Sports Star Awards honour the best in the west and remember the great Paudie Palmer

March 23rd, 2023 9:00 AM

By Martin Walsh

2022 Paudie Palmer Youth Award winner Millie Condon pictured with, from left, Neil Grant (Celtic Ross Hotel), JP McNamara (C103), Helen Wycherley (Celtic Ross Hotel), Brian Cody (special guest) and Kieran McCarthy (Southern Star). (Photo: George Maguire)

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THE 25th annual Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star Awards gala banquet was always going to be different. 

Not because of the obvious and its celebration of sporting excellence and inspiration but of the contribution of one of the awards key figures, the late Paudie Palmer.  Since 1998 he has charted the sporting prowess of so many of our gifted young athletes from West Cork with an infectious enthusiasm and a great admiration of their talents. On the night, every speaker referenced Paudie’s good humour, devilment, and his love of the awards. Everywhere he went he was a magnet of popularity, his untimely passing has robbed a community of a truly great character and friend to everyone. 

The awards have gone from strength to strength and despite world, European and national success, they are most cherished by their recipients as recognition from within their own community and its people.


Ultra-successful rowers Skibbereen’s Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, World and European champions last year, became the first winners to claim back-to-back titles when special guest and Kilkenny hurling legend Brian Cody declared the duo as the 2022 winners.

Just after 11.30pm on the awards night Cody took to the stage to deliver an impromptu speech that could have applied to any walk of life and not specifically about sport. 

After acknowledging the scenic beauty of West Cork, Cody spoke about the longevity of the awards and commended Jerry Wycherley of the Celtic Ross hHotel and everyone involved. 

‘This is a fantastic occasion and shows how vast West Cork is, and see the diversity of the sports that are being honoured tonight,’ he said.

Cody urged the sports stars to ‘Remember the people that gave you the opportunity from the very start to play, enjoy and love your sport. These are the volunteers and should never be forgotten, they deserve great credit.’

Enjoying the 2022 Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards gala banquet on Saturday night were, back from left, Paul O'Donovan, Aoife Casey, Fintan McCarthy, Darragh McElhinney, Rachel Whelton, Fintan Fenner, Alan O'Shea (representing Conor Hayes), Mike Keohane, Averyl Condell and Owen Murphy (representing John Murphy). Front from left, Caroline Collins (representing Mark Collins), Millie Condon (2022 Paudie Palmer Youth Award winner), Hannah Sexton, Kieran McCarthy (sports editor, The Southern Star), Helen Wycherley (Celtic Ross Hotel), Brian Cody (special guest), Neil Grant (Celtic Ross Hotel), JP McNamara (C103), Gearoid Wycherley (Celtic Ross Hotel), Siobhan Courtney, Saoirse McCarthy and Libby Coppinger.


In a wide-ranging address the Kilkenny legend revealed that while strength and conditioning matters, he fears people’s love of their sport is going to be lost. 

‘To lose the skill of all the various sports because of science sports, I worry about that,’ he admitted.

Cody had words of wisdom for team sports. 

‘The key to success in team sports is to have a terrific spirit within your team, a great bond, togetherness, desire with everyone moving forward together; when you have that you have just about everything. A savage spirit that cannot be broken,’ he stressed. 

Speaking on the importance of humility and never getting carried away with one’s achievements, Cody referenced Paul O’Donovan as a prime example. 

‘He brushes it (success) off and gets on with it,’ he said.

Cody also urged sportspeople, ‘Be the best you can be, but never consider that you are the best you can be. Stay hungry for success and always look for that bit more. The only constant in everything is change. Banish ego. Ego kills spirit.’

Before revealing the 2022 award winners he commented about defeat. 

‘If you start making excuses, you won’t get the success you want.’ 

Earlier in the evening both Gearoid and Helen Wycherley of the Celtic Ross Hotel spoke about the tremendous success of the awards and the vision of all involved. Former editor of The Southern Star Con Downing chronicled the history of the awards since their inception in 1998 before he was presented with an award to honour his contribution. Official photographer George Maguire, who retired from the role after this year’s celebrations, was also honoured. 

Castlehaven joint captains Siobhan Courtney and Rachel Whelton, 2022 West Cork Sports Star Team of the Year, pictured with Neil Grant (Celtic Ross Hotel), Brian Cody (special guest) and Helen Wycherley (Celtic Ross Hotel).


Popular Celtic Ross Hotel manager Neil Grant also addressed the gathering during the banquet as did C103 presenter/producer JP McNamara.

At the outset, sports editor of The Southern Star Kieran McCarthy introduced all the monthly winners, some of whom were represented by a family member. 

The re-named West Cork Sports Star Paudie Palmer Youth award was presented to Millie Condon, the Ballinascarthy teenager who won three All-Ireland titles last year. 

At various intervals during the evening, Kieran McCarthy announced the Skibbereen Rugby Club as the 2022 West Cork Sports Star Team of the Year. ‘Three trophies for a team that is putting women’s rugby on the map and in Skibbereen and West Cork. They are also building deep foundations for years to come, a great success story, on and off the field,’ he said.  In her acceptance speech, team captain Averyl Condell encouraged (somewhat tongue in cheek) the Castlehaven GAA ladies team, who received a special achievement award, to join the club!

The presentation of the Hall of Fame Award saw the first ever overall winner of Celtic Ross Hotel West Cork Sports Star Award, Gretta Cormican, become the latest inductee. Akin to her description of that maiden honour, she said ‘Another Oscar.’

Colette Palmer and her extended family were the very special guests at the banquet. It was a special night that honoured so many exceptional people and remembered one very special man.

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