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Saturday, November 1st was the date for our Banquet this year and the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran the venue. This was the 27th Annual event and proved a very successful occasion with plenty of chat, food, awards, music and dancing, refreshments and more chat. Martin McAviney, President of the Ulster Council, was guest of honour. Due to other commitments and Club games being played on the following day there were apologies from a number of people including Liam O’Neill, President of the GAA.
The evening opened with a parade of silverware won by Ulster teams throughout 2014. It was a terrific array of Cups and medals showing the strength of talent in Ulster. This was followed by an Opening Prayer, said by Fr. Brian Darcy, and then a delicious meal, well prepared and well served. After the meal the Chairman of the UGAAWA, John Martin, welcomed all and thanked them for attending. He gave a brief summary of the GAA activity in Ulster during the past year and outlined the rationale behind the selection process for the Awards this year. He then made a presentation to the managers of winning All-Ireland teams. He also spoke of the two charities to benefit from the Ballot which is customarily held at the Banquet. The two to benefit this year were deterMND and The Cormac Trust. He invited on stage Anto Finnegan, who is leading a campaign to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease through the organisation ‘deterMND’, and presented him with the Chairman’s Award for 2014. John expressed appreciation to all the sponsors, who had made the night possible, with a special mention of Belleek Pottery. He also thanked all the members who had attended meetings and worked for the good of the association during 2014.
Martin McAviney, President of the Ulster Council, thanked the UGAAWA for the invite to attend and thanked the members of the association for the work they are doing to promote the GAA in all its aspects. He stressed that the UGAAWA is unique in that it is the only organisation that recognises achievement and presents awards in all sections of the GAA. He looked forward to continued good relations between the Ulster Council and the UGAAWA in order to promote and enhance the sport in Ulster.
Master of Ceremonies for the night was John P Graham. Vice-Chairman of UGAAWA, and he then announced the winners of the various categories and invited the presenter of each to stage. They were as follows: Cultural Award won by Omagh St. Enda’s and presented by UGAAWA member Paddy Hunter; Communications Award won by Dermot McPeake, Derry PRO, and presented by UGAAWA Secretary Peadar McMahon; The Young Achiever of the Year Cormac McAnallen Award came next and this was presented to Johnny Woods, Tyrone, by Brendan McAnallen, the late Cormac’s father. Brendan was asked to inform the audience of the work being done by the Cormac Trust, which is now in its tenth year, and he spoke of the need to find the cause and cure for Sudden death Syndrome and stated that the Trust has invested funds in research to this end. The Camogie Award went to Megan Kerr, Derry, and was presented by UGAAWA assistant secretary, Gerry McLaughlin; the Team of the Year award was won by Donegal Senior Team and the award was presented to Neil McGee by Brendan McAree, of McAree Engineering, Monaghan, who sponsored the award. The Services to the GAA award is included in memory of a great GAA personality and founder member of the UGAAWA, the late John McAviney, and his brother, Martin, President of the Ulster Council, made the presentation to Seamus Woods, Secretary of Ulster Colleges GAA council. Club of the Year, which was brought back this year after an absence of 9 years, was won by Truagh, Monaghan, and the presentation was made by sponsor of the Award, Padraig McEneaney of Celtic Pure Ltd, from Monaghan. The Handball award went to Loughmacrory Club for their major contribution to Handball during 2014 and the presentation was made by Garrett Mallon, from Carlingford Design House for Jewellery. Garret Mallon also makes a presentation of specially designed jewellery to each monthly winner and each of the annual award winners was given a voucher for Carlingford Design House. Colm Gormley, uPVC Products, Clontibret, Monaghan, sponsored the Female Footballer award, which was won by Caroline O’Hanlon, Armagh. Hurler of the Year Award went to Paul Shiels, Antrim, and the presentation was made by Christine O’Donnell, O’Neill’s International Sports. O’Neill’s is also part sponsors of the monthly Award providing personal gear for each monthly winner. Personality of the Year award went to Jim McGuinness, Donegal, but in his absence, the award was collected from UGAAWA member, Chris McNulty, by Donegal Chairman, Sean Dunnion. The Male Footballer of the Year award is always eagerly awaited each year and there was a huge round of applause when Neil McGee was announced as the winner. His award was presented by John Maguire, MD Belleek Pottery and each award winner was presented with a specially produced beautiful Belleek Vase, sponsored by Belleek Pottery. Belleek also sponsored the Monthly Awards with a Belleek Living Vase and have been sponsors since the foundation of the Association. This fact was highlighted by the Chairman in his address and he expressed sincere thanks to John Maguire, Patricia McAuley and Belleek for their generosity. John Maguire stated in reply that Belleek has been delighted to be associated with the UGAAWA and thanked the association for the endorsement of Belleek products over the years. He also thanked all who have purchased Belleek and Galway Crystal, as the company has had a good year gone past due to the support of the people who buy their products.
