CON Downing has been involved in the West Cork Sports Star Awards since the very start, and ahead of Saturday night’s 20th anniversary, he shared his thoughts on these ever-popular awards.
How did the whole idea of creating the West Cork Sports Star Awards originate on day one and who was involved?
CD: The Southern Star was approached by the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, shortly after it opened and we were delighted to go along with the idea.
Was it hard to get the awards up and running?
CD: After we made a few tweaks to the original format, they then took on a life of their own.
What are your memories from the first awards night held in 1999?
CD: Delight that the judges’ choice was so well received and that we got out unscathed!
We noticed from the photographic evidence that you were sporting a tash on the first awards night, care to explain the reasons behind this bold fashion statement?
CD: It was for the part of the doctor I played in Skibbereen Theatre Society’s 1999 production of The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Paudie Palmer and yourself have been the bedrocks of these awards from the start, tell us a bit more about how you both got to know one another?
CD: Mainly through organising the awards – which we have great craic doing – he’s a mad GAA man and I’m more into rugby, but we always agree in the end.
What are Paudie’s best characteristic and what does he add to these awards?
CD: He calls a spade a spade and has a wicked sense of humour.
You’d know Paudie better than most over the years, tell us something about him that we don’t know?
CD: Shamelessly, he took the soup a few years ago and accepted Tottenham Hotspur corporate hospitality at White Hart Lane!
We know he is a Kerryman and his own sporting CV is subject to review, but would Paudie ever be a contender for the Hall of Fame Award?
CD: Hard to say. He is a legend, but if we had a Hall of Infamy award, he’d be a shoe-in!
There have been some memorable guest speakers over the years, who stands out for you and why?
CD: My favourite was Munster and Australia rugby player Jim Williams, who had great fun trying to pronounce West Cork place names. Himself and his Kiwi wife, Megan, were great company too.
Who would be your dream special guest on the awards night?
CD: Pamela Anderson for her great knowledge of watersports. Eat your heart out, Borat!
Tell us any story from over the years from the awards that hasn’t seen the light of day until now?
CD: There is one brilliant one relating to a mysterious special guest several years ago – but I’d be shot if I told it.
These awards have honoured the best of West Cork sporting talent, if you had to pick your favourite winner over the years?
CD: They were all equally deserving, but world champion kickboxer Lily De La Cour, with her bubbly personality, impressed me a lot.
What’s been the most memorable moment of these awards?
CD: The massive reception given to last year’s overall winners Gary and Paul O’Donovan.
What do you think has been West Cork’s greatest sporting achievement?
CD: The exploits of Paul O’Donovan in rowing – twice world champion already.
How much has the West Cork sporting landscape changed over the past 20 years?
CD: Immensely – with sports other than GAA growing in popularity.
What’s been the biggest change you have seen in the sports awards since 1998?
CD: The increase in the standard of local sportspeople across all sports – with many involved professionally at a very high level.
What do you think the future of the West Cork Sports Star Awards looks like?
CD: The future looks bright – there’s at least another 20 years in them, I hope.
Finally, tell us why you think the West Cork Sports Star Awards are so special and unique?
CD: Because they honour achievements by locals and are THE awards most sportspeople in West Cork want to win.