The best of Irish club rugby gathered in Dublin tonight for the third annual Ulster Bank League Awards in the home of Irish rugby, the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was on hand to present the awards in 11 different categories across all four divisions of the Ulster Bank League.
Although he was denied the Division 1A title last weekend, there was no stopping Clontarf centre Matt D’Arcy as he took home both the Ulster Bank Division 1A Top Try Scorer and the acclaimed Ulster Bank Division 1A Player of the Year honour.
Previous award winners include Connacht’s Craig Ronaldson and Old Belvedere’s Daniel Riordan, while last year’s top try scorer was Clontarf winger Mick McGrath, who was capped by Leinster this season.
Title winners Lansdowne had three players up for awards in various categories with one of their top players, full-back Cian Kelleher, coming away victorious by scooping the Ulster Bank Rising Star of the Year gong, having won the monthly award earlier in the season.
Josh Glynn, Old Belvedere’s goal-kicking winger, bagged the Ulster Bank Division 1A Top Points Scorer award, while Young Munster head coach John Staunton, who guided the Cookies through to the play-offs, was chosen as the Ulster Bank Division 1A Coach of the Year.
Donnybrook club Old Wesley, who were Division 2A champions this season, picked up the most awards on the night with Ian Cassidy named Ulster Bank Division 2A Player of the Year, captain Alan Large collecting the Ulster Bank Leinster Player of the Year award, Thomas O’Brien winning Ulster Bank PRO of the Year and Old Wesley’s 1st XV earning Ulster Bank’s Newstalk Team of the Year honour.
Neil Faloon of Armagh managed to claim two awards with Ulster Bank Division 2B Player of Year and Ulster Bank Ulster Player of the Year, while Galwegians star John Cleary also did the double and will bring the Ulster Bank Division 1B Player of the Year and Ulster Bank Connacht Player of the Year awards home to Galway.
The Ulster Bank League Award winners and nominees were selected by a panel of judges, including specialist club rugby journalists Adam Redmond, Donn O’Sullivan and Richard Mulligan, along with Ian McIlrath, Chairman of the IRFU’s All-Ireland League Committee. Provincial nominees were decided jointly by a public vote and the judges.
Speaking at the Ulster Bank League Awards, Ulster Bank’s Doug Munro said: “Tonight is the icing on the cake of another fantastic Ulster Bank League season. The awards have become an important way to recognise and celebrate the dedication and commitment shown by players, coaches and teams across all divisions and those who were nominated this season should be very proud of themselves.
“Ulster Bank is very proud to support club rugby in Ireland and we are delighted to be able to reward these players for their achievements and efforts throughout the season.”
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE AWARDS – 2015 WINNERS:
Ulster Bank Player of the Year – Division 1A: Matt D’Arcy (Clontarf)
Nominated: Aaron Conneely (Lansdowne), Matt D’Arcy (Clontarf), Kyle McCoy (Terenure College)
Ulster Bank Top Try Scorer – Division 1A: Matt D’Arcy (Clontarf)
Ulster Bank Top Points Scorer – Division 1A: Josh Glynn (Old Belvedere)
Ulster Bank Rising Star of the Year – Division 1A: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne)
Nominated: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne), Tom Farrell (Lansdowne), Rory Scannell (Dolphin), Tomás Quinlan (Cork Constitution), Ross Adair (Ballynahinch)
Ulster Bank Coach of the Year – Division 1A: John Staunton (Young Munster)
Nominated: John Staunton (Young Munster), James Blaney (Terenure College), Bobby Byrne (UCD)
Ulster Bank Player of the Year – Division 1B: John Cleary (Galwegians)
Nominated: John Cleary (Galwegians), Sean Taylor (Ballymena), Ed Rossiter (Garryowen)
Ulster Bank Player of the Year – Division 2A: Ian Cassidy (Old Wesley)
Nominated: Sean Coughlan (Blackrock College), Ross McAuley (Skerries), Ian Cassidy (Old Wesley)
Ulster Player of the Year – Division 2B: Neil Faloon (Armagh)
Nominated: Paul Stack (Highfield), Christy Condon (Midleton), Neil Faloon (Armagh)
Ulster Bank Club PRO (Public Relations Officer) of the Year: Thomas O’Brien (Old Wesley); Nominated: Cian O’Higgins (Seapoint), Thomas O’Brien (Old Wesley), Ryan Clarke and Keelan Durnien (Queen’s University)
Ulster Bank Provincial Player of the Year – voted by the public through Ulster Bank Rugby Social Media:
Connacht Player of the Year: John Cleary (Galwegians)
Nominated: John Cleary (Galwegians), James Wilson (Sligo), Diarmuid Higgins (Buccaneers), Marc Kelly (Corinthians)
Leinster Player of the Year: Alan Large (Old Wesley)
Nominated: Alan Large (Old Wesley), Brian du Toit (Dublin University), Ciaran Ruddock (St. Mary’s College), James O’Neill (Terenure College)
Munster Player of the Year: Ger Slattery (Young Munster)
Nominated: John Ed O’Connor (Cashel), Fintan O’Sullivan (Highfield), Ed Rossiter (Garryowen), Ger Slattery (Young Munster)
Ulster Player of the Year: Neil Faloon (Armagh)
Nominated: Neil Faloon (Armagh), Frankie Taggart (Belfast Harlequins), Sean Taylor (Ballymena), Ross Adair (Ballynahinch)
Ulster Bank Team of the Year – entries submitted to Newstalk and chosen by ‘Off the Ball’: Old Wesley RFC
Nominated: Old Wesley, Garryowen, Clontarf