The annual Munster Rugby Awards, in association with the Irish Examiner, took place at Thomond Park on Sunday night with eleven awards presented to worthy recipients involved in domestic and professional rugby in Munster.
While the Munster squad were busy in Cardiff securing a Magners League semi-final place, remaining players such as Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling, Jerry Flannery, Denis Fogarty, Mick O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy, Donnacha Ryan, John Hayes and Barry Murphy, to name a few, joined domestic game volunteers in recognizing and honouring rugby acheivements across the province.
Munster lock Mick O’Driscoll was named the Munster Rugby Player of the Year, fighting off competition from fellow nominees Keith Earls, David Wallace and Denis Fogarty.
A true servant to Munster Rugby, O’Driscoll made his Munster debut in August 1998 and has appeared in 20 games this season, captaining the side nine times.
He now joins previous winners David Wallace, Ronan O’Gara and John Hayes in receiving the prized accolade.
The recipients of the Young Player of the Year award, and the John McCarthy award for Academy Player of the Year were not on hand for their presentations as both Billy Holland and Scott Deasy were further afield, having helped Munster gain a crucial losing bonus point earlier that evening in Cardiff.
At 24 years of age, Holland received his 11th competitive cap this season on Sunday evening against the Blues and also marked this season with his first Heineken Cup appearance, coming off the bench against Northampton Saints at the quarter-final stage.
In his final year of the academy, the 21-year-old Deasy has been catapulted from the British & Irish Cup team onto the European stage this season.
Deasy has nine senior competitive caps, scoring two tries and three penalties, and he made his Heineken Cup debut as a late replacement against Biarritz in the Heineken Cup semi-final.
Off the back of a great season for Young Munster, securing AIB League Division 1A promotion, winning the ODM Munster Senior Cup and the Limerick Charity Cup, the club was awarded Senior Club of the Year, joining previous winners such as Shannon RFC, Garryowen FC and UL Bohemians RFC.
The Hall of Fame Award – Jim McCarthy. The newest Munster Hall of Fame inductee won his first Ireland cap in 1948 as part of the famous Irish Grand Slam team. He captained Munster against South Africa at Thomond Park in 1951 and also against New Zealand in 1954 at the Mardyke.
To cap a remarkable career he was chosen to tour with the 1950 British and Irish Lion on their 29 match mammoth-length tour to New Zealand and Australia.
Women’s Player of the Year – Kate O’Loughlin. Originally from Carrick-on-Suir, the Clonmel lock has accumulated 20 Munster caps and 11 Ireland caps and looks forward to adding to this tally at this summer’s Women’s World Cup in England.
Junior Club of the Year – Tralee RFC. The Kerry club has approximately fifty qualified coaches, four official Munster Association Referees (MAR) and fifty associate referees.
The Tralee J1 side were runners-up in the Munster Junior League Division 1 and the J2 team reached the final stages of their league and cup. The women’s side won the Munster League Division 2 and the All Ireland Bowl titles.
Club Youth Section of the Year – Waterpark RFC. The youth squads recorded an extremely successful season as the Under-17s and Under-19s were crowned Munster champions and the pinnacle was reached with the U-17s claiming All-Ireland glory.
Club Mini Section of the Year – Thomond RFC. The club fields team from Under-6s to Under-12s, complying with player registration and administering excellent coach education policies. The mini section recently attended the IRFU Nationals in Ashbourne and also went on their first rugby tour to Wales.
Referee of the Year – Leo Colgan. He commenced his refereeing career in 2001, attending the same referees course as previous winners George Clancy and Peter Fitzgibbon.
In the nine years since, he has risen through the ranks and this year refereed in the inaugural British & Irish Cup and FIRA-AER Youths tournament in Treviso, as well as taking on assistant referee appointments in both the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups.
School of the Year – Crescent College Comprehensive. The Limerick school’s successful season was topped off with winning the Avonmore Milk Schools Junior Cup with victories over PBC, Glenstal Abbey, Rockwell College and defeating CBC Cork 17-13 in the final in Musgrave Park.
The older age-grade sides also added the Limerick City Cup, the Kidney Cup and the McCarthy Cup to their trophy cabinet.