Hurling and camogie

Warm tributes paid on nostalgic final night for Ulster GAA Writers

Ulster GAA Writers award winners for 2019. Picture by Philip Mulligan
Gerry McLaughlin and Tony McGee

And so, the Ulster GAA Writers have partly decommissioned their pens after a very memorable final bash in the Great Northern Hotel, their spiritual home, writes Gerry McLaughlin.

For 32 years, the writers have been honouring excellence in all aspects of Gaelic games in the province of Ulster and not just the brightest stars.

There is hardly a town or village that did not have some connection with the very popular Monthly Merit Awards which have been on-gong since 1988.

So that is 384 monthly awards over that period in Gaelic football, burling, Ladies Football, camogie and handball.

The writers also encouraged County PRO’s to be best they could be, cultural awards, Hall of Fame awards and Services to the GAA Awards.

And the awards were richly valued by all the players and all the others who got these accolades.

At its peak the Writers hosted crowds of up to 500-600 and there were a few colourful episodes over the years, like the time a few trophies were ghosted away only to return by a miracle.

We had some great characters as guests such as the irrepressible John “Tommy Joe” Farrell and the legendary Jim Curran as well as Ulster finest Gaelic sports men and women.

But, overall we're saying Slan to a body that has made its mark and set a template for others to follow and many tributes were paid by top GAA figures like Aoghan O'Fearghail, Oliver Galligan, Brian McEniff, Mickey Harte and Mickey Moran on a night where some marvellous memories of the way we were, were relived in that special spot by by the silvery sea.

And it was perhaps fitting that one of our greatest scribing marksmen and founder member Kevin Hughes gave the crowd his typically irreverent take on the early days when himself and another Dungannon man, Adrian Logan, conceived the idea while driving down the MI.

Kevin and Logie had the chutzpah and cojones to tell the wonderful Brian Houston how lucky that he and Bass would be to hook up with us and throw in a healthy wad of cash to get us off the ground.

“We didn’t have a budget, we just gave Houstie the bills and he paid them,'' said Hughes.

“Tony McGee told me and if there is an honest man in this room then Tony is it.”

If Brian Houston was inspiring, the one and only Tony McGee has been the glue that kept the wheels turning, and one of the funnier episodes of the evening was Kevin producing one of Tony’s famous “hit lists” of those who said they were coming to our bashes and then pulling out.

“But Tony set the template for us all.”

Ex GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail remarked that the Writers work was done as its agenda was now being implemented everywhere.

“The GAA Writers valued everybody equally in the GAA, and that is something we all accept.”

MC John Graham was at his Presidential best, while chairman John Martin reflected on many years of achievement.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte said the Writers Awards were very much cherished in Tyrone over the years and the late great Seamus Horish was recalled.

“They were always very much looked forward to and the Writers created a very special environment for the GAA which was something special to have in the Calendar.

“I know things have changed, but others have taken up that mantle in various other ways.

“Your idea will never be lost, it has just gone on to different places.

“You covered all GAA sports and those who would not normally be in the media got their place in the spotlight and that was much appreciated.

“Many people felt that it was a serious award to get.

“It was a great celebration of great times for Tyrone and Ulster and it is not about tonight, but it is about the memories you made that will never fade.”

Maith thu Mickey.

AFTER the final dinner, the tables are cleared, the dishes washed, the floor swept and the doors closed – closed permanently on the Ulster GAA Writers' Association, writes Tony McGee.

The final annual presentation dinner took place at the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran with the 2019 awards handed out across all spectrum of the GAA, with over 100 guests in attendance, among them Ulster President Oliver Galligan and former GAA President Aogan Farrell.

Fear a Ti John Graham described the occasion as being nostalgic but also as a celebration of the 32 years that the association was existence. Chairman John Martin welcomed the guests while Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan replied on behalf of the guests saying:

“Congratulations to the Ulster GAA Writers in bringing something special to the GAA. A lot has changed since the 1980s and the efforts of those members who kept the association going in those years has to be complimented.

“You inspired young players with something to achieve to.

“It was great to see all codes recognised in the awards.”

Very much in the news recently has been Tyrone Allstar full-forward Cathal McShane and it was a bitter-sweet weekend for the Eoghain Rua clubman.

On Friday night he was named as the Male Footballer of the Year, less than 48 hours before he received a serious injury in Tyrone's NFL battle with Galway.

Illness prevented Termon and Donegal 'striker' Geraldine McLaughlin from attending as for the second time she was named the Female Footballer of the Year. Her trophy was collected by Quinn Building Products Donegal area manager John Joe McGee, who is from a neighbouring Donegal club.

Slaughtneil player Shannon Graham was named the Camogie Player of the Year with her club colleague Gerard Bradley receiving the Hurler of the Year Trophy.

There is no player or manager who has clocked up more miles in his GAA endeavours to help others than Derry man Mickey Moran and for that dedication to the sport he was named the winner of the John McAviney Services to the GAA Award.

The full list of 2019 UGAAWA Awards is: Male Footballer - Cathal McShane (Tyrone); Female Footballer - Geraldine McLaughlin (Donegal); Hurler of the Year - Gerald Bradley (Slaughtneil); Camogie Player of the Year - Shannon Graham (Slaughtneil);

Cormac McAnallen Young Achiever of the Year - Eimear Smyth (Fermanagh); John McAviney Services to the GAA Award - Mickey Moran (Derry); Personality of the Year - Malachy O'Rourke (ex-Monaghan); Team of the Year - St Michael's College Enniskillen (Fermanagh); Club of the Year - Kilcoo (Down); Cultural Award - Omagh St Enda's (Tyrone); Communications Award - Eugene McConnell (Tyrone). Chairman's Award - Kilcoo (Down).

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Hurling and camogie