Later in the evening the Chairman, John Martin, made a presentation of €850 to each of the two beneficiaries, deterMND and Cormac Trust as a result of the Ballot.
‘Itchy Feet’, from Enniskillen, provided the music for the dancing and they were excellent. Some danced, some chatted, some did both and the night continued.
Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to all the sponsors and supporters. The UGAAWA would like to express our appreciation to Brian, Brianóg, Karen and all the staff at the Great Northern Hotel for the excellent service and hospitality afforded to the UGAAWA and patrons on Saturday and Sunday. Also thanks to Itchy Feet for a marvellous job for the dancers.
Official UGAAWA Press Release
Donegal footballers may have lost the All-Ireland Senior final, rather unluckily, to Kerry but their exploits during the year were suitability recognized by the Ulster GAA Writers’ Association at its 27th annual banquet in the Great Northern Hotel, Bundoran.
Tir Connail received a treble of awards with Neil McGee winning the Male Footballer of the Year, Jim McGuinness the Personality of the Year and the Senior Footballers collected the new award of Team of the Year. That hat-trick was matched by Tyrone where the Handball Award went to Loughmacrory, the Cormac McAnallen Young Achiever of the Year winner was Breacach’s multi-talented Johnny Woods, who plays both handball and football, and a new Cultural Award went to Omagh St Enda’s with the members celebrating by beating Crossmaglen Rangers in the Ulster Club FC less than 24 hours later.
‘I wasn’t expecting to win the Footballer of the Year award,’ said Neil McGee, ‘as there were many great performances from other players this year. However, I’m very pleased and thankful to be honoured.’
Neil got the nod for the award ahead of his county colleagues Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh.
The Gweedore man was a major attraction at the banquet as, after the function, dozens of patrons were queuing up to have their pictures taken with the quiet, unassuming Donegal player who, despite being a corner-back, scored more from play than a combined total of all the players he marked in the championship.
Female Footballer of the Year was won by Armagh captain Caroline O’Hanlon while the Hurler of the Year is Antrim’s Paul Shiels and the Camog is Megan Kerr (Derry).
In all, 13 awards were presented with the Chairman’s Award going to ex-Antrim football captain Anto Finnegan, on behalf of the Deter Motor Neuron Disease. Deter Motor Neuron Disease and the Cormac Trust (in memory of the late Cormac McAnallen) shared the banquet charity ballot.
The Award Trophies were sponsored by Belleek Living China while the annual winners also received an award from Carlingford Design House. A number of the individual awards were also sponsored by McAree Engineering Ballinode, Maguire Transport Ballinode, Celtic Pure Ltd., Carrickmacross and Gormley uPVC Products Clontibret.
Prizes for the ballot were provided by Belleek Pottery, O’Neill’s International Sports, Great Northern Hotel, Carlingford Design House, Four Seasons Hotel, Cyril Campbell Electrics, Moy Furniture Store and Concra Wood Golf Club.
Following the Toast to Our Guests by Chairman John Martin, Mairtin Mac Aibhne, Cathaoirleach Comhairle Uladh CLG replied on behalf of the guests.
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