The presentation of the various awards announced at the annual County Board Convention will take place this coming Friday evening at a function in Lawlors Hotel, Dungarvan. Among those being honoured are:
Adult Hurler: John Mullane
When John Mullane was announced as the adult hurler of the year at the county convention before Christmas it came no major surprise to anyone. The De La Salle Club man was a model of consistency in 2009. He led his club onto Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day when they played Portumna in the All-Ireland Club Final, but by the Munster championship Mullane had put that disappointment behind him. He played a major part in ensuring that Waterford eventually overcame Limerick and was in fine form again in the provincial decider defeat to Tipp. Having hit the winning point in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway, he duly collected his second All Star and a Hurler of the Year nomination.
Adult Footballer: Stephen Cunningham
This award must have given the judges their hardest deliberation, but there would be few who’d argue against tgheir choice of Stephen Cunningham as the Adult Footballer of the Year.
The Stradbally clubman showed all his years of experience as the Reds won back the Conway Cup – their sixth title of the decade. Stephen also announced his inter-county retirement after many seasons.
Underage Hurler: Philip Mahony
One player that will remember 2009 for a long time is Philip Mahony. The young Ballygunner defender played a huge part in Waterford securing a first Minor hurling Munster Final since 1992, excelling in the half-back line. A senior county medal followed in October, as did a Minor one – a remarkable triple crown that also saw him succeed John Mullane in picking up the WLRfm/Granville Hotel GAA Award for 2009.
Underage Footballer: Brian O’Keeffe
Some years back a small boy playing at wing-forward in an under-14 football western final came to prominence. Eleven-year-old Brian O’Halloran had all who were in Fraher Field for that meeting between Clashmore and Brickeys sitting on the edges of their seats, and the Kinsalebeg dual star is still one for the future, having played a key role for the county in both codes last year, as well as helping to secure his club’s first ever minor football title.
Club of the Year: Ballygunner
A number of clubs would have been considered for the title of club of the year in 2009, but when all the debating was done one winner stood out. Ballygunner had a magnificent 2009, winning the county senior hurling title the hard way by beating holders De La Salle, Mount Sion and finally Lismore among others. In the Munster final they produced a mighty fightback before bowing to Cork’s Newtownshandrum, but had the consolation of annexing County Minor and under-21 titles – only the second club after Mt Sion to win all three in the same year.
Special Achievement Award: Tourin/Glen Rovers
Almost every year since its inception this award has gone to the county junior hurling champions and 2009 is no different. Tourin and Glen Rovers (Melleray) have been playing together for the past number of years, and the western combination beat Kilgobinet in the divisional decider and Kill in the county final to win promotion to the intermediate ranks. In the Munster championship they produced a great effort in giving best to Aherlow after extra-time in Tipperary.
Jack Furlong Award : John O’Donnell
This special award is annually presented to a person who, who like the man it is in remembrance of, has rendered a lifetime of service to the GAA.
The 2009 winner was the very popular John O’Donnell from the Ardmore club. He is responsible for the pristine condition of the grounds, along with the Community Employment Scheme participants in the area, and is always close at hand when games or training are taking place.
Illness in his youth meant that John did not get to play as much as other winners of this award, but this did not deter his interest as he found himself getting involved in a number of other roles, most notably as a selector.
John also fills the important role as kit manager within the club, above and beyond the line of duty. When Ardmore are playing, John is always to be seen on the line with a stash of spare hurleys, footballs, sliotars and jerseys.
He is the second Ardmore clubman to win the award, following on from the legendary Mikey O’Brien.
Special Awards: Dr Tom Higgins & Seamus O’Brien
An award will be presented to Dr Tom Higgins, who after giving 32 years of outstanding service to the Waterford County Board, decided to stand down as team doctor to the senior hurling team in 2009.
The Abbeyside-based GP, who is also a Fine Gael Town and County Councillor, first became involved with county teams in 1977 and has since seen some of the greatest days in Waterford hurling from up close.
During those years he was involved with the under-21 team that won the 1992 All-Ireland and in more recent times has seen the rise in the seniors’ fortunes, winning three Munster Finals and a National League. ‘Doc Higgins’ was also part of the backroom staff when Waterford ran onto Croke Park for the 2008 All-Ireland hurling final.
Veteran Abebyside/Ballinacourty clubman and administrator Seamus O’Brien, who stood down at convention under the five-year rule, will also be honoured for his lifetime of service to the GAA in Waterford at divisional, county and national level – both adult and Bórd na nÓg – including holding the position of Central Council representative since 1979. He will attend his final Croke Park congress in April.
Though in his eighties, Seamus is still a key member of the County Communications and Publications Committee who are hosting this weekend’s awards.