WBO middleweight champion of the world Andy Lee has been named as Limerick’s Person of the Year for 2014 at a ceremony today, in which rugby legend Tony Ward was also made an honorary Limerickman.
The 30 year old Castleconnell man, who won the world title following a sensational victory over Russia’s Matt Korobov in Las Vegas in December, said the Limerick award was “mind blowing”.
Speaking via video from Monaco, where he is training for his next fight, Lee said of the Person of the Year award, which was accepted by his mother Ann:
“I am absolutely delighted to win this award. To be named Limerick Person of the Year really is mind blowing and I would like to congratulate the other nominees and wish them all the best in the future.
“Thank you all for your support and again, this award means a lot to me - I know my mother is there, so she will be enjoying it and I will see you all soon, hopefully back in Limerick after a successful defence of my fight,” he added.
Lee was chosen from among the 12 nominees who were voted Limerick Person of the Month in 2014, all of whom have made great contributions to Limerick life over the past year.
The awards, sponsored by the Limerick Leader, media agency Southern and the Clarion Hotel, are now in their 14th year and took place this Thursday in the Clarion. Last year’s winner was author Castletroy-based Donal Ryan, whose debut novel The Spinning Heart won numerous literary awards.
Castleconnell southpaw Lee was nominated alongside 11 other outstanding Limerick individuals and organisations including John Hartnett of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, jockey Robbie McNamara, the All-Ireland winning Limerick camogie team, actor and playwright Myles Breen, Shannon Airport Chair Rose Hynes and the Limerick City of Culture team.
The awards were established to honour the achievements and success of local people. Past winners include philanthropist JP McManus, rugby star Paul O’Connell, author Donal Ryan, transatlantic rower Paul Gleeson and Thomond Park developer Pat Whelan.
Forty years after he first wore the red jersey of Munster, the Dublin-born Tony Ward was presented with a framed certificate confirming him as an honorary Limerick.
It recognised “the joy he has brought to the people of Sporting Limerick”, as a rugby player for Garryowen, Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions and a skilful soccer player with Limerick United. It also saluted his work as a rugby commentator and journalist.
In accepting the honour, Tony said that the “vast majority of the people he meets” automatically assume he was born and reared in Limerick, such is the nature of his relationship with the city where he spent the “happiest years” of his life.
This year’s Limerick Person of the Year judging panel consisted of Alan English, Limerick Leader Editor; Conn Murray, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council; and Cllr. Kevin Sheahan, Mayor of Limerick City and County.
Mayor Sheahan paid tribute to Andy Lee’s “incredible achievement” and described him as a “worthy recipient” of the prestigious award.
“The people of Limerick and Ireland have closely followed Andy’s boxing career and are immensely proud of his achievements. Andy’s world title success means he joins an elite group of Irish boxers who have each won a world title,” he said.
Limerick Leader editor Alan English said the award scheme was a “wonderful mechanism for the people of Limerick to show their appreciation of those who have helped to showcase the city and county in the best possible light at local, national and international level”.
“The Limerick Leader was delighted to have been able to feature the 12 winners of the Limerick Person of the Month Awards and Andy is a worthy winner for his extraordinary achievements in becoming a world champion,” he added.
For more on this story, see the print editions of the Limerick Leader next week.