The annual Munster Rugby Awards, in association with the Irish Independent, took place in the Maryborough Hotel, Cork today with eleven awards presented to worthy recipients involved in domestic and professional rugby in Munster.
The Munster squad, including captain Peter O’Mahony and former Player of the Year winners Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan and Donnacha Ryan, were in attendance, joining domestic game volunteers in recognising and honouring rugby achievements across the province.
Conor Murray was named this year’s Munster Rugby Player of the Year. Nominated alongside Coughlan and Ian Keatley, Munster fans were given the opportunity to vote for their choice through the Irish Independent website.
Murray, a Patrickswell native has played 57 times for Munster since making his debut in 2009 whilst still in the Munster Rugby Academy. He earned his second senior cap for the province when he came on as a replacement against the touring Australians in 2010.
Since then, he has established himself as the regular starting scrum half for both Munster and Ireland, winning 27 caps for his country.
His impressive form saw him win wo Test caps for the British & Irish Lions last summer, and he was one of the stand-out performers in the Six Nations this season.
The Young Player of the Year was awarded to JJ Hanrahan. Just 21-years-old, the Kerryman is the youngest player in Munster’s current Heineken Cup squad.
Hanrahan was awarded a full senior contract before the start of this season, and since then has played 25 times for Munster, scoring four tries along the way.
One of those tries will be remembered for a long time to come – his breathtaking last-gasp score at the Stade Aime Giral in Perpignan to clinch a sweet victory for Munster in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup.
Back rower Shane Buckley beat off stiff competition from Johnny Holland and Jack O’Donoghue to receive the John McCarthy award for the Greencore Academy Player of the Year.
Born in Cork, he attended Rockwell College and plays his club rugby with Garryowen FC. Buckley has represented Ireland at Schools and Under-20 levels, and was part of the 2011 and 2012 Junior World Championship squads.
Now in his third year of the Academy, he made his first senior appearance for Munster against Gloucester in a pre-season game last August and played in seven British & Irish Cup fixtures this season.
The Munster Women’s Player of the Year award went to Siobhan Fleming. Winning the award for a second time, she hails from the small village of Currow, County Kerry.
Siobhan joins the list of huge rugby talents that have come from this small part of Kerry, including Mick Galwey, Moss Keane, the Doyle Brothers, and fellow award winner JJ Hanrahan.
Having played inter-country football, she took up rugby in 2007 and won her first Munster cap in 2010. She has since gone from strength to strength, also making the Ireland number 6 jersey.
Fleming was part of last season’s Grand Slam-winning Irish team, and started all five of their Six Nations matches this year. Impressive performances have booked the back rower a place in the training squad for the Women’s World Cup in France this summer.
Referee of the Year – Kieran Barry. A former Munster Under-21 and All-Ireland League player with Midleton RFC and Dolphin RFC, Kieran took up refereeing in 2009 after injury curtailed his playing career.
With an impressive career in a relatively short period of time, this season he refereed the ODM Munster Senior Cup final and was added to the IRFU Level 3 contracted panel.
Refereeing a number of British & Irish Cup games, he was also an assistant referee in the Amlin Challenge Cup, Heineken Cup, European Nations Cup and for the World Cup qualifier between Romania and Russia earlier this year. Most recently he refereed the Under-18 Three Nations tournament game between France and England.
Hall of Fame Award – Brian O’Brien. A former player, selector, coach, manager, he has done it all. Having played in Shannon’s first ever Munster Senior Cup final during the 1958/59 swason, he went on to become Shannon’s first ever international player, winning his first cap in 1968 playing in the centre against France at the Stade Colombes.
He won his second cap against England, and his final cap came against Scotland in a match that Ireland won 14-6.
O’Brien spent almost 15 years playing with Shannon’s senior team, and following his retirement from playing, he coached Shannon to Munster Senior Cup titles in 1977 and 1978.
Serving on the IRFU senior selection committee, he also became part of the 1983 British & Irish Lions selection committee.
Manager of the Ireland Under-21 squad and the Shannon side that won the four in-a-row, Brian went onto become Munster team manager before being appointed manager of the Ireland squad. Fans also have him to thank for introducing the anthem ‘Stand Up and Fight’ to Munster Rugby.
Senior Club of the Year – Nenagh Ormond RFC. Founded in 1884, making them one of the oldest rugby clubs in the country, after over 100 years of playing Junior rugby, Nenagh Ormond made the breakthrough to senior status in 2005.
They have not looked back since, last year winning their first trophy as a senior club and continuing their progress this year by retaining the Cyril Fitzgerald Plate and going through their Ulster Bank League Division 2B season unbeaten, thus earning them promotion.
The Nenagh Women’s side also went through their league season unbeaten and won All-Ireland League Division 2 South.
A real community-based club, their coaches reflect the importance of former club players giving something back to where they started their careers.
Former Ireland international Trevor Hogan and Derek Corcoran, both Nenagh men through and through, take tremendous pride in their local roots and led from the front all season. To cap a wonderful year, player-coach Corcoran was also named Ulster Bank League Division 2B Player of the Year.
Junior Club of the Year – Clonmel RFC. A fine season in Clonmel saw them winning the Under-16 and Under-18 East Munster Development Leagues as well as being Under-20 O’Connor Cup finalists.
The club were also Munster J2 South Cup finalists, Ballyrandle Cup finalists, Garryowen Cup winners and finished second in the Munster Junior League Division 1.
Having beaten UL Bohs in the semi-final last Sunday, Clonmel also find themselves in the Munster Junior Cup decider.
The club pride themselves in being the host venue for the Women’s interprovincial game between Munster and Ulster, the Ireland men’s squad training camp and hosting the Fraser McMullen Under-20 All-Ireland Cup final between Cork Constitution and Terenure.
Club Youth Section of the Year – Bantry Bay RFC. A club dedicated to providing the best playing opportunities and enjoyment for youths from Sheeps Head to Beara, Bantry has over 120 youths playing rugby, with numbers boosted this year by the addition of two girls teams at Under-15 and Under-18 level.
The U-14, U-16 and U-18 teams had a unique achievement at the end of April with all three teams competing in finals on the same day.
The west Cork club are delighted to have a number of players involved with Munster Development squads and hold huge pride in Mike Casey and Tim Cronin, who were their first players to represent Munster last autumn at Under-18 Clubs level.
Club Mini Section of the Year – Killorglin RFC. The club’s mini section got underway in 2007 and has consistently maintained high standards in the areas of player registration, player welfare and the development of female playing membership.
With a strong cohort of enthusiastic coaches who nurture and develop their young charges in the skills of rugby, the club also benefits from the mutual support of all clubs in the west Munster region whose mini rugby committee has fostered a very strong ‘play to participate with skills development’ ethos over several years.
School of the Year – Crescent College Comprehensive. A fantastic season demonstrated plenty of emerging talent on their Junior side who were runners-up in the Munster Schools Junior Cup competition for the second year in-a-row.
Other honours included winning the Munster Under-15 A&B League, the McCarthy Cup A&B and reaching the final of the Bowen Shield.
However, their biggest success this season was winning the prestigious Munster Schools Senior Cup for the second consecutive year, defeating Ard Scoil Rís at Thomond Park on March 17 to clinch their 11th Senior Cup title in all.