IN a year in which the Connacht rugby team broke new ground in spectacular style, it’s highly appropriate that the Galway Sports Stars Hall of Fame award for 2016 will be presented to a former Irish captain and a man who also led the Lions tour of 1983 to New Zealand.
Loughrea native Ciaran Fitzgerald, skipper of the triumphant Ireland Triple Crown teams of 1982 and 1985, will have his exploits on the rugby field honoured at the 52nd annual Galway Sports Stars banquet in the Galway Bay Hotel on Saturday night, February 4.
It’s going to be an occasion dominated by the sport of rugby as Connacht’s mould-breaking Guinness Pro12 success will be celebrated with three different awards – Coach of the Year: Pat Lam; Player of the Year: John Muldoon; and the Team of the Year accolade
It will also be a big night for the Sarsfields Camogie Club as their great exploits at different levels, including a first ever county senior title, is recognised with the Club of the Year award, while multi-medal winner Siobhan McGrath will pick up the individual Camogie honour.
Galway captain David Burke, who also central to St Thomas’ regaining the Galway title, has been chosen as the Hurler of the Year, with the Gaelic Football award going to Corofin’s defensive dynamo Ciaran McGrath, a player who has twice recovered from career-threatening injuries.
McGrath’s clubmate, Dáithí Burke, is honoured with a Special Achievement award following a hectic season which saw win a hurling All Star and play a leading role in Corofin capturing the Galway football title for a fourth year-in-a-row and also regaining the Connacht crown.
Jockey Paddy Brennan, who enjoyed a landmark season thanks to the exploits of Cue Card and reaching 1,000 career winners, picks up the Horse Racing award for the fourth time, while another multi-award winner Sean Breathnach, Irish Shot Putt champion, takes the Athletics accolade again.
Also, no strangers to these awards are Daryl Horan, whose fantastic season with Dundalk ensures the Salthill man wins the Soccer accolade for the second year in succession, and Ronan Mullarney, who followed into the footsteps of some legendary Irish golfers by winning the prestigious Mullingar Scratch Cup.
Newcomers to the honours list are Niamh Duggan (Ladies Football), Gabriel Dossen (Boxing), Eoin Rockall (Basketball), and Aoife Shorten (Swimming), while National champions, the NUIG Coxless Fours, will be feted with the Rowing award.
Another highlight of the presentation banquet promises to be the honouring of TJ Beatty as the Special Dedication award winner in recognition of his lifetime’s involvement with athletics between competing, coaching and administrating. Gold medal cycling winner in Rio, Eoghan Clifford will have his great achievement recognised with the Paralympics award.
The Sports Stars awards are the definitive benchmark of sporting achievement in the county and special guest at the presentation banquet – the social highlight of the local sporting year – will be Eamonn Coughlan, the former World 5,000m champion.
Galway’s biggest private employers and medical devices company, Medtronic, continue as sponsors of the Sports Stars awards, and the panel of local journalists who adjudicate on the awards are indebted to the company for its valued support.
The selection panel comprised of: John McIntyre, Connacht Tribune; Billy Coss, Tuam Herald; Mártan Ó Ciadhra, Raidio na Gaeltachta; Frank Farragher, Connacht Tribune; Stephen Glennon, Connacht Tribune; Michael Glynn, Connacht Tribune; Seán Bán Breathnach, Raidio na Gaeltachta; Keith Kelly, Connacht Tribune; and Dara Bradley, Connacht Tribune.