LAST WORD COLUMN: West Cork Sports Star Awards keeping the show on the road

January 30th, 2021 6:15 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Michelle O’Regan from Valley Rovers received a 2020 West Cork Sports Star Monthly Award.

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NOT even a global pandemic can stop the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards from doing what they do best: celebrating the fantastic achievements of local sportspeople.

Ever since the first monthly award was handed out to motorsport driver Donal O’Donovan in March 1998, this popular awards scheme has honoured and feted West Cork sport’s great and good.

And despite the pandemic changing the world we live in, the West Cork Sports Star Awards is a welcome familiarity.

Taking a year out was never an option for these awards, run by the Celtic Ross Hotel, The Southern Star and C103. Instead, we were passionate that the awards needed to continue, albeit in a different form.

The hard-working team behind the awards – Helen Wycherley and Neil Grant of the Celtic Ross, Con Downing and myself of The Southern Star and Paudie Palmer and JP McNamara of C103 – acknowledged that we had to think outside the box, so we did.

For now, the monthly presentations at the Celtic Ross hotel – and the banquet of cocktail sausages and sandwiches we were treated to – have been put on hold. Instead, we’ve moved online, and it’s been a tremendous success.

Embracing change has allowed us to continue to celebrate West Cork sport and the success of so many within our community, and stay connected at the same time.

West Cork is sports mad. It’s in our DNA. It’s a huge part of our lives and who we are. And we’ve seen how sport has been a tremendous outlet for so many these past ten months.

We’ve presented 12 of our 13 monthly awards, with one to go, and we will have a virtual West Cork Sports Star Awards event in the near future when an overall winner will be crowned, as well as presentations to the Team of the Year, Youth Sports Star and a new Hall of Fame entrant. Expect to hear more on this in the weeks ahead as it takes shape, but it will be an event not to be missed.

So far, the virtual award presentations have been hugely entertaining. In fact, it’s seen these awards beamed into the homes of so many across West Cork who turn out to watch their son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, team-mate, house-mate, be honoured for what they achieved in the world of sport.

We’ve had Phil Healy’s housemates in Waterford tell us how Phil loves to point out the food in their fridge that’s from West Cork. We’ve had Orla Cronin’s niece, Johanna Lordan, entertain us throughout her aunt’s presentation. We’ve had Gavin Coombes chat to us about Walter his Boston Terrier.

Above all that, we’re reminding the world just how incredible West Cork is for sport. There really is no place like it, and the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards will continue to fly the flag for local sportspeople and tell their stories, just like we have since 1998.

In 2020, West Cork sportspeople broke Irish records, won national titles, dominated the county ladies’ football and camogie championships, lit up the nation’s rugby fields, rowed to gold in Europe and more, and we’ve shared in their joy. Congrats to them all.

The monthly winners from 2020 are as follows:

David Lowney – The Clonakilty GAA star was honoured for his role in UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup success.

Jack Crowley – Innishannon’s rising rugby star grabbed the headlines with his sensational performances for Ireland U20s in the U20 Six Nations.

John Murphy – The Kinsale golfer hit the headlines when he was named the Byron Nelson Award winner, an American award, in May 2020.

Phil Healy – Ireland’s fastest woman won three more senior titles in 2020 (100m and 200m outdoor, 200m indoor) and set a new Irish indoor 200m record. (Watch Phil's presentation here)

Darragh McElhinney – The Glengarriff athlete won his first senior men’s national title when racing to 5000m glory at the Irish championships last August. (Watch Darragh's presentation here)

Áine Terry O’Sullivan – The Allihies woman captained the West Cork senior ladies’ football team to their first-ever senior county championship title. (Watch Áine's presentation here)

Claire O’Leary – She skippered the Clonakilty team that won the 2020 county intermediate ladies’ football title. (Watch Clare's presentation here)

Michelle O’Regan – The captain of the Valley Rovers team that won the county junior A football championship received an award.

Siobhan Courtney – Castlehaven’s captain was recognised for her role in their county junior B football championship triumph.

Karyn Keohane – Captain fantastic at full back, she played a crucial role as Courcey Rovers won the club’s first-ever county senior camogie championship crown. (Watch Karyn's presentation here)

Orla Cronin – The Cork forward was the inspiration – and top scorer – behind Enniskeane’s brilliant county intermediate camogie championship success. (Watch Orla's presentation here)

Gavin Coombes – The Skibbereen powerhouse has been a revelation with Munster Rugby this season, winning back-to-back man of the match awards and scoring seven tries in the process.

Lydia Heaphy – The Leap woman, who has come up through the ranks at Skibbereen Rowing Club, won gold at the 2020 U23 European Rowing Championships.

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