The winners of the 2022 Munster Rugby Awards have been confirmed, with Keanes Jewellers trophies presented to clubs and individuals across the professional and domestic game.
Bank of Ireland Munster Rugby Men’s Player of the Year – Jack O’Donoghue
The standout performer for the Munstermen this season, Jack O’Donoghue featured in 23 of their 26 games and clocked up more minutes on the field than any other player (1,638).
His game has gone up another level this year with O’Donoghue captaining Munster on 12 occasions, winning two Player-of-the-Match awards, and ending the campaign as joint top try scorer with nine tries – seven in the United Rugby Championship and two in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The Waterford man, who won the Academy Player of the Year award in 2015, has played across the back row and no matter the position, has been one of the province’s top performers week in, week out.
His all-action displays saw Jack included in the initial longlist for the EPCR European Player of the Year award after the pool stages.
This season has seen the Waterpark and UL Bohemians favourite become the youngest ever player to reach the 150-cap landmark for Munster and he has deservedly been named the Men’s Player of the Year.
Bank of Ireland Munster Rugby Women’s Player of the Year – Nicole Cronin
Listing Nicole Cronin’s credits could take a while but it goes without saying that the Ireland Women’s 15s international and former Ireland Under-19 soccer star is one talented athlete.
The scrum half-turned-out-half started her rugby-playing days with Richmond RFC at a young age, progressing to Shannon RFC before settling into All-Ireland League side UL Bohemian RFC as her home club.
A Limerick local, known for her quick play, decision-making skills and clever kicking out of hand, she offers a huge amount of experience to this young Munster Women’s squad and has taken to her new position on the field with ease.
Cronin was appointed vice-captain of the Munster Women for this season’s Vodafone Interprovincial title-winning campaign and wore the number 10 jersey for Ireland in this year’s Women’s Six Nations.
Nicole is a player that has earned great respect from team-mates and coaches alike throughout the years. Her commitment to Munster Rugby, mentorship to players, her work-rate and clever play-making makes her a well deserved Women’s Player of the Year.
John McCarthy Award For Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Player of the Year – Alex Kendellen
The John McCarthy award for Greencore Munster Rugby Academy Player of the Year goes to Alex Kendellen after a fantastic season that saw him line out in 20 of Munster’s 26 games.
Kendellen has made the step up to senior rugby with aplomb and scored his first Heineken Champions Cup try against Toulouse in the quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium, playing the full 100 minutes.
Kendellen, who turned 21 in March, joined the Academy straight out of school in the summer of 2020 having led Pres Cork to the Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup final that year.
He captained the Ireland Under-20s for the 2021 Six Nations and was a standout performer as they finished third, scoring six tries in five appearances.
Kendellen made his Champions Cup debut against Castres Olympique at the age of 20 in December 2021 and scored his first try against Ulster in January 2022.
He signed a two-year contract with Munster Rugby that same month to move up to the senior squad from the Academy this summer.
Munster Rugby Referee of the Year – Barrie O’Connell
Barrie O’Connell started his refereeing with the Leinster Branch in 2005 and transferred to the Munster Association of Referees in 2007 on his return to Cork. He is a member of Cork Constitution and UCC Rugby Clubs.
He was appointed to the AIL National Referee Panel in 2007 and has refereed over 130 All-Ireland League games across all divisions during this period, in addition to holding assistant referee positions in the Heineken Champions Cup, EPCR Challenge Cup, PRO12/14 and Club internationals.
In 2021/22, Barrie refereed the first ever Women’s Interprovincial live on TV between Connacht and Leinster, was involved in the Munster Senior and Junior Schools Cups, acted as 5th Official for the Ireland v Wales Six Nations match and was involved in 10 AIL matches.
A highlight of the year was his taking charge of the Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Challenge Cup final between Garryowen and Young Munster at Thomond Park.
