Looking back on the year of Sport, RTÉ remembers those who have sadly passed this year
Belfast boxer Michael Conlan has been named the RTÉ Sport Person of the Year, after he became the first ever Irish World Championship boxing champion after winning bantamweight gold in Doha, Qatar in October.
The annual awards held last weekend looked back on a year in Irish sport, as well as paying tribute to those who have passed away in the past twelve years.
Conlon, 24, is also a European and Commonwealth champion and will be looking to complete the set with Olympic gold in Rio in 2016. Portadown native Michael O’Neill claimed the Manager of the Year category following Northern Ireland’s qualification campaign for Euro2016. The team topped their group and reached their first ever European Championships, topping their group in the process.
Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin was inducted to the RTÉ/Sport Ireland Hall of Fame after calling time on his career with ten All Ireland senior titles and 11 All Star awards under his belt. The public voted Dundalk as the RTÉ Sport Team of the Year after they won the SSE Airtricity Premier Division and FAI Cup. The broadcast also paid tribute to those who passed away this year, as follows:
• Dave Billings – Dublin A stalwart who was senior football selector under two consecutive managers – Tommy Lyons and Paul Caffrey. Formerly a dual player, manager, selector and county board delegate and worked with various county teams as well as St Vincent’s and UCD.
• Niall O’Shaughnessy – Athletics Niall belonged to a group of Irish middle distance runners of the 70s who set the tone for the glory days of the 80s; achieving a World Record for the 4 X 1 mile relay set in Dublin in 1985. That time of 15:49.99 still stands. The following year, Ireland had 8 active milers who had run 3:55 or faster.
• John Joe Nerney – Roscommon One of the stars of Roscommon’s famous All- Ireland winning teams of 1943 and ’44. He lined out at left corner forward for the 1944 All- Ireland final victory over Kerry, having been a substitute the previous year when Cavan were beaten following a replay.
• Charlie Cahill – former FAI president President of the FAI from 1978 to 1980 and subsequently became Honorary Life President of the Football Association of Ireland. Charlie served on FAI Senior Council from 1966 to 2004 and was Chairman of the Leinster Senior League from 1969 until 2009. When he took over at the helm, the Leinster Senior League consisted of two intermediate divisions and three knock out cups. When he stepped down, it boasted four intermediate division, 18 junior divisions and 16 knockout cups. In 1992, the Charlie Cahill Cup was inaugurated in his honour to mark 25 years of service to the Leinster Senior League.
• Jim Nelson – Antrim GAA The well-respected manager took over the Antrim senior hurling team in 1987 and led them to the All-Ireland final two years later. Under his guidance Antrim spent eight years in Division one of the National League.
• Fionan Fagan – Soccer The former winger scored 35 goals in 165 appearances for Manchester City and represented the Republic of Ireland at international level. He was a key man in the “Revie Plan” team that reached successive FA Cup finals in 1955 and 1956.
• Bobby Gilbert – Soccer Bobby played in the forward line of the Shamrocks Rovers team of the mid 1960s having joined in 1965 following a brief spell with Derry City in the Irish League. Ringsend born Bobby was a younger brother of Jim who had played for Shamrock Rovers during the late 1940s. He earned one international cap.
• Darragh Doherty – Mayo GAA Promising young footballer who died in a car crash aged just 19 this summer. The All-Ireland medal winner with the Mayo Minor team, brought the Tom Markham Cup back to Mayo in 2013. Darragh played an integral role in the win, scoring a goal and two points in the final. The young man also played locally with Kilmaine GAA.
• Eddie Connolly – Tipperary Loughmore-Castleiney club man Connolly represented his club and county at all grades of hurling and football, and captained Tipperary to the All- Ireland intermediate hurling title in 2012. In late 2013, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and lost his fight against the disease in September.
• Stephen Melia – Louth GAA Holder of a record 179 appearances for the county, in a senior career that spanned three decades from 1984 until 2001, as both centrefielder and central defender he captained the county to success in the 2000 NFL Division Two final against Offaly. He represented Leinster in the Railway Cup on many occasions, and served as a selector with Paddy Clarke before stepping down after the 2001 defeat to Westmeath.
• Dan O’Neill Louth and Mayo A footballer who played with both counties, a native of Castlebar, O’Neill won a National League medal at left full-forward with Mayo in 1954 and a Connacht medal at fullforward a year later. A member of An Garda Siochana, he later transferred to Louth after a row over expenses.
• Pat Dunne – Soccer Dunne played for Everton and Shamrock Rovers before joining Manchester United and won the English League First Division title in his first season and then won Player of the Year at Plymouth Argyle in 1968 after his first season there. He made 45 appearances for United and 152 for Plymouth Argyle before returning to Shamrock Rovers in 1970. He won five caps for Ireland.
• Johnny Fullam – Soccer Fullam was a former Republic of Ireland international, who won 11 caps, and record eighttime FAI cup winner. The Dubliner started his professional football career with Preston North End in 1958 before joining Shamrock Rovers in 1961, where he won seven FAI Cups, including six in a row from 1964-69, and a League of Ireland title over two spells with the club.
• Jim McCarthy – Rugby McCarthy played 28 times for Ireland, was a member of the Grand Slam winning side of 1948 and toured with the highly-successful Lions in New Zealand and Australia in 1950. Best remembered for the try he scored against Wales at St Helens, Swansea, in 1949 that enabled Ireland to win a second successive Triple Crown.
