South Tipperary’s top hurlers and footballers were honoured with ‘Nationalist’ awards at a function in Clonmel’s Hotel Minella on Saturday night.
The winners represent the top talent in the division and county, many of them All Ireland medal winners.
Also feted on the night was a star of the past, Clonmel Commercials’ Liam Boland who joined a distinguished list in the Hall of Fame.
It was a special night for the Clonmel club with three award recipients – stars of the future Michael Quinlivan and Seamus Kennedy joining Liam Boland on the honours list.
Quinlivan and Kennedy were members of the All Ireland winning Tipperary minor football team last year as was another winner, Kilsheelan-Kilcash’s Bill Maher.
The awards for this trio represent the huge input of the South division into Tipperary’s historic win.
It also reflects their ability at both codes – while Michael Quinlivan won the Young Footballer award, Seamus Kennedy took the Intermediate/Junior Hurler accolade representing St Mary’s and Bill Maher won the Young Hurler award.
One of the county’s – and country’s - top hurlers was also honoured. New county captain Paul Curran from Mullinahone was chosen as Hurler of the Year after another successful year that saw the Munster title won in stirring fashion and a third appearance in a row in the All Ireland final.
Tipp football has been going through a difficult period this year but two players for whom performance never flagged were Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers) who was Footballer of the Year and Ballyporeen’s Conor Sweeney who was Intermediate/Junior Footballer of the Year.
The awards were presented by editor of The Nationalist, Michael Heverin, and South Board chairman, Joe Brennan.
The attendance stood to acclaim Liam Boland as he stepped forward to win the Hall of Fame award.
Nephew of the famed William ‘Bunny ‘Lambe, he captained Tipperary to Munster minor football success in 1954 only to lose the All Ireland final to Dublin. At senior level he won a hat-trick of county titles with Commercials in 1965, ‘66 and ‘67. He played with Tipperary from 1957 to ‘64 and was also honoured with Munster selection.
County Board chairman Sean Nugent remarked how The Nationalist awards had stood the test of time, now in their 34th year honouring the division’s top hurlers and footballers.
He recalled that the first winners in 1978 were Willie Wall from Carrick Swan as Hall of Fame in hurling, Hurler of the Year was Jim Kehoe and Footballer of the Year was AB Kennedy, Fethard.
Young player awards were introduced in 1980 and the first winners were Willie Peters (St Mary’s) in hurling and Michael Beston (Fr Sheehys) in football.
“And this year’s winners follow in the footsteps of those illustrious players and I thank them for the contribution they made to club and county and for the great entertainment and joy they provided in 2011 and we look forward to great things again this year”, Mr Nugent said.
He also congratulated Liam Boland and remarked that he had great memories of Liam playing with the Commercials team of the 1960s and described him as one of the stalwarts of that team.
Mr Nugent also congratulated the referees, many of whom were honoured on the night with special presentations sponsored by Sure Print and presented by PJ O’Neill.
“I thank them for the wonderful work they are doing and the contribution they are making in such an onerous position”.
The Kilsheelan man pointed out that we are living in challenging times in relation to the economy, unemployment and emigration and that there is a lot of negativity around.
“But the one great beacon of hope is our association, with the competitive action, the physical activity we provide, the involvement of club, parish and county, and the great entertainment provided through the year from our national games.
“Anyone involved with the GAA stays involved and anyone not involved gets involved”.
South Board chairman Joe Brennan paid glowing tribute to MC Micael O’Meara who has been a key person in organising the awards for the past 34 years.
The winners of the awards are those who typify the spirit of the association and all this year’s recipients fit into that category, he said, having done their best for club and county.
Mr Brennan also paid tribute to the referees for their input to the division.
‘Nationalist’ editor Michael Heverin said the newspaper was delighted to be associated with the awards scheme for the past 34 years and looked forward to maintaining the close relationship with the South Board.
He congratulated all the winners, especially those involved with the historic All Ireland minor football win last year, and paid tribute to manager David Power on his selection as Tipperary Person of the Year.
He also remarked how special a night it was for Clonmel Commercials with two of their younger stars joining former great Liam Boland on the list of recipients.
“I would also like to remember the late Jim Holohan tonight who was such a great friend of everyone in the division and in The Nationalist. He was our local correspondent for Kilsheelan as well as a regular reporter on games and we will miss him as a great Gael and a great friend”, Mr Heverin said.
He thanked Michael O’Meara for his organistion of the awards for over thirty years and remarked that while divisional officers come and go, Mr O’Meara was the one constant in the scheme.
Special presentations were made on the night to County Board chairman Sean Nugent and his wife Betty, to outgoing South Board chairman Dick Egan and among the referees to Kilsheelan’s Seamus Roche who has hung up his whistle after a distinguished career.