Munster Rugby Senior Club of the Year – Young Munster RFC
A unique season began with the capturing of the first of two Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Challenge Cups. In late August, the Covid delayed 2020/21 Senior Challenge Cup was concluded with victory over arch rivals Shannon.
Beginning the defence of their title a mere two weeks later against Cork Constitution, Young Munster RFC ultimately retained the trophy by defeating Garryowen at Thomond Park in March.
A ninth Munster Junior Cup crown was also captured by the Cookies with a comprehensive campaign that concluded by defeating Thomond in the final.
Munster Rugby Junior Club of the Year – Newcastle West RFC
Formed in 1924, Newcastle West RFC has played in Division 1 of the Munster Junior League since gaining promotion in 2011/12. Since then, they have been one of the most consistent sides in the competition, finishing second on three separate occasions.
This season, despite losing their opening league game to Thomond, they recovered to win the next ten games in a row to take the league title by a single point.
In the Munster Junior Clubs Challenge Cup, they opened their campaign with a win over Thomond before going on to the lift the trophy after a victory over Clanwilliam at Musgrave Park.
TJ Relihan (prop) and Shane Airey (out-half/full-back) were also members of the Interprovincial title-winning Munster Junior side.
Munster Rugby School of the Year – Crescent College Comprehensive
A historic season for Crescent College Comprehensive saw them claim the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup title in fine style. Crescent, who last won the title in 2014, now boast 12 Senior Cup wins.
This exciting team excelled in this year’s competition, winning all their group games to qualify in first place in a difficult group containing St. Munchin’s College, CBC Cork, Rockwell College and the Munster CSP team.
A tightly-contested Limerick City Cup win in December over Ardscoil Rís by 13-10 set them up nicely for the post-Christmas phase.
Victory over PBC in the top four play-offs gave them a home semi-final where they would meet Bandon Grammar School. One of the games of the season saw them edge out Bandon with an injury time win through their impressive number 8 Ruadhán Quinn.
Quinn, along with captain Conall Henchy, would go to claim representative honours with the Ireland Under-19s. The Senior Cup final saw them take on PBC Cork at Thomond Park. A comprehensive win for Crescent, played with considerable style, saw the title return to the Limerick school on a scoreline of 26-5.
Crescent have shown competitive balance across their full rugby programme, contesting the semi-finals of the Bowen Shield and Junior Cup along with the final of the McCarthy Cup.
However, their superbly coached senior team, who concluded the perfect season with the Senior Cup success, give them the edge in this year’s contest for Munster Rugby School of the Year.
Munster Rugby Club Youth Section of the Year – Dungarvan RFC
Dungarvan RFC epitomise all that is good about youth rugby in Munster. They put a huge effort into increasing their playing numbers and continue to compete across both regional and provincial competitions.
This summer they will once again be a host venue for the Bank of Ireland Summer Camps, helping to grow the numbers in the eastern region of the province.
Dungarvan RFC continue to demonstrate huge commitment to their coaches and players and are the embodiment of the values and ethos that are core to the Munster Rugby family.
Munster Rugby Club Mini Section Of The Year – Old Crescent RFC
The Old Crescent RFC mini section has grown considerably in the last few years to 300 players. Fielding at all levels from Under-6 through Under-12, the player numbers include 60 girls at U-8, U-10 and U-12 age groups since girls-only teams were introduced in the 2019/20 season.
The club works closely with local primary schools and provide introduction to rugby and coaching to them through the Munster Rugby CCRO programme.
They also host an annual Bank of Ireland Munster Rugby Summer Camp, and this year also hosted the highly successful Aviva Minis, as well as being strong advocates of the IRFU ‘Give It A Try’ initiative.
With a strong focus on building relationships between the senior and junior sections of Old Crescent, which includes getting senior players involved in training with underage teams, they have also introduced a mini blitz for boys and girls as a warm-up to All-Ireland League matches so that all can participate on match days.
As the club moves towards its 75th anniversary year, they can look forward to continued strong growth and participation of its age-grade section.