Mark Sheehan, Chairman County Board; An Taoiseach Micheal Martin; Darragh O’Sullivan, Young Player and Finbarr McCarthy, Cork 96FM/C103.

Brian wins major award

Finbarr McCarthy

In a year during which he won back to back Munster and All-Ireland Under 20 hurling medals, captained Cork to the Munster Under 20 football title and finished the season by capturing County Senior and Munster club medals with his club St Finbarr’s, it was no real surprise Brian Hayes was named the overall winner of the 2021 96FM/C103 GAA Sports Star award in association with the Rochestown Park Hotel.

Brian was surprised but delighted to be chosen as he was presented with his award by guest of honour An Taoiseach Micheál Martin last Friday before a large attendance in the Rochestown Park Hotel.

“I am shocked but delighted to be named; it has been a great year and we had some outstanding wins in both codes and with the ‘Barrs winning as well, it was extra special.”

As for balancing both codes, Brian was fulsome in his raise for the Cork under 20 coaches. “They were brilliant and the manner in which they carefully managed our schedule made it really easy for myself and the lads involved.”

Brian held off stiff competition to claim the Sports Star of the Year award and join a list of previous winners such as Brian Hartnett, Patrick Horgan, and Aidan Walsh.

The Donal Lehane Distinguished Career award went to former Cork and Midleton hurler Ger Fitzgerald who had a wonderful career winning Cork, Munster and All-Ireland club titles while in the red of Cork, he added National League and Oireachtas medals to his collection.

Upon retiring he has immersed himself in coaching with Cork and more recently was manager as Midleton were crowned the 2021 County Senior Hurling Champions.

Ger was thrilled to be chosen: “It’s a huge honour and with so many great players in this county, I feel really proud to joining the list of previous winners”.

A number of them - Johnny Crowley, Charlie McCarthy, Tom Cashman and John Coleman were present on the night, as was Ger’s father Paddy who was on the All-Ireland winning team of 1966.

Darragh O’Sullivan was the recipient of the Kieran O’Driscoll Youth Award, this was presented by 96FM’s Kieran McGeary. The Ballinhassig player was outstanding as Cork cruised to the Munster and All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship wins.

As well as his ability as a defender, Darragh clipped over a number of quality points, was named player of the match in the Munster Final and was selected on the Electric Ireland Minor Hurling team of the year.

In his address, Micheál Martin who was relaxed and in good form, praised the GAA for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic: “It was as I would only have expected from an association that is at the heart of every community the length and breadth of the country.”

“The excellent coverage 96FM/C103 give to sport and in particular gaelic games is top class and the promotion of these awards is also a wonderful commitment as is the support that the Rochestown Park Hotel give to so many organisations in our county.”

In congratulating all the nominees, he said “you all in your chosen code continue to excel and looking at the age profile of the winners, I can say that there is a very bright future ahead for you all.”

An Taosieach added: “Ger Fitzgerald has rendered Cork and Midleton outstanding service on the field and continues to do that in a coaching role with his club, while Darragh O’Sullivan showed during Cork’s winning run what an exceptional player he is and has many more good days to come.”

County Board Chairman Marc Sheehan also spoke and paid tribute to all involved in these awards.

This was the 17th gala banquet and already the 2022 awards are up and running, while the 18th overall award will be presented on 3 February next year as the end of year event returns to its familiar pre-season date.