Offaly GAA stars honoured at annual awards night

THE sudden heavy snowfall that hit much of the county early on Friday evening did not adversely affect the attendance at the Bridge House Hotel/Offaly GAA Awards.

THE sudden heavy snowfall that hit much of the county early on Friday evening did not adversely affect the attendance at the Bridge House Hotel/Offaly GAA Awards.

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen was among the crowd of over 400 people who filled the function room in the Bridge House. Also in attendance were Tom Cribbin and Joe Dooley, the respective managers of the Offaly Senior Football and Hurling teams.

After the meal in the Charleville Suite, the formalities began with Offaly GAA County Board Chairman Pat Teehan addressing the gathering.

He congratulated all the winners paying particular tribute to the Hall of Fame Winners and the 1985 All Ireland winning hurlers.

He also congratulated the All Ireland Scor winners who were in attendance, Shamrocks Shane Lynam who won the Solo Singing at Scor na nOg and the Clara Ballad Group who won retained their All Ireland title. Both winners received presentations later in the evening to mark their fine achievements.

Mr Teehan also congratulated the All Ireland winning Offaly Camogie team and their second successive All Ireland win and he welcomed the representatives of Offaly Ladies Football.

The Chairman paid tribute to the work of former PRO Brendan Minnock and his committee for organising the night so well and he thanked all the sponsors for their continuing generosity to Offaly GAA and in particular main sponsor Carroll Cuisine.

Mr Teehan thanked the Bridge House for their continued sponsorship of the awards and the Tullamore Court Hotel and Aidan Bracken Building Design for their sponsorship of the football and hurling championships respectively.

The Chairman also welcomed Taoiseach Brian Cowen and thanked him for his assistance noting that between the development of O'Connor Park and the clubs, Offaly GAA had received €6million from the Sports Capital Programme. Mr Teehan concluded by wishing all Offaly teams the best of luck in 2011.

After receving a warm round of applause, Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke briefly. He congratulated the award winners and he paid particular tribute to the Hall of Fame inductees andthe 1985 All Ireland Hurling winning team. Noel McCann spoke on behalf of sponsors the Bridge House Hotel.

Following the speeches, the Player of the Year Awards were presented by County Board Chairman Pat Teehan and Noel McCann from the Bridge House.

The first recipient was handballer Jim Guilfoyle and he was followed by the Hurling and Football Referees of the Year, Brian Gavin and Damien Brazil.

The next recipient was the first of three St Rynagh's winners and Minor Hurler of the Year Pat Camon not suprisingly received a rapturous round of applause from the large contingent from Cloghan and Banagher.

Rod Og's Paul McPadden was next up to pick up his minor football award followed by Under 21 winners of Coolderry and Tullamore Michael Brazil.

They were followed to the podium by a man twice their ages as former All Star Michael Duignan, formerly of St Rynagh's but now hurling for Ballinamere, came forward to receive the Junior Hurling Award.

.Clonmore Harps' James Foy was next winner called forward to receive his Junior Football honour and he was followed by Conor Gath, the first of a brace of honours which were brought back to Drumcullen.

The second St Rynagh's winner of the night was Ger Rafferty who acheived an almost impossible feat in 2010 by captaining and training the Intermediate Football Champions while also fitting in his wedding on the same day as the final.

The final Players of the Year called forward were the Senior winners Shane Dooley and Niall McNamee. Both players received suitably large rounds of applause as they came forward to pick up what for each player was their second senior award.

The presentations continued with the All Ireland winning 1985 hurling team being called forward individually to pick up a memento to mark their historic achievement. Captain Pat Fleury spoke on behalf of the team outlinig just how memorable, important and emotive the victory was for the county and for the team.

Following the presentations to the 1985 team, the Hall of Fame Inductees were feted. Both St Rynagh's Greg Hughes and Drumcullen's Paddy Molloy each fittingly received a standing ovation as they came forward to receive their awards.

The formalities concluded with a phenomenal performance from world renowned bass-baritone John Molloy, son of Hall of Fame inductee Paddy Molloy.

More used to performing with orchestra across the world, John received the third standing ovation of the night after a truly memorable performance which included an inspiring rendition of the Offaly Rover.

SEE THIS WEEK'S OFFALY EXPRESS FOR SIX FULL COLOUR PAGES OF COVERAGE FROM THE AWARDS