The sixth annual ESB Electric Ireland Irish Hockey Awards night saw Lisnagarvey take home the main prize as they were named Club of the Year in front of a who’s who of the sport in the Burlington Hotel tonight
’Garvey were standout performers at numerous levels, their firsts and seconds on both men’s and women’s reaching national finals. Their men’s seconds came home with the Junior Cup with the firsts runners-up in the IHL while their women annexed the Irish Hockey Trophy and a final berth in the IJC.
Add in a first Ulster Premier League title in six years, promotion to the women’s top tier and a string of junior league titles, it was a massive year for the Lisburn club. They took the award ahead of strong challenges from Monkstown, Railway Union ladies and Catholic Institute.
Railway ladies’ case was built on double European medals, winning on their maiden trip to an indoor competition in Bratislava, taking gold in the club Champion’s Challenge while bronze was secured on home turf in the outdoor equivalent.
Catholic Institute were Munster’s queen-pins, ending Cork Harlequins’ epic 15-year reign in the league while they showed well in the women’s IHL to suggest they can be contenders in the coming seasons.
The Town broke their long wait for a senior title when they won the Mills Cup on St Patrick’s Day and added a second in quick succession with the Neville Cup last week.
With their women continuing their rapid rise through the divisions and their men’s seconds continuing dominance of Leinster division three, they were strong candidates.
From the Awards, they will console themselves with the Youth Club of the Year title, a feature of the club who are perennial nominees for their work at underage level.
In the player’s awards, David Ames and Emma Smyth took home the Irish Players’ Player of the Year prizes, voted for by their fellow Ireland squad members. ’Garvey eyes were smiling once again as Mark Raphael was honoured with the Men’s Senior Club Player of the Year title, taking the title ahead of Leinster’s Shane O’Donoghue – a senior debutant at just 18 and scoring 34 goals in his first 27 games of the season.
O’Donoghue was also a runner-up in the U-18 section, Irish Senior Cup final star Ian Sloan the recipient after a bumper year at club, interpro and school level.
This included captaining Ireland U-18 Boys to the gold medal at the Home Nations in Cork in July 2010; Ulster U-18 Boys to the silver medal in the UK Schools and his school team to victory in the McCullough and Burney Cups, scoring hat-tricks in both finals.
Gold in the U-18 interpros also came in November, playing an instrumental role in the recovery from a 2-0 deficit in the decider against Leinster.
The coup de grace, though, was his ISC final man of the match performance, scoring twice and creating two as Cookstown won the title for the first time since 1986.
Kate Dillon took the women’s senior equivalent, capping a superb year in which she was a powerhouse in the indoor and outdoor game, providing umpteen goals from midfield.
She got the nod ahead of former internationals Emma Stewart and Elaine Brommell and Loreto up-and-comer Aisling Campion.
Limerick girl Roisin Upton was the U-18 winner. A key member of Catholic Institute’s double-winning team in Munster, she was also providing the backbone of the Crescent Comprehensive side.
In the coaching honours, Michelle Rainey took the top honour for her work double-winning exploits with Pegasus after seven successful years with Ulster and Ireland’s U-16 setup.
Alison McNeill won the U-18 honour, marshalling Ulster U-18s incredible victory in the UK School Games where they got the better of England, Scotland and Wales’ national teams. The province also claimed their third successive interprovincial championship.
Lurgan College were the inaugural School of the Year thanks to their clean sweep of trophies winning the Ulster 1st Schools’ Tournament, the Senior Schools’ Cup, Local leagues Mid-Ulster and league Cups and finishing by winning the All Ireland Kate Russell Competition.
Helen Johnston was a popular winner of the Volunteer of the Year award after many years with her enthusiasm, creative ideas and generosity of time growing stronger each year.
She manages Railway ladies’ first team, was a joint leader of the committee set up to organise the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy that her club hosted and took on the media duties along with her management role on the European indoor trip to Bratislava.
Among other moments, Johnston generated massive publicity for Irish hockey when contacting Irish Times’ columnist Tom Humphries to invite him to the ISC final. He did and wrote a highly positive article in his popular Locker Room column as a result, garnering large national kudos for the sport.
Newbridge were named Developing Club of the Year. They were founded in 1995 and have since grown to fields four adult ladies teams as well as over 150 U-16 members.
From an initial group of only 11 members, the club has grown year on year and had considerable on-field success this season, namely their first team promoted to Division 2 after just a year in division three while their seconds won division six – their fourth successive promotion.
The introduction of an U-16 team also prospered while they were winners of West Leinster Blitz competition U-14, the Leinster U-14C league and the West Leinster Cup.
David Foster took the Umpire of the Year. A Senior Panel umpire for the Ulster Elks for a number of seasons, he was forced into retirement from top flight hockey this season following surgery and illness.
Undaunted, he has been reluctant to give up umpiring and continues to blow whistle for the Elks junior teams every weekend, some weekends covering two games on a Saturday.
International Irish Rugby player Tommy Bowe – brother of women’s international Hannah – and ex-Irish football manager Brian Kerr were among the guest speakers at the Burlington hotel for the 6th running of this event with Darragh Maloney returning as MC.
Four new inductees to the prestigious Hall of Fame were also named including Olympic gold medallist and current chief executive of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Stephen Martin.
Violet McBride, capped 38 times for Ireland and 64 times for Great Britain – and vice-captain in the 1988 Seoul Olympics – is another to enter the Hall. Former Irish internationals, Cookstown man Mark Burns and Hermes’ player Gwen Doherty were also among the latest additions to the prestigious group.
Club of the Year: Lisnagarvey
Youth Club of the Year: Monkstown
Coach of the Year: Michelle Rainey
Developing Club of the Year: Newbridge
School of the Year: Lurgan College
Senior Women’s Player’s Player of the Year: Emma Smyth
Senior Men’s Player’s Player of the Year: David Ames
Senior Female Player of the Year: Kate Dillon
Senior Male Player of the Year: Mark Raphael
U18 Coach of the Year: Alison McNeill
U18 Female Player of Year: Roisin Upton
U18 Male Player of Year: Ian Sloan
Umpire of the Year: Davy Foster
Volunteer of the Year: Helen Johnston
Presidents Award: Peter Jackson