CJ Stander became the first overseas player to be named the Munster Rugby Player of the Year at today’s annual Munster Rugby Awards, in association with the Irish Independent.
The event took place at the Maryborough Hotel in Cork with eleven awards presented to worthy recipients involved in professional and domestic rugby in Munster.
The full Munster squad, head coach Anthony Foley and team manager Niall O’Donovan were all in attendance, joining domestic game volunteers in recognising and honouring rugby achievements across the province.
CJ Stander was named the 2014/15 Munster Rugby Player of the Year after a hugely impressive season so far. The South African became the first overseas player to receive the accolade after scoring eight tries in 22 appearances and picking up no less than five man-of-the-match awards.
Stander was nominated alongside Billy Holland and previous winner Tommy O’Donnell. The award’s shortlist was decided by members of the senior squad with Munster supporters deciding the overall winner through a public vote on the Irish Independent website.
The Young Player of the Year award was presented to Duncan Casey. The 24-year-old hooker is a graduate of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy and has played 18 games for Munster this season, scoring four tries.
The Corkman made his competitive debut for the province as a replacement in the Heineken Cup clash with Perpignan in December 2013. A fortnight later, he started his first game for the province against the Scarlets in the PRO12 and later in the season Casey featured in both knockout games of the Heineken Cup, coming on against Toulouse and Toulon.
The John McCarthy award for Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Player of the Year went to Jack O’Donoghue, who fended off stiff competition from Rory Scannell and Darren Sweetnam. The UL Bohemians clubman has captained the Munster ‘A’ side this season, made his PRO12 debut against the Ospreys in September and has made a total of seven senior appearances, scoring three tries.
A product of the Munster Youths system (from which he has two All-Ireland titles with Waterpark RFC), the Waterford native made his debut for Munster ‘A’ in 2012 at just 18 years of age. He has also represented Ireland Under-18 Clubs and Ireland Under-19s, and went on to captain the Ireland Under-20s in last year’s Junior World Championship.
Ciara Griffin was the recipient of the Women’s Player of the Year award. A former Munster Under-18 player who made her Munster senior debut in 2012, she plays her club rugby with Tralee RFC and was part of a young Munster side that won this season’s Interprovincial Championship.
Playing at flanker, Griffin has blossomed into a leader for Munster on and off the pitch and started all three games in this season’s successful Interprovincial series.
Referee of the Year – Andy Brace
As well as officiating in the Ulster Bank League, this season saw Brace take charge of a number of British & Irish Cup fixtures, including a quarter-final and the final between Worcester Warriors and Doncaster Knights earlier this month. The Welsh native, who works as a Community Rugby Officer for Limerick and Tipperary, also refereed the Under-20 RBS 7 Nations clash between England and Scotland and has been an assistant referee in the GUINNESS PRO12 and European Challenge Cup.
Hall of Fame Award – Noel Murphy
A rugby man through and through, Murphy was born in Cork city into a vibrant sporting family, which to date, has had three generations representing Ireland at international level. In his school-going days he represented Christian Brothers College and went on to play for Cork Constitution and Garryowen, making his international debut against Australia in 1958 and winning another 40 international caps, mostly at flanker.
Murphy captained Ireland for the first time in 1964 and led his country for the 1967 Five Nations Championship. He also toured with the Lions on two occasions and coached them on their 1980 tour to South Africa. After retiring as a player, Murphy coached Cork Constitution, Munster and Ireland between 1977 and 1980, later serving as President of Cork Constitution, the Munster Branch and the IRFU. He is currently a trustee of the Munster Branch.
Senior Club of the Year – Young Munster RFC
Young Munster have had an incredible run this season at various age grade and senior levels. Their senior team finished fourth in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League and only a late score from Lansdowne in extra-time last Saturday denied them a place in this year’s final. Their second team reached the semi-final of the Munster Junior Cup and final of the Munster Seconds League, while the Cookies’ Under-20s are through to the North Munster Cup final and reached the quarter-final of the All-Ireland Cup. The club’s Under-16s also made it to the final of the Munster Youths competition.
Junior Club of the Year – Clonmel RFC
A year of unprecedented success saw the Clonmel men’s side win Division 1 of the Munster Junior League for the first time in the club’s 123-year history. This was followed up with another win in the Munster Junior Clubs Cup and last weekend they booked their place in the final of the Munster Junior Cup at Thomond Park this coming Sunday. Also, Clonmel’s 2nds won the Dave Dineen Cup and their Women’s side did the double in winning Division 1 of the Munster League and the Munster Cup.
Club Youth Section of the Year – Ennis RFC
With over 180 members in their youth section, Ennis have had considerable success this year with their Under-13s reaching the Cup final, Under-14s winning the Conference, Under-15s winning the League and their Under-16s reaching the Munster Youths and North Munster League semi-finals. The Clare outfit also have a number of players involved in development and cadet squad sessions and within the club there is a strong emphasis on inclusion with all children given equal opportunities to participate.
Club Mini Section of the Year – Listowel RFC
With memberships growing all the time, Listowel has blossomed into one of the biggest clubs in west Munster. At mini level they fields two teams in each of the Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12 age grades. Day trips to Munster games are a regular part of the club’s activities with members very active in the local community. Players come not only from the town itself, but from north Kerry and west Limerick.
School of the Year – Bandon Grammar School
In existence since the middle of the 17th century, students at this school have been playing rugby since the 1890s. Next season, Bandon Grammar will compete as an ‘A’ school, becoming the ninth ‘A’ school in Munster. This year has seen them win the Mungret Cup and Mungret Shield, along with the McCarthy Cup at Under-15 level.