has had a fantastic season with his school team at Methodist College, and as captain he ensured that they went through the season undefeated.

His leadership qualities were recognised by both the provincial and national Schools management teams when he was appointed as captain for both squads.

Niall is equally at home in both the front row and the back row and has played for Irish Schools in both positions.

He has earned the respect of both his own players as well as the opposition players and his ability to lead the Irish Schools team from the front was a major factor in the team going through the season unbeaten.

Phoenix Academy Player of the Year – Willie Faloon (Ballynahinch)

Part of the all-conquering Ballynahinch team this season, Willie has also featured for both Ulster and Ulster ‘A’ this season.

A true openside flanker, his power and pace make him an extremely destructive force to the opposition attack while his ability to offload in the tackle means he really helps to keep his team on the front foot.

Kukri Club of the Year – Ballynahinch RFC

Ballynahinch justifiably stole the headlines with their outstanding victories against four AIB League Division One sides on the way to winning the AIB Cup.

However, the achievements of the County Down club went much further than this with the first team also securing promotion to AIB League Division Two and winning the First Trust Ulster Senior League and Cup for the first time in their history as well as the AIB League Division Two play-off final.

The 2nd XV, Under-20s, 6th XV, Under-18s and Under-14s all won their respective leagues with the U-20 and U-18 teams both contesting cup finals.

Dorrington B Faulkner Award for Services to Rugby presented by Perennial RFC – William Davidson (Armagh RFC)

At the end of a long playing career during which he captained many club teams to league and cup success, William Davidson, or ‘Min’ as he is known to his friends, became a founder member of the Golden Oldies team for whom he played well into his 40s and even his 50s.

Having joined the club as a 9-year-old he is still actively involved some 62 years later and during this time he has held the position of club President on two occasions, and was a member of the General Committee for many years.

It is, however, for his voluntary contribution to the development and upkeep of the Palace Grounds that he is best known.

He took part in four marathons in the 1980s to raise funds for the floodlights which he then purchased and erected himself and even today he carefully watches over the three pitches which play host to not only the men’s, ladies and junior sections of Armagh RFC but also to many soccer and Gaelicfootball teams as well.

Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year – Rory Best

Rory has had another outstanding season as captain of the Ulster team and member of the Grand Slam-winning Ireland squad.

He led from the front both on and off the pitch and was extremely unlucky to miss out on selection for the British & Irish Lions.

His consistently high level of performance this season has cemented his reputation as one of European rugby’s top hookers.

He has been nominated for this Player of the Year based on his leadership qualities and his level of personal performances for Ulster this season which have been illustrated by his unstinting efforts on the pitch.

Ken Goodall Award for the Club Player of the Year, presented by City of Derry RFC – Chris Stevenson (Ballynahinch)

A servant of Ballynahinch for several years, the hidden talents of Chris Stevenson have really emerged this season and he is by far the most improved player at the County Down club.

A prop forward, his technique is unquestionable while his body strength ensures a torrid time for his opposite number in the front row.

His mobility around the field has caught the eye and is coupled with good handling skills. When he commits to the tackle he rarely misses. Chris also finds time to help with coaching the Under-14 side at the club every Monday night.

Ulster Branch Award for Special Merit – City of Derry RFC

Although failing to achieve their ultimate goal of promotion back to the ranks of AlB League rugby, this was an otherwise exceptionally successful year for this north West club.

Despite stiff opposition, they secured Kukri Qualifying League Section 1 relatively early and their first team not only reached but successfully contested the Powerade Towns Cup and the Millar McCall Wylie Junior League Cup while still heavily engaged in the AIB League Round Robin series.

The 2nd XV, in addition to winning Magners Junior League Section 1, also completed a busy Easter period for the club by winning the Crawford Cup.

In addition, City of Derrt’s 3rd and 4th XVss finished very much in contention in their Magners Junior and Minor League sections respectfully.

At Youth level, both the Under-14 and Under-16 teams won their sections in the Brewin Dolphin Leagues whilst the Derry U-18s were runners-up.

Vodafone Young Ulster Player of the Year – Darren Cave

A young player who seized his opportunity this season, Darren shone with his nice lines of running and high strike rate when it came to scoring tries.

He was rewarded with not only a regular spot in the Ulster team but also inclusion in the Irish training panel during the RBS 6 Nations period. He will tour Canada and the USA this summer with the Ireland senior squad.

Magners Ulster Rugby Personality of the Year – Stephen Ferris

Extremely physical, this young player has been at the forefront of every team he has played with this season, making both enormous efforts in terms of attack with his ball-carrying ability and shoring up the defence with his tackling hit rate.

Despite some frustrating injuries this season, he never let up and has an all-action style of play that literally smashes the opposition. Still a pup at 23 years of age, he has become a cornerstone of the Ulster pack

A well deserved Lions place has capped a tremendous season for Ferris, one in which he held down a regular spot in the Ireland side and played a vital part in their Grand Slam-winning campaign.