Donegal swept the boards at the 24th annual Ulster GAA Writers’ Awards at their annual banquet in the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran, on Friday night.
BY PETER CAMPBELL
Karl Lacey added the Ulster Player of the Year award to his All-Star; young Patrick McBrearty scooped the Cormac McAnallen Award as Young Achiever of the Year while Donegal manager Jim McGuinness lifted the prestigious Personality of the Year award, the climax of a great night for Donegal.
There was a little hiccup in proceedings from the organisers as one of the three players nominated for Player of the Year, Colm McFadden, was somehow overlooked when the citations were read out and he was replaced by Michael Murphy.
The awards were introduced by Austin O’Callaghan of the BBC, while the guests were welcomed in an address by Writers’ chairman, JP Graham.
The reply on behalf of the guests was delivered by Ulster GAA Council President, Aogan O’Farrell, who complemented the Writers’ Assssociation for their contribution to Gaelic Games in Ulster.
The Ulster GAA President stated that 15,222 games took place in all competitions in Ulster in 2011 and that almost all of them were played in the proper sporting manner. However, he urged those who let their passion turn to anger and rage, to think again and remember that there were boundaries that could not be crossed on the field and on the sideline.
Each of the recipients of awards were interviewed by Austin O’Callaghan and Patrick McBrearty’s reply on being asked about playing minor and senior for Donegal on the same day against Antrim in May, was interesting. “If I was the manager, I would probably not have picked me,” he said.
Karl Lacey felt hearing the final whistle in Clones in the Ulster final was the highlight of the year as he was swamped by players and supporters.
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness said he was proud of the Donegal players who had shown that they wanted to wear the Donegal jersey.
“We got a lot of criticism during the year but people should understand that we are not Kerry or Cork,” said McGuinness, who said that an article in the Irish News before Christmas last year had Donegal in 19th place. “That was a good place to start and we have come a long way. We can now start to compete with these teams (like Kerry and Cork).
Austin O’Callaghan picked his words gingerly as the controversy of the recent article by Kevin Cassidy in the book was also touched on. “I don’t have a lot to say on it. It has been a difficult period. We’ve had ups and downs during the year and it’s not an issue to dwell on. It has been dealt with now and we have to move on from here. There has been a lot said, but we have to move forward,” said Jim.
At the beginning of the night, Donegal received another award as Michael Murphy was presented with his October Merit award (which had been held over because the Glenswilly man was in Australia with the Irish team).
The full list of award winners on the night were:
Young Achiever of the Year (Cormac McAnallen Award): Patrick McBrearty, Kilcar (Donegal).
Communications Award: Damien Harvey (Tyrone)
Referee of the Year: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)
Female Handball Award: Fiona Shannon (Antrim)
Male Handball Award: Michael Finnegan (Cavan)
Camogie Award: Jane Adams (Antrim)
Ladies Football Award: Therese McNally (Monaghan)
John McAviney Award for Services to Gaelic Games: Joe Canning (Armagh)
Hurler of the Year: Neil McManus (Antrim)
Footballer of the Year: Karl Lacey, Four Masters (Donegal)
Personality of the Year: Jim McGuinness, Donegal