Paul Hession named as Ireland’s top athlete at National Athletics Awards – Photos added Olympic heroes past, present and future are honoured at ceremony Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
John Foley, Chief Executive of Waterford Crystal and Liam Hennessy, President of Athletics Ireland made the presentations
Galway’s Paul Hession was named Athlete of the Year at tonight’s National Athletics Awards in Dublin. The awards, in association with Waterford Crystal, took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry and saw 14 awards given out on the night.
Other winners on the note included Eileen O’Keefe who took home the Field Athlete of the Year title. Despite a poor Olympics due to injury, O’Keefe won her eighth National title and had a number of world class throws during 2008. Fionnuala Britton took the Cross Country / Road Athlete of the Year. Another great prospect, Britton will no doubt go from strength to strength and relish the opportunity to compete in the European Cross Country Championships in Dublin in December 2009.
The undoubted highlight was Hession’s award, completing what was a stunning season for the Athenry Athlete. Hession’s performances in Beijing, reaching the semi final of the 200m, confirmed his status as one of the world’s top sprinters. Next year should prove to be exciting as he bids to go one better by making a global final at the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin. Hession also picked up the Track Athlete of the Year.
Brian Gregan, one of athletics bright young hopes for London 2012 was named Junior Athlete of the Year. The Tallaght athlete had a superb season breaking the Irish record and coming fifth in the World Junior Championships, but was unlucky to be later disqualified for a slight lane infringement. He continues the strong tradition that has been built up over the last few years by Irish athletes in the 400m.
The Hall of Fame Award went to “Chairman of the Boards”, Eamonn Coghlan. Coghlan is still the only male Irish athlete to win a World Track title following his 5000m success in Helsinki. One of Ireland’s most famous ever athletes, he is still the only Master athlete to run a sub-four minute mile and is the second member to join the Hall of Fame after Ronnie Delany last year.
Robert Heffernan who has established himself as one of the world’s best in his event in 2008 was named the Race Walker of the Year. Heffernan smashed the Irish 20k record by 53 seconds to become the first Irish man to break the magical 80 minute mark. The Cork athlete followed this up with an 8th place finish in the testing conditions of Beijing at this year’s Olympics and 2009 promises to be another big year for Heffernan.
On a night when Ireland’s Olympic heroes took centre stage there was a memorable award for Pauline Curley. Curley was the fairytale story of the Olympics. A late call up for the 39 year old to the Irish team and a 63rd place Marathon finish in Beijing’s heat and humidity was the highlight of a fantastic career for the Tullamore runner. To honour this outstanding achievement Curley was named the Master Athlete of the Year.
The university award went to Dublin City University, while the Club of the Year was Tir Chonaill from Donegal. There was a special recognition award for Paralympians Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth, while the Lifetime Achievement award was given to Brenda Sinnott from St. Benedict’s AC. Coach of the Year went to Phil Roche from Dooneen AC and the Official of the Year was Tom McCormack.
Liam Hennessy, President of Athletics Ireland; “The National Athletics Awards are critical as they take in the full spectrum of the sport, from high performance right down to the people at grass roots level. It is important for everyone to remember that without those who work voluntarily for the sport then we wouldn’t be able to produce the calibre of athletes we are seeing today. It is fantastic to get all these people in one room to celebrate the sport.”
John Foley, Chief Executive of Waterford Crystal; “We at Waterford Crystal are proud and honoured to be involved with the awards again this year and to be able to celebrate the success of all the winners. These winners will inspire a new generation of athletes to push themselves and likewise the recognition for the volunteers will hopefully encourage more people to support athletics as the sport grows across the country.”
National Athletics Awards with Waterford Crystal
Track Athlete of the Year
Paul Hession – Athenry AC
Field Athlete of the Year
Eileen O’Keefe – Kilkenny City Harriers
Cross Country / Road Athlete of the Year
Fionnuala Britton – Sli Chulainn
Race Walker of the Year
Robert Heffernan – Togher AC
Dublin City University
Lifetime Achievement Award
Breda Synnott – St. Benedict’s AC
Paralympian’s Special Recognition Award
Michael McKillop – St. Malachy’s
Jason Smyth – City of Derry
Club of the Year
Tir Chonaill – Donegal
Coach of the Year
Phil Roche – Dooneen AC
Official of the Year
Tom McCormack – Liffey Valley
Master Athlete of the Year
Pauline Curley – Tullamore Harriers
Junior Athlete of the Year
Brian Gregan – Tallaght AC
Hall of Fame Award
Athlete / Performance of the Year
Paul Hession – Athenry AC