Leinster, Ireland and Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll has been named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year for 2009. He received his award at a function in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin on Tuesday night.
Brian O’Driscoll had plenty more to celebrate on the night as European champions Leinster were voted the Club of the Year and Ireland picked up the Dave Guiney perpetual award as Team of the Year in recognition of their historic Grand Slam triumph.
The Tom Rooney award for making an exceptional contribution to the game went to Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly, the popular Ireland team baggage master.
The two new members inducted to the Guinness Hall of Fame were back row forwards Ronnie Kavanagh and Fergus Slattery.
Michael Whelan of Guinness and Peter O’Reilly, the chairman of the Rugby Writers of Ireland, jointly presented the awards.
2009 GUINNESS RUGBY WRITERS OF IRELAND AWARD WINNERS:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR –
A World Cup winner at Under-19 level, he had made his international debut in 1996 on the Irish Schools side. In 1999 he was selected for the senior tour to Australia , won his first full cap in Brisbane and later that year played for Ireland in the World Cup.
He has had a distinguished association with the Lions, starting in 2001, and became captain of the Lions in 2005, sadly a short tour for him, due to injury. He returned to full fitness and to lead Ireland to two Triple Crowns in 2006 and 2007.
His distinguished career with Leinster saw wins in both the Celtic League and the European Cup, both competitions producing many epic encounters and superb displays.
This year’s first Grand Slam for Ireland since 1948 was inspired by all those who worked both on and off the pitch but outstanding amongst them was the Ireland captain and player of the year – Brian O’Driscoll.
CLUB OF THE YEAR –
On three previous occasions Leinster managed to reach the penultimate stage of the European Cup only to be denied the opportunity to contest the final.
Last season they banished those memories with a campaign underpinned by grit, organisation and an unstinting belief in each other as well as the more traditional virtues of flair and elegance.
There were games in which they excelled in terms of creativity including wins over Munster and Wasps, the quarter-final against Harlequins and the final itself where they prevailed against Leicester Tigers.
It was a fitting reward for a collection of hugely talented individuals who many believe came of age as a team in the 2008/09 season.
DAVE GUINEY AWARD (TEAM OF THE YEAR) –
61 years is a long time to wait for anything in particular. When that time is peppered with ‘almosts’, it is even more frustrating, but in 2009 Ireland achieved an historic Grand Slam.
If a single picture could sum it up surely it is that of the great Jack Kyle shaking hands with Brian O’Driscoll – two wonderful players and two superb ambassadors for the game and for their country.
TOM ROONEY AWARD (FOR SERVICES TO RUGBY) –
PADDY ‘RALA’ O’REILLY
Behind every team is a huge back-up squad who, while sometimes of low profile, are quite simply indispensable. The Tom Rooney trophy was awarded to one such individual, Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly. Part of the Irish set-up for fifteen years, he has worked with no fewer than eight different Irish coaches.
His job as baggage master has never been strictly defined, and he is probably best summed up in what Denis Leamy has to say about him: ‘Players love him, he adds something extra…his room is a good room to go to as he goes on and on about Inishboffin and sharing the few jellies. If he isn’t happy, the camp isn’t happy, so we have to make sure he is happy.”
A great servant to his beloved club Terenure College, ‘Rala’ is a most worthy recipient of the Tom Rooney Award for this year.
GUINNESS HALL OF FAME –
Ronnie Kavanagh replaced Des O’Brien in the back row and was to play in all three back row positions over the course of an international career that lasted from the 1952/53 season through to 1962.
He began his playing career with UCD and then bucking the system somewhat, he joined Wanderers.
One of the pillars of the Irish team throughout the 1950s, he was part of Ireland’s first tour to Argentina in 1952 and went on to win 35 caps for Ireland, scoring several tries for his country over a distinguished career. He was Ireland’s most-capped forward at the time of his retirement.
Fergus Slattery won 61 caps for Ireland and was an outstanding Lion on the two tours he managed to make. He could potentially have made four but for the needs of his profession.
He was part of the legendary 1974 Lions tour to South Africa when the tourists won 21 out of their 22 matches, the last Test ending in a draw.
He was a vital cog in Ireland’s Championship win in 1974 and an inspirational part of the so-called ‘Dad’s Army’ winners of Ireland’s first Triple Crown since 1949, in 1982.