Tipperary Person of the Year awards honour community activists

Michael Heverin

Reporter:

Michael Heverin

Tipperary Person of the Year awards honour community activists

Louis Fitzgerald, Denis Floyd, Denis Ryan and Liam Myles at the ceremony.

Community spirit was at the heart of the Tipperary Person of the Year awards night in Dublin.

Two outstanding Tipperary men who are at the heart of their community were honoured by the Tipperary Association Dublin.

And on a remarkable night of pride for one Tipperary community, they both came from the parish of Newport.

Denis Floyd was honoured as Tipperary Person of the Year for leading Birdhill to the national Tidy Towns Award last year.

Meanwhile his neighbour Denis Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of his immense contribution to music, both in Ireland and in his new home of Canada.

And the among the 250 guests present in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel for the gala ceremony to honour the recipients was the Canadian Ambassador Kevin Vickers.

Ambassador Vickers is a folk hero in his homeland as during his time as a Sergeant at Arms at the Canadian parliament, he confronted and returned fire at a terrorist who launched an attack on the parliament and killed a policeman.

Denis Ryan said he was honoured to have the ambassador present and he sang a special song in his honour.

Louis Fitzgerald and his family at the event in his hotel.

There are two Tipperary 'homes' in Dublin – the Palace Bar in Fleet Street owned by the Ahearns, Liam and Willie, and the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel where Friday night's ceremony took place.

And Tipperary Association Dublin president Liam Myles paid glowing tribute to hotel proprietor and former Tipperary Person of the Year Louis Fitzgerald for his wonderful business success.

“Louis is celebrating fifty years in business this year and we wish him the very best – and he may have something special planned”, Mr Myles said.

He also paid tribute to the award recipients and remarked that it was a great occasion to be able to honour two such great Tipp men.

Birdhill won the tidiest village award in Ireland in 2006, 2007 2008 and again in 2016 but the double win in 2017 of Tidiest Village and Tidiest Town in Ireland was truly a remarkable achievement.

Denis Floyd led the team that achieved the accolade – and he emphasised that it was truly a team effort.

“Birdhill is now the Premier Village in the Premier County and we have achieved that with team spirit, involvement, commitment and dedication. I am the chairman of the committee but I am the leader of a great team”, he said.

He pointed out that the spirit in Birdhill was built on the philosophy of  the famous quote from Kickham's 'Knocknagow - “for the sake of the little village”.

He added - “We epitomise that spirit with the pride in our native place”.

A proud and active GAA man, Denis Floyd mentioned many of  the hurling stars who had preceded him as Person of the Years. While he had never walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand to accept the Liam McCarthy Cup, he had led Birdhill to numerous All Ireland titles.

“I have never scored three goals in an All Ireland final but I have led Birdhill to three in a row and we are going for another three in a row”, he said to loud applause.

Tidy Towns was not just an environmental organisation but a community one and the remarkable work undertaken in Birdhill was the heartbeat of their community, Mr Floyd added.

His fellow Newport parishioner Denis Ryan was honoured in recognition of his music and singing performances, as an acknowledgement of his business undertakings and for his work for charity.  

Following his primary and secondary education, Denis worked in Ireland for a few years before emigrating to Toronto, Canada in 1969.  He formed the Irish- Canadian folk group Ryan’s Fancy in 1970 and moved to St. John’s Newfoundland in 1971 to attend Memorial University where he graduated with a degree in Folklore.  He and his family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1980 and have been residing there ever since.

He has enjoyed a remarkable career in music, business and charity work and while Canada has been his home for decades, the blue and gold blood still runs through his veins as he remains a proud Newport and Tipperary man. And like Denis Floyd, he served his hometown club proudly on the GAA fields.

But he didn't compare himself to former Tipperary legends. His two favourites hurlers were Liam Devaney and Jimmy Doyle.

“Jimmy Doyle was the greatest hurler of all time and I often think if he had been a golfer today he would  put Rory McIlroy in his place”, he said.

Mr Ryan said he was honoured to be recognised in such a way and moreso as he was sharing the night with a fellow Newport man in Denis Floyd.

“There is nothing better than to be honoured by your own”, he remarked.

He said he grew up in difficult times, with none of the luxuries of today, but people looked out for each other with a great sense of community.

And he added that there was always music or sing-song in his home as his father was a very good accordeon player and gave his cousin Denis Carey his first instrument and he had since gone on to open music schools throughout Tipperary and Limerick.

Among those present at the ceremony was Tipperary ladies football captain Samantha Lambert with the All Ireland cup – a proud occasion for fellow Ardfinnan man and Tipp Association president Liam Myles.