Jack Cahalane and Brian Hayes getting their monthly award.

Stars to be honoured at 2021 gala banquet night

It’s a bit later than planned but on Friday night we will finally be in a position to honour the 2021 96FM/C103 Monthly Sports Star winners when the Gala Banquet will take place in the Rochestown Park Hotel.

I’m delighted also to confirm that the guest of honour on the night will be An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, in fact over the years Micheál has been a great supporter of this event and a regular attendee and despite his very busy schedule, it is with pleasure we will welcome him this year as Taoiseach.

This will be the 17th overall awards banquet as like most events it did not take place last year, so this year’s dinner is a combination of winners from late 2020 and 2021 when action finally resumed.

So let’s take a look at the 13 contenders for the overall award:


Tadgh Deasy - St Michaels

Tadgh played a key role as St Michaels went on to win the County Under 21 football title after a thrilling campaign in which he contributed some crucial and match winning scores.


Tracey Kennedy - Cork County Board

Tracey was honoured in recognition of becoming the first female to hold the position of Chairperson of the Cork County Board having previously served as PRO and vice-chair, she is currently the Cork representative on the GAA’s Central Council.


Alan Connolly - Blackrock

In a campaign that was played mostly behind closed doors the ‘Rockies won a thrilling county championship culminating in an extra-time final win over their great rivals Glen Rovers. Along the way goals from Alan were key to Blackrock winning their 32nd county title.

Alan went on to win an All-Ireland under 20 medal with Cork.


Shane Barrett - Blarney

After an exciting championship campaign, Blarney were crowned champions with Shane a key player throughout contributing some crucial and match winning scores, and to crown a memorable year, Shane won an All-Ireland under 20 medal as Cork were crowned champions.


Hannah Looney - Cork Camogie and Ladies Football

An exciting dual star as both Cork teams made progress in their respective league campaigns and while ultimate honours eluded them, Hannah was an instrumental player all season. In fact she scored one of the Ladies Football goals of the year in a thriller with Dublin in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.


John Cooper - Eire Og Hurling and Football

A month which this famous club will never forget as they completed a remarkable double with John pivotal to both wins.

In football they beat Mallow in the Senior A final to secure a place in the Premier Championship for the very first time and in hurling they see off neighbours Aghabullogue to win the Intermediate Hurling Championship.


Jach Cahalane and Brian Hayes - Cork Under 20 hurling and football

What a few weeks for this talented duo; in football old rivals Kerry are beaten in a thrilling semi-final before the title is secured with a win over Tipperary in the final. Jack gets a vital goal while Brian captains the side to victory.

In hurling they collect Munster and All-Ireland medals. In fact they win two as the 2020 and 2021 titles are won in quick succession, for Brian the medals kept on coming as the ‘Barr’s were crowned Cork and Munster football champions.


Padraig Power - Cork Under 20 hurling

Having already tasted success with his club Blarney, Padraig’s rich vein of form continued as Cork collected the 2021 All-Ireland Under 20 hurling title and scored a cracking goal, now a member of the Cork senior panel.


Paul Kerrigan - Nemo Rangers

The delayed county final saw Nemo at their best as they win their 22nd title, and in the process Paul gave an outstanding display and was named player of the match while winning his 9th county medal.

Paul was also winning his second monthly award having previously been honoured for his part as Cork were crowned D1 National Football League champions in 2011.


Ciaran Joyce - Castlemartyr

A memorable month for the East Cork club and for Ciaran who earlier was part of the winning Cork Under 20 hurling team, now he excelled as Castlemartyr won the delayed 2020 Lower Intermediate hurling title and within a short few weeks were celebrating again as they were crowned Intermediate A champions with Ciaran pivotal in both wins.


Ross O’Regan - Midleton

The East Cork club won a number of thrilling wins en route to a final meeting with Glen Rovers, where a superb first half laid the foundations for Midleton to land the Sean Og Murphy Cup for the first time since 2013.

