The 2019 Offaly GAA/Bridge House players of the year function was held on Saturday night last and in keeping with previous years, a bumper crowd turned out to honour the best that Offaly GAA had to offer in 2018.
A sold out crowd of over 400 were in attendance to see 20 awards in total handed out from senior down to minor and including handball, camogie, ladies football and the induction of the latest members into the football and hurling hall of fame.
There was also a new award brought on stream this year with the Scor award claimed by the Ferbane/Belmont ballad group.
Walsh Island’s Murt Connor and St Rynagh’s Aidan Fogarty were the men chosen to be inducted and both were deserving and popular winners.
The awards winners, chosen back in November, by local journalists Brian Lowry, Kevin Corrigan, Mary Dunne, Will O’Callaghan, Joe Troy and Kevin Egan, were all fully deserving winners as they enjoyed a year to remember in 2019.
RTE’s Eamon Horan was the MC on the night and it was clear to see that the Ballycumber native was delighted to be part of the night.
The Bridge House Hotel are the long standing sponsors of the awards and once again, they put on a top class meal to the 400 plus crowd with Mr Bridge House himself, Noel McCann a key organiser on the night.
After the four course meal, the awards were presented to the recipients with citations read out by Eamon Horan.
Newly elected Chairman of the Offaly County Board, Michael Duignan welcomed everybody on the night and was quick to praise the sponsorship that the Bridge House Hotel has provided to Offaly GAA down through the years.
Mr Duignan also thanked Eamon Horan for taking on the Master of Ceremonies job and said it was great to have someone of his stature to do the job.
The Chairman singled out two people in particular for the work they put into running the night and they were Pat Teehan and Mary Dunne.
He also wished Pat Teehan the best of luck with his new role as he takes on the mantle of Leinster GAA Chairman on the 25th of January.
Mr Duignan praised the people that take part in the GAA games and he congratulated all the award winners insisting they were all deserving winners.
He particularly congratulated the two Hall of Fame winners.
“Murt Connor was an unbelievable servant to both Walsh Island and Offaly and it is great to see him been honoured. His family is famous in Offaly GAA but I think it is great to see Murt honoured in his own right for his contribution to Offaly GAA.
“I have a little bit of bias with the other man. I only grew up 50 yards away from him on Cuba Avenue in Banagher.
“Roy Mannion was straight across the road, Tony Reddin was next door to Roy and then there was the Graham’s, Corrigans and the Fogarty’s.
“Aidan was one of the greats of Offaly hurling. A loyal St Rynagh’s and Offaly man. He went to Kilkenny in his early working life but played his entire career with St Rynagh’s and Offaly.
“He got involved with O’Loughlin’s in Kilkenny later in life and he didn’t do them any harm either.”
Speaking on his recent appointment, Mr Duignan commented, “I have been here many nights as an MC and I never thought I would be here as Chairman of the County Board at any stage but I am delighted to have been elected in the last couple of weeks and I am looking forward to working with all the clubs and people in this room.
“There is a great passion in this county for hurling, football, ladies football, camogie, refereeing and handball and I am delighted to be here as Chairperson”.
Afterwards, a questions and answers session with two of Offaly’s finest, Aidan Fogarty and Murt Connor was conducted by Eamon Horan with both men extremely grateful and honoured to be inducted into such a prestigious group.
Aidan Fogarty is one of the all time greats in Offaly hurling.
After lining out for Offaly minors in 1975 and 76, Aidan’s ability was apparent to all and he made his Senior debut, as an 18 year old, on February 20th 1977, defeating Galway 2-6 to 1-5 in the National Hurling League at St Brendan’s Pk, Birr, wearing the No 7 jersey.
He went on to play 114 league and championship games in The Tricolour jersey, with his final outing being in the Leinster Championship defeat by Dublin in June 1991, fourteen years after making his Championship debut against the same opposition.
Aidan was on the Offaly 1978 U21 hurling team that made the first important breakthrough winning the Leinster U21 title with a 2-14 to 2-7 victory over Laois at Dr Cullen Pk in Carlow. He wore the number 5 jersey as Offaly made the ultimate breakthrough on July 13th 1980 defeating Kilkenny 3-17 to 5-10 to bring the Bob O’Keeffe Cup to The Faithful County for the first time.
Twelve months later he was again at right half back when Offaly captured the Liam McCarthy Cup with a 2-12 to 0-15 victory over neighbours Galway. During his Senior inter-county career Aidan won two All-Ireland’s, seven Leinster titles and was recognised by the All-Star selectors on two occasions 1982 and 1989.
Aidan was a regular on the Leinster team during the 1980’s and has the unique distinction of being the only Offaly player to Captain Leinster to Inter-Provincial success, when they defeated Connacht 2-14 to 2-11 in the 1988 decider. He also acted as a Leinster hurling selector in the 1990’s.
Murt Connor’s strike in the second half of the 1971 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final catapulted Offaly to a famous success against Galway and was the start of an incredible period for Offaly football.
He was a busy man in 1971, winning a Leinster U-21 football medal, lining out in attack in the provincial final win over Meath and he also established himself on the county senior team.
He won a second All-Ireland senior football medal in 1972, starting in the drawn final against Kerry and introduced as the first sub, replacing the injured Johnny Cooney, in the comprehensive replay win.
In 1971 as he became nationally famous, his brothers were highly impressionable young men and a couple became household names – Richie was the Offaly captain in 1982 and Matt remains one of the game’s most iconic and cherished forwards. Two other brothers, Seamus and Sean were key figures on the all conquering Walsh Island team of the late 1970s/early 1980s while first cousin Willie Bryan was the 1971 captain and two more cousins, Tomas and Liam O’Connor were stars in 1982.
In all, he played 51 senior league and championship games for Offaly, playing his last game in a March 1976 league defeat by Mayo. He played alongside Richie for Offaly but was finished by the time Matt came on the scene.
Ferbane’s Cian Johnson backed up the U20 player of the year award he won in 2018 with the 2019 Senior footballer of the year accolade while Ben Conneely was a worthy winner of the Senior hurling award.
Naomh Ciaran’s Kate Kenny was the Ladies footballer of the year for the second year in a row while six years after winning the Ladies footballer of the year, Linda Sullivan was back in the honours again, this time picking up the Camogie award.
The full list of winners was as follows
Football Hall of fame – Murt Connor (Walsh Island)
Senior football – Cian Johnson (Ferbane)
Senior ‘B’ football – Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh)
Intermediate football – Ronan Hynes (Shannonbridge)
Junior ‘A’ football – Callum Boland (Doon)
Football referee – Martin Carty (Walsh Island)
U20 football – Cian Farrell (Edenderry)
Minor football – Morgan Tynan (Na Fianna)
Hurling Hall of fame – Aidan Fogarty (St Rynagh’s)
Senior hurling – Ben Conneely (St Rynagh’s)
Senior ‘B’ hurling – Joseph Bergin (Seir Kieran)
Intermediate hurling – Josh Fleming (Clara)
Junior ‘A’ hurling – Kevin Nugent (Belmont)
U20 hurling – Ciaran Burke (Durrow)
Hurling referee – Kieran Dooley (Drumcullen)
Minor hurling – Charlie Mitchell (Kilcormac/Killoughey)
Camogie – Linda Sullivan (St Rynagh’s)
Ladies football – Kate Kenny (Naomh Ciaran)
Handball – Conor O’Brien (Crinkill)
Scor – Ferbane ballad group – Sarah Kenny, Valene Greer, Niamh Delaney, Avril Spain and Zoe Rooney.