Clonmel Park Hotel played host to a galaxy of sports stars on Saturday night, hosting the 58th Annerville Awards, organised by the United Sports Panel.
Panel Committee member Seamus McCarthy said sport “makes us and shapes us. Vision will ignite the fire of passion, that fuels our commitment to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement. Vision with no boundaries knows no limits, for vision is what we become in life.”
The Annerville Awards are the longest running awards ceremony in Ireland, having started in 1959-60, and honours athletes in 21 categories, local, national and international.
Host and ‘Nationalist’ sports journalist Eamonn Wynne presented the awards in conjunction with Pat Morrissey of Bulmers Ltd. Clonmel, who have sponsored the awards since 1964.
United Sports Panel (USP) Vice Chairman Muiris Walsh said the ceremony was tinged with sadness as this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Jim Kennedy, passed away only days beforehand, on Friday, January 12th. “With his sad passing, an irreplaceable piece of Ladies Football was chipped away. Jim Kennedy was the embodiment of that older, better code, who tried to make the lives of their community better. He had a proper understanding of what sport could do for everyone. He was a visionary.” Ladies Football is now one of the country’s fastest growing sports, due in no small part to the efforts of Jim Kennedy. Mr Walsh extended his sympathies to Jim’s family, and his daughters, Anne, Eleanor, Mary, Martina, and Dolores, who received their father’s award on his behalf.
One of the USP’s longest serving members, Jimmy Cooney, also passed away recently. “Jimmy was a gentleman, who emanated substance, character, and kindness,” said Mr Walsh. “Jimmy gave over 40 years of service to this panel, a lifetime. He will be sadly missed but never forgotten.”
Tipperary Co. Council was represented by Cllr Roger Kennedy, who said the recipients are examples of what young people can do in life. “The fact that there are so many sports represented here tonight, shows how many role models are available on your doorstep.”
The recipients were as follows: Angling - Sean Maher (Fethard), Athletics - Sean Tobin (Clonmel Athletic Club), Basketball - Grainne Dwyer (Thurles), Camogie - Amy Kennedy (Burgess-Duharra), Cricket - Aaron Cawley (Horse & Jockey), Gaelic Football - Brian Fox (Eire Og Annacarty-Donohill), Handball - Jerome Cahill & James Prentice (Lahorna & Ballina), Hockey - Caoimhe Perdue (Cashel), Hurling - Padraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Ladies Football - Aisling McCarthy (Cahir), Pitch and Putt - Stephen Shoer (Lakeside, Templemore), Powerlifting - Deirdre Fenlon ( Clonmel), Rowing - Daire Lynch (Clonmel Rowing Club), Rugby - Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Tipperary Town), Sailing - Aisling Keller (Nenagh), Soccer - David Joyce (Clonmel Celtic), Sean Lyons Sports Executive - Fergal Horgan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Tennis - Zach Murphy (Carrick-on-Suir), Special Achievement Award - Ned Crowe (Carrick-on-Suir), Deirdre Crowe (Carrick-on-Suir), Orla Horgan (Nenagh), Sheila Gregan (Nenagh), Lifetime Achievement - Jim Kennedy (RIP, Clonmel).
Jim Kennedy can take the credit as one of those people who were instrumental in the growth and development of Ladies Football, which is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.
Following a successful club championship in Tipperary Jim, along with Fr. Ahearne and John O'Donovan, organised what was probably the first ever-game of inter-county Ladies Football, as players were recruited from clubs including St. Luke's and Ardfinnan. The match was played on October 3rd 1971 in Ballypatrick, on the foothills of Slievenamon, when Tipp defeated Waterford. Jim, a native of Killenaule and a sergeant in the army who had served in The Congo and Cyprus in the 1960s, was elected as president when the Ladies Gaelic Football Association was founded in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, the birthplace of the GAA 90 years previously, on July 18th 1974. He served as president for a three-year term. By that stage he was living in Clonmel, where he made his home, and was an instructor in the FCA in Cahir. Also in 1974 Jim was a selector of the Tipperary team that beat Waterford, Cork and Kerry to win the Munster Championship, before going on to defeat Offaly by a point (2-3 to 2-2) in an exciting game in the very first All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship final played in Durrow on October 13th. Jim was also involved as a selector when Tipp retained their title the following year, beating Galway by 1-4 to no score. Coincidentally, in the year in which he is being honoured by the Tipperary United Sports Panel, Tipp are also reigning All-Ireland champions, after they beat Tyrone in last year's Intermediate Final in Croke Park. In his efforts to promote ladies football, Jim was also a member of the Munster Council, and refereed matches. Jim's family can look back with enormous pride on all that work.
There was a standing ovation for this year’s Knocknagow Annerville Award winner Donie Nealon of Burgess GAA.
It's no exaggeration to suggest that the GAA is very much part of Donie Nealon's DNA, an involvement that started when he hurled with Duharra as a juvenile, and one that continues to the present day with his involvement with the Burgess-Duharra Camogie Club. He first played competitive hurling while a student of St. Flannan's College in Ennis and won his first medal at the age of 17 when the Burgess club won the North Tipperary hurling title in 1953. He made his first impression on the inter-county scene three years later when he joined the Tipperary junior team. A talented and skilful forward, he played a central role in a halcyon era for the county's hurlers at senior level, winning five All-Ireland medals, eight Munster Championship medals and six National Leagues in a senior inter-county career that spanned eleven years. Those All-Ireland titles were won in 1958, 1961, '62 (when he won the Caltex Hurler of the Year award), '64 and '65 and he played 35 times for Tipperary between 1958 and 1969, scoring 22 goals and 42 points. A proud Burgess man, he also captained the club to their first county title in 1964, when they captured the Junior (now Intermediate) crown; and won Railway Cup titles with Munster in 1959, 1963, 1966 and 1968. As a student he won the Harty Cup with St. Flannan's in 1954 and three Fitzgibbon Cups with UCD. His vast collection of honours also includes five Oireachtas medals and a Dublin Senior Hurling title won with UCD. Once his playing days ended his influence continued to be felt on the sideline. As a player and selector he had the distinction of being involved in all eight of the county's All-Ireland-winning senior teams from 1958 to 1961, serving as a selector in 1971, 1989 and 1991. Donie's career as an administrator has seen him serve on the Burgess club's committee for many years.
Also a prominent referee at one stage, Donie was secretary of the North Tipp board from 1968 to 1977 before being appointed Munster Council Secretary, a position he held for 27 years until his retirement in 2004.