Waterford and De La Salle hurler John Mullane was a hugely popular winner of the 2008 WLRfm / Granville Hotel GAA Award, presented at a gala banquet in the city on Friday night.
The dynamic De La Salle captain, who led his club to their first county and Munster titles late last year, was also outstanding during the Decies’ march to the All-Ireland final.
The ace forward kept Waterford’s flag flying when others dropped the head against Clare in the Munster championship opener against Clare in Limerick last June, scoring 8 points from play in what was one of the season’s outstanding individual performances.
After ultimately suffering the crushing disappointment of that defeat by Kilkenny in Croke Park – when, again, he never gave up and scored three points – the 27-year-old said he was determined to end the season with some silverware to show for his efforts.
De La Salle duly won the county championship and sensationally saw off Sarsfields from Cork a week later before picking up the O’Neill Cup following an amazing Munster final comeback against Adare – inspired by Mullane’s second-half goal; typical of his never-say-die spirit.
John got some consolation for missing out on an All Star award when he was named on the Gaelic Players Association Hurling Team of the Year.
Receiving his WLRfm/Granville award, John – who earlier gave a typically entertaining interview – said he was honoured to be the judges’ choice. He was also delighted to be presented with the winner’s trophy by Clare legend Anthony Daly, who, he said, was one of the players he looked up to in the 1990s.
He described De La Salle’s maiden county and provincial triumphs as a fairytale story which he hoped would continue until St Patrick’s Day – if they can overcome Antrim’s Cushendall in Parnell Park, Dublin, on February 22. It’s six years since a Waterford team has been in an All-Ireland club semi-final, he said, and hopes the whole county will get behind them.
With his anecdotal, natural style, guest speaker Anthony Daly, now managing the Dublin hurlers, went down a treat with the audience, reflecting on the great battles he’d had down the years with Tony Browne & co (“what a man”).
Opening the ceremony, the Mayor of Waterford, Councillor Jack Walsh, commended WLRfm and the Granville Hotel for coming together to stage these awards each year.
Though it had ended in disappointment, 2008, he said, was a particularly memorable year for Waterford GAA supporters in seeing the county hurlers reach the All-Ireland final for the first time since 1963.
His earnest wish for the year ahead was to witness two All-Ireland Cups come back to Waterford – the club one in March and the Liam McCarthy in September.
WLRfm managing director Des Whelan said the local radio station were delighted as ever to co-sponsor the awards, and praised his sport and news team for their superb coverage in the build-up to last year’s All-Ireland decider.
GAA President-elect Christy Cooney agreed, saying that as a Youghal man he’s heard the “buzz” generated during that week. “It was superb local broadcasting, the best I’ve heard,” the incoming Uachtaráin CLG said.
Granville Hotel proprietor Liam Cusack said he was delighted to be involved with WLRfm over the past five years in recognising local excellence in our national games – epitomised by the calibre of the candidates being honoured.
Indeed, the other 10 nominees on the night were given tremendous receptions as they took to the stage to answer the probing questions of MC Timmy Ryan following video presentations of their various feats.
The other monthly winners for 2008 were: Waterford senior footballers Mick Ahearne, Liam Ó Lionáin and Shane Walsh; Philip Mahony, joint-captain of the Harty and Croke Cup-winning De La Salle College team; County Minor, Blackwater college and Lismore hurling star Maurice Shanahan; Waterford’s All Star forward Eoin Kelly, and his county team-mates, goalkeeper Clinton Hennessy, veteran defender Tony Browne, Ballyduff Upper’s Lieutenant Stephen Molumphy, and De La Salle lionheart Bryan Phelan.
The adjudicating panel comprised Liam Cusack, Billy Harty, Stephen Frampton, and Joe Cleary, County Board PRO.