In the decider Ross gave an exhibition of point scoring hitting 0-4 from play as the Magpies prevailed in a thrilling finish.


John Kerin’s - St Finbarr’s

Another title for the famed Blues in a campaign that was filled with drama not least their semi-final win over Castlehaven and like last year it went to penalties.

This time around, Barr’s triumphed with John first saving the last ‘Haven penalty and then hitting the winner to reach the decider.

Another West Cork side were waiting but once again St Finbarr’s show their resolve to bring the Andy Scannell Cup to Togher for the 10th time.

So there’s the list of recipients and picking the overall winner will not be easy given the quality all displayed throughout the strangest of seasons.

Previous winners include Patrick Horgan, Anthony Nash, Aoife Murray, Orla Cotter, Aidan Walsh and Niall McCarthy while the last winner in 2019 was Douglas and Cork footballer Brian Hartnett.

Two other awards will be presented on the night.

The Kieran O’Driscoll Award honours a young and upcoming player and again the choice is varied given the success Cork teams enjoyed last year.

Who will join Brian Turnbull, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Anthony Casey on the roll of honour along with the last recipient: Clyda Rovers and Cork minor footballer Conor Corbett.

The third award has proved to be a very popular one since it was first introduced some years ago. The Donal Lehane Distinguished Career Award honours a former player and it also acknowledges the late Donal who was a wonderful supporter of these award as are the Lehane family in general whose continued support makes these monthly awards so special.

Previous winners reads like a who’s who of Cork GAA, Gerald and Charlie McCarthy, Tomás Mulcahy, Larry Tompkins, Brian Murphy, Tom Cashman, Johnny Crowley and John Coleman, with the great Tim Crowley the most recent inductee into our own ‘Hall Of Fame’.

It promises to be a great night and while we all missed out last year, it is only fitting that the players and clubs who lit up the gloomy months of lockdown and restrictions are rightly acknowledged for the part they played in lifting our spirits.

In advance, my thanks to all who helped make it possible not least the monthly winners whose patience was greatly appreciated, to my colleagues in 96FM/C103 for their continued work in preparing for Friday on so many fronts.

Finally to the management and staff of the Rochestown Park Hotel, in particular Tom Tobin whose support and welcome every month makes it such a pleasure to be there.

Of course with everything back on track, the 2022 awards are up and running and the first three months winners have been presented so we can all look forward to the banquet returning to its normal date in January 2023.

On the field

Just two games down for decision this weekend as the Cork senior hurlers have a bye in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship as they come to terms with the events in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday, a chance to re-group and re-access ahead of their must-win clash with Clare in Thurles on Sunday week.

On Monday next in Austin Stack Park Tralee, old rivals Cork and Kerry meet in the Eirgrid Munster Under 20 football final at 7.30pm.

Both had good wins in their respective semi-final wins over Limerick and Clare.

Cork won their game with a very efficient first half display into the strong wind as they lead 0-6 to 0-4 at the break, early second half goals by Hugh Murphy and Ryan O’Donovan - vhe finished with 1-6 - put them in a comfortable position.

There’s a nice balance to the team; Darragh Cashman and Neil Lordan were solid in defence while the midfield pairing of Keelan Scannell and Alan Walsh laid the foundations with quality ball to a lively attack.

Kerry struggled for a while in Milltown-Malbay against Clare but eventually put enough scores together to ease into the final with Kevin Goulding and Cillian Burke very impressive.

Cork are the holders and will be very determined to retain the title a tough ask especially in Tralee but it is one they are well capable of winning.

In camogie Cork will get to play Waterford in the Munster Senior Championship in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday at 3pm, it’s a game they will be expected to win and set them up nicely for the upcoming final almost certainly against Tipperary along with the All-Ireland Championship which gets underway in May, with ironically Waterford one of the teams in the group.

Congrats also to the Intermediate team who were crowned Munster champions by beating Kerry in the curtain-raiser last Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.