Irish rugby achieved a notable double at the 2009 RTE Sports Awards on Sunday night, as Brian O’Driscoll was selected as the RTE Sports Person of the Year and the RTE Sports Team of the Year award went to Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam-winning side.
* You can watch the full 2009 RTE Sports Awards programme here (available to viewers in Ireland only).
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney, team manager Paul McNaughton, defence coach Les Kiss and players Rob Kearney and Brian O’Driscoll took to the stage to receive the 2009 RTE Sports Team of the Year award on behalf of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning side.
Accepting the award, Rob Kearney said: “The year was fantastic for us. When you look at some of the older guys who have been putting some much hard work in for so many years, for some of us younger ones to do it in our first or second season, it was very special and lucky in some ways.”
Kidney added: “There’s a big group there. To be asked to hold it (the award) is a privilege, because we’ve 40 or 50 players aiming to get on that first team and we’ve a great back-up management of about 18 people.
“So there’s a lot of people who have put a lot of work into this – like all the other teams that are here. It’s not just about one person.”
Ireland’s Grand Slam winners beat off competition from the likes of Kilkenny’s All-Ireland hurling team, Leinster’s Heineken Cup-winning side and All-Ireland football kingpins Kerry to win the Team of the Year honour.
The award winners were revealed at a special ceremony broadcast live on RTE One on Sunday night. Presented by Michael Lyster, Darragh Maloney and Des Cahill, the show reviewed what was a wonderful year for Irish athletes and teams and took a look back on the dramatic and memorable sporting moments of 2009.
Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning captain Brian O’Driscoll was chosen as the 2009 RTE Sports Person of the Year, becoming the first rugby player to win the award since Munster and Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara did so in 2004.
Asked about the desire, hunger and will to win shown by himself and all the shortlisted sports people, O’Driscoll said: “It’s something that’s innate, it’s in you or it’s not. You’re looking to get the teams and the individuals, to see that standard…for a small enough country, we bat fairly well above our average.
“It’s a huge honour for me to receive this award tonight, knowing what great competition I had from the other people shortlisted.”
O’Driscoll said that winning the Heineken Cup with Leinster was ‘the icing on the cake’ for him this year and to win it with close friends – like Shane Horgan, Malcolm O’Kelly and Girvan Dempsey – made it ‘extremely special.’
Boxers Bernard Dunne and Katie Taylor, horse trainer John Oxx, race walker Olive Loughnane and young golfing stars Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry were among the nine nominees for the RTE Sports Person of the Year award.
It is the second time Irish rugby has been feted with two awards at RTE’s end-of-year sporting celebration. 2004 saw Ronan O’Gara and Ireland’s Triple Crown-winning side honoured.