Martin Kiely Column - West honour their stars

Martin Kiely's column can be read first thing every Thursday morning in the print edition of the weekend Limerick Leader
In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely reports on the West Limerick GAA awards.

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely reports on the West Limerick GAA awards.

The grass roots of the GAA gathered in West Limerick last weekend for their annual Sports Stars Awards and it was a superb success as players and dedicated club men of the past were presented with fitting awards before a packed attendance.

The West Board has put a big effort into making this event a major success over the years and in all 24 award winners were announced on the night. We also had two Hall of Fame winners and to me it’s always special to see men who have given so much to clubs as players and officials being honoured for their loyal service. Limerick hurling manager John Allen was the special guest and he was warm in his praise of the West Board and how important it was to honour players but, more importantly, those who have made a major contribution. “It’s always very special to receive awards like you are receiving tonight - as players you have been chosen for your performances during last year and the Hall of Fame winners for giving so much for so long to the GAA The West Board deserves huge credit for holding this function and I hope it continues long into the future”.

The Chairman of the West Board Pat O’Donnell welcomed the large attendance and said it was his pleasant duty to welcome the award winners, “To me the players are the most important asset the G.A.A has and it’s only right that we honour their achievements on the field. I also want to thank John Allen who, with his wife Joan, once again made the effort to travel from Cork. I want to wish John and his team the very best for the remainder of the National League and the championship in June”. He also thanked Pat Heffernan the Vice Chairman of the County Board for attending at short notice. Awards were given out for hurling, football, handball and camogie but the main awards of the night were the Hall of Fame winners and the Chairman’s award which was given out for the first time this year.

The Hall of Fame winner for football was given to Joe Ryan of St Senans, who has given a lifetime of service to the GAA both at club and county. Joe Ryan gave outstanding service to his club and was central to many wins during his playing days. He played minor, U-21 and senior with Limerick. He began playing for his club in 1966 and finished in 1992. He played a huge part in developing underage players in Shanagolden through the National School; he was a teacher in this school and fittingly always made time to allow young boys and girls the chance to express themselves on the field.

Over many years Joe Ryan has been involved at various levels in the club committe and is still involved now as the Club’s PRO. Football has always been a major part of Joe Ryan’s life and it’s great to see him still playing a part with his beloved club. His son Ian has been a key player with the Limerick senior footballers over the past few years. I have had the great pleasure of knowing Joe Ryan for a few years and his love of his club and county are always to the fore. I know few who deserve such an accolade and Joe Ryan is a worthy Hall of Fame winner.

The Hall of Fame winner for hurling was given to Timmy Horgan of Tournafulla. The Horgan family are steeped in the G.A.A and they have made a telling impact for their community. Timmy is at home when it comes to hurling and few can read the game as well as him, he has given huge service as a former player but he has played a key role in the development of the clubs facilities over many years. Timmy Horgan is currently the clubs life president and is still very much involved in raising finance for his club. He started hurling in 1958 and finished in 1990, which gives you a fair idea of this man’s passion for his club. He also served as a selector with the Limerick senior team during the eighties. People like Timmy Horgan have played such an important part in building the GAA and it’s only right that such dedication is acknowledged.

The identity of the Chairman’s award was only announced on the night and Pat O’Donnell kept the attendance in suspense for some time before he revealed who had won the special award. After paying a warm tribute, Tom McLoughlin was named as the winner. The Drom-Broadford man has been one of the all time greats in Limerick club football and Pat O’Donnell said, “I attend more club games than most and I have seen Tom McLoughlin develop into one of the greatest club footballers I have ever seen. He is a role model and a leader and has won every honour in the game. To me he ticks all the boxes and the best way to judge any player is by what he does for his club and in this regard Tom has done it all”.

I have often praised the spirit and leadership of Tom McLoughlin in this page and over the years he has played a key role in so many Drom-Broadford teams.

McLoughlin is a quiet man who has always let his football do the talking but when steel was required this man always was the first to put his shoulder to the wheel.

When Pat O’Donnell announced that McLoughlin was the winner it spurred the large attendance to produce a huge applause. It was a great evening and so many players from clubs big and small were honoured, it was also great to see men like Dave O’Keeffe and Michael O’Donoghue honoured on the night.

Dave O’Keeffe has done it all in GAA, from player to referee to Board Officer and did all of this by showing respect to people. Michael O’Donoghue worked in a quiet way all his life but his hard work in helping to develop the GAA at schools level has left a huge legacy.