• Johnny Fortune – Rugby The Balbriggan native was the first Irish international to score a try against the All Blacks back in 1963.
• Michael O’Flanagan – Soccer and Rugby He received one cap in both soccer and rugby and was one of the last survivors of the Grand Slam-winning Irish rugby team of 1948, which wasn’t repeated until 2009. In a Leinster Senior Cup Final against Grangegorman, Michael scored six goals for Bohs in an 11-0 victory.
• Tommy Dunne – Soccer The son of an ex-Arsenal player the former Republic of Ireland international won back to back league titles after signing with St Patrick’s Athletic from Shamrock Rovers and later captained the side to two FAI cups.
• Jim Bennett – Kilkenny GAA The former St Gabriel’s of London player played at right corner-forward for Kilkenny, making his debut at 21. Bennett subsequently became a regular member of the starting fifteen and won one All-Ireland medal, one Leinster medal and one National Hurling League medal. He was an All-Ireland runner-up on one occasion.
• Claus Dunne – Kilkenny Two-time All Ireland medal holder, after making senior debut during 1964 league.He won two Leinster medals and one National Hurling League medal and was an All-Ireland runner-up on two occasions. As a member of the Leinster inter-provincial team, he won one Railway Cup medal and was a one-time championship medallist with Mooncoin. Dunne made 12 championship appearances. He retired from inter-county hurling following the conclusion of the1973 championship.
• Peter O’Sullevan – Racing commentator Covered horse racing for BBC for 50 years and was known as the ‘Voice of Racing’ after covering over 14,000 races. Stand out moments in his career include Red Rum’s third Grand National success in 1977,Dawn Run’s Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1986 and Desert Orchid’s win in the same race in 1989.
• Tony Reddin – Tipperary Tony Reddin was a Galway native who established a reputation with Tipperary as a legendary hurling goalkeeper, whose brilliance was recognised in his selection in the GAA’s ‘Team of the Century’ and then in the ‘Team of the Millennium.’
• Fr Ray Reidy – Tipperary Fr. Ray was a hurling wing back, winning a senior All-Ireland medal with Tipperary in 1958. He also played centre back on the Tipperary minor hurling teams for three years and was captain in 1955 when they won the All-Ireland championship. He also made a notable contribution to the golden era of the Thurles Sarsfields club in the late 1950s and early 60s.
• Ray Treacy – Soccer The popular Dubliner won 42 caps for his country between 1966 and 1979 and later went management in the League of Ireland where the highlight was delivering title success to Shamrock Rovers in 1994. Treacy established his own travel agency in 1978 which later became the official partner of the FAI and organised trips for both the Irish team and travelling supporters.
• Billy O’Neill – Galway The Cork native and well known Army man was on the All Ireland winning Galway football team of 1956 and also played for the Galway hurlers throughout the ’50s, including the All Ireland final of 1958.
• Pat Eddery – Horse Racing The legendary 11-times champion jockey claimed four Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes and won over 4,600 races before his retirement in 2003.
• Jimmy Doyle – Tipperary Doyle won six All-Ireland senior hurling titles, nine Munster, seven league and ten county titles with Thurles Sarsfields. He was one of only four players to twice captain their county to the Liam MacCarthy Cup and one of four to have captained All-Ireland winning minor and senior teams. The only hurler to have played in four minor finals and one of two to have won three All-Ireland minor medals.
• Kieran O’Connell – Racing Journalist The tipster ‘king’ from Dublin made a name for himself reporting on horse racing and in recent years raised over €130000 for racing charities.
• Aaron Devlin – Derry GAA The 23-year-old inter-county footballer sadly passed away after contracting meningitis in July.
• Michael O’Brien – Meath GAA Played both football and hurling, and was a legendary corner back in football and collected coveted Celtic Crosses in 1949 and 1954.
• Cecil Ross – Horse Racing Trainer The Westmeath dual-purpose trainer was well-known for his handling of Six Of Hearts, who won nine races, including the 2010 Ballycorus Stakes at Leopardstown.
• Clem Magnier – Horse Racing Trainer The Cork native had a successful training career with big race wins on both the flat and over jumps.
• Johnny Lyons – Broadcaster 98FM presenter on popular Now That’s What I Call Sport show and was a familiar voice to Premier League fans following his stint on Today FM’s Premier League Live.
• Martin Colfer – Soccer A Republic of Ireland international, who played with Shelbourne for seven seasons in the 1950s. He was capped twice, won seven inter-League caps, and won a League medal with Shelbourne in the 1952-53 season. He was also on the Shelbourne teams which lost in the 1949 and 1951 FAI Cup finals.
• Bill O’Herlihy – Broadcaster The Cork man passed away a year after retiring, at the end of the 2014 World Cup, after a 49- year broadcasting career.
• Fr Tommy Maher – He led Kilkenny to seven All- Ireland titles in 1957-’63-’67-’69-’72-’74-’75. They won 13 Leinster titles in the same period. The All- Ireland haul was made all the more remarkable by the fact that they followed a fallow period for Kilkenny, which yielded only one All-Ireland between 1939 and 1957. And those who we lost here in the UK; Nora Grealish, a member of St Gabriel’s hurling club since its establishment and devoted GAA supporter, Tom O’Connor, Moindearg member and in later years Tir Chonaill Gaels, the Limerick man was a regular fixture at London’s Ruislip grounds, and Tommy Dorgan, Tipperary native and former chairman of Clann na Gaels.