Ireland stars Conor Murray and Claire Molloy were named the Players of the Year at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers Awards in Dublin last night.
Munster, Ireland and Lions scrum half Conor Murray was selected as the Men’s Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of his provincial and international colleague CJ Stander, the 2016 winner of the award.
Galway native Claire Molloy was a very deserving winner of the Women’s Player of the Year award, while Munster, Cork Constitution, Michael Kearney and Colin Patterson were also honoured with awards on the night.
Murray, the the only player in the northern Hemisphere to have scored four tries against the All Blacks in Test matches, said: “It’s an honour to win the award. Every award is nice, it’s lovely, isn’t it? I can’t lie about it, it’s nice to get these things.
“You have to be realistic about it, you play in a good team and then you get credit but it shows you that there are good squads to be involved in at the moment.”
Molloy picked up the Women’s Player of the Year gong after captaining her country at the recent Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and Belfast – her third World Cup in 15s and first as skipper.
“It’s a huge honour to receive the award and be recognised. It’s very humbling and it’s a product of the people I’ve been lucky enough to play with and to be coached by over the years, the experiences I’ve taken from them over the years,” said the modest flanker.
“It was a year of mixed results, we had a very successful Six Nations even though we didn’t win at the end. We got to a Grand Slam match which was the first one we’d been in since 2013. From a sluggish start to the Six Nations, we went on to beat France at home and faced England in the decider.
“At the World Cup we didn’t get the results we wanted. We got two good wins at the start but we didn’t quite perform for the rest of it to achieve where we wanted to go. Hosting a home World Cup was an amazing experience and the crowd, everything that came with it was great to be part of.”
The Dave Guiney Team of the Year award went to Munster who showed remarkable resilience and determination following the huge loss of Anthony Foley, to reach a Champions Cup semi-final and a GUINNESS PRO12 final under the leadership of Rassie Erasmus and his fellow coaches. The award was accepted by Felix Jones and Munster captain Peter O’Mahony.
Munster now have the distinction of having played the most Champions Cup games – 158 – in Europe, and hold the record for the most consecutive wins (13) in the 22 years of the competition.
Cork Constitution were acknowledged as the Club of the Year, marking an incredible season with no fewer than four trophies added to their collection of silverware – their first Ulster Bank League Division 1A title win since 2010, a fifth successive Bateman Cup title, a fifth successive Munster Senior Cup, and the Cork Charity Cup.
The Tom Rooney award for a significant contribution to rugby in Ireland was awarded to Michael Kearney. He spent five years from 2012 to 2016 as manager of the Ireland Men’s team. During his time with the national team, Ireland secured a first Test Series win in the southern Hemisphere in Argentina in 2014, back-to-back RBS 6 Nations titles and a first ever Test victory over the Springboks in South Africa.
Michael was widely credited for providing strong leadership and direction for the national team and alongside, first Declan Kidney and then Joe Schmidt, creating a team environment that has driven the on-field success for Irish Rugby over the last number of years.
Michael also held similar roles with Leinster and the Ireland Under-20s prior to joining the Irish senior set up and is also a Past President of Landsdowne FC.
Colin Patterson was inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame. Patterson, who played his club rugby with Instonians and represented Ulster, won his first full cap for Ireland against New Zealand in 1978.
He went on to win 11 caps for Ireland and scored five tries during his international career. He was forced to retire from rugby prematurely when he suffered a serious knee injury touring with the Lions to South Africa in 1980, having played as scrum half in the first three Tests.