The Leinster Awards Ball took place last night in the InterContinental Dublin Hotel, as players past and present celebrated the 2017/18 season to date and said a fond farewell to a number of players who have contributed much to the success of Leinster over the years.
Leinster Rugby President Niall Rynne opened proceedings and, from there, over 500 guests were in the company of the Master of Ceremonies for the night, RTE’s Darragh Maloney.
Dan Leavy and James Ryan were the big winners on the night as they won the Bank of Ireland Players’ Player of the Year and the Laya Healthcare Young Player of the Year awards respectively, while Nora Stapleton, Blackrock College and MU Barnhall RFC were also notable winners.
Former Greystones, Leinster and Ireland player Paul McNaughton, who played 15 times for Ireland and was team manager for the Grand Slam in 2009, received rapturous applause and a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd as he was inducted into the Guinness Leinster Rugby Hall of Fame for 2018.
There was also time to look back on the careers and the contributions of those who will not be staying with Leinster beyond this season. Club captain Isa Nacewa, former captain Jamie Heaslip, Richardt Strauss, Jordi Murphy, Cathal Marsh and Peadar Timmins were all celebrated for all they had achieved with the province over the years.
All six players were presented with their official Leinster Rugby caps by Rynne, with Leinster head coach Leo Cullen acknowledging: “It’s a difficult one because obviously you don’t want to get distracted with so much rugby still left to be played this season, but it is important that we formally recognise the impact that these six players have had on the province.
“I think this evening at the Awards Ball in front of their team-mates, their family and close friends is the perfect time to do that but once that is done, I know they will want everyone to focus on finishing the season as strongly as possible and I think for them and for the rest of us there is no better way of finishing out the season or your time at Leinster than that.”
On the awards themselves, Cullen commented: “I think it’s been a great night overall and great to look back over the season to date and to acknowledge some really big contributions.
“I am delighted for Dan and James. This is very much a squad effort and nothing would be possible without the contributions of each and every one of the 53 players we have used this season, but I think we can all see that Dan and James have had outstanding years and I congratulate them both. The award is probably that bit more special as it has been voted for by their fellow players.”
LEINSTER RUGBY AWARDS – 2017/18 WINNERS:
LAYA HEALTHCARE YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Presented by: DO O’Connor, Deputy Managing Director, Laya Healthcare
Winner – James Ryan
DEEP RIVER ROCK SCHOOL OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Cathal Garvey, Sponsorship & Events Manager with Deep River Rock
Winner – Blackrock College, accepted by Evan O’Brien, Games Master
BEAUCHAMPS CONTRIBUTION TO LEINSTER RUGBY
Presented by: John White, Managing Partner, Beauchamps
Winner – Hugh Woodhouse, Mullingar RFC
CITYJET SENIOR CLUB OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Michael Rogers, Business Development Manager, CityJet
Winner – MU Barnhall RFC, accepted by President Gráinne Carroll
LIFESTYLE SPORTS SUPPORTERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Mark Stafford, CEO of Life Style Sports
Winner – Dan Leavy
ENERGIA WOMEN’S RUGBY AWARD
Presented by: Gary Ryan, MD of Energia
Winner – Nora Stapleton
GUINNESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Presented by: Jenny Gleeson, Sponsorship Manager, Diageo
Winner – Paul McNaughton
IRISH INDEPENDENT DEVELOPMENT SCHOOL AWARD
Presented by: David Courtney, Head of Sports Content, Independent News and Media
Winner – Gorey Community School, accepted by Frank Duke, Deputy Principal
CANTERBURY TACKLE OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Sean Kavanagh, Head of Global Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, Canterbury
Winner – Fergus McFadden
BANK OF IRELAND JUNIOR CLUB OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Sharon Woods, Bank of Ireland
Winner – Wicklow RFC, accepted by President Brendan Nicholson
IRISH INDEPENDENT TRY OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Ruaidhri O’Connor, Irish Independent Rugby Correspondent
Winner – Jordan Larmour
BANK OF IRELAND PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Presented by: Oliver Wall, Chief of Staff, Bank of Ireland
Winner – Dan Leavy