In its second year, the annual Canoeing Ireland Awards set out again to recognise the outstanding athletes, volunteers and events that make paddle sports what it is in Ireland. And at the end of what was a historic and exceptional season of competition in 2019 there were no shortage of performances to recognise, or volunteers to thank for making these performances possible.
The event, held last Saturday evening in the Lucan Spa Hotel, ran beautifully, credit to the organizing committee. The night got underway with an address from the CEO, Moira Aston, thanking all involved in paddlesports for their exemplary commitment to the sport, recognising the incredible achievements of Patrick O’Leary and Liam Jegou as our 2020 Olympians, and outlining a bright future for Canoeing Ireland. Immediately following this was a surprise medal presentation to the Irish Paddlesurf team, bronze medal winners at the World Championships. Having their medals presented at the awards night made for an excellent start to the awards and a fitting celebration of their great performance. Then, the awards themselves.
There were plenty of awards up for grabs, with each discipline of canoe sprint, canoe slalom, freestyle, marathon, polo and paddlesurf nominating their own respective athletes of the year, in male and female, junior and senior. Along with these were the major awards, of community impact award, event of the year and volunteer of the year. First up were the freestyle awards, with David McClure most notably winning Senior Male of the Year for his 5th place finish at the freestyle World Championships in Spain. Next up were the marathon awards, a discipline where Ireland has historically had a lot of success, with 2019 being no different. Peter Egan was awarded Senior Male Athlete of the Year for winning the Masters marathon World Championships, Jenny Egan won Senior Female Athlete of the Year, continuing to be one of Canoeing Irelands most outstanding athletes, and Matthew McCartney being presented with the Junior Male Athlete of the Year for his double bronze medal winning performances at the marathon World Cup event in Norway. On the team sport side of things the polo players of the year were announced, with Ciara Gurhy and Oisin McKay winning players of the year. This heralding in the fantastic development in the next generation of polo players in Ireland, and continuing the vibrant polo leagues in Ireland.
On the Olympic side of things Liam Jegou was awarded with Senior Slalom Athlete of the Year, for his bronze medal at the U23 World Championships, as well as being Ireland’s representative at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. There were no shortage of nominees for the slalom athlete of the year with the canoe slalom team enjoying a year full of breakout performances from so many of their athletes, announcing a maturing of what was a relatively young team.
Attendees were also treated to a rousing key note speech, delivered by the CEO of Paralympics Ireland Miriam Malone. With the room taking particular lessons about the relationships and commitments which push Paralympic sport onwards.
Staying in the Olympic disciplines Jenny Egan was awarded with Senior Female Sprint Athlete of the Year for the two medals won in the 5000m across the World Cup races in Poznan, Poland, and Duisburg Germany. Patrick O’Leary was honoured with the Senior Male Athlete of the Year in sprint for his 5th place finish at the Para Canoe World Championships in VL3 200m, which also qualified him for his second Paralympic Games.
Aoibhin Ni Bhroin, Darragh Clarke and Odrahn McNally cleared the table for the Wild water racing awards, clearing he path for the well contested Paddlesurf awards, brimming with nominations from Irelands 3rd place finish at the worlds. With Megan Gamble winning Junior Female of the Year, a cherry on top of her also winning the 2019 Junior World Championships in Paddlesurf. With consistent performer Aisling Griffin winning Senior Female athlete of the Year.
Another highlight of the evening was the awarding of a special achievement award to Oisin Feery for winning a gold and bronze medal at the 2019 Special Olympics. Special guest Karen Coventry from Special Olympics Ireland also ensured the attendees knew the depth of Oisin’s commitment to his sport, and how much sport has helping him grow, in her few words celebrating Oisin’s achievements. In a year with so many remarkable achievements there were more standouts still, with Robert Hendricks historic 11th place at the World Championships also receiving as special achievement award. With this performance being doubly momentous with it also qualifying Ireland for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The awards finished up with the big 3, the Community Impact Award, Event of the Year, Team of the Year, and the prestigious Volunteer of the Year. The Community impact award was awarded to the Mahon Cup, a women’s Canoe polo introductory session and competition, with proceeds going to aid Breast Cancer Ireland.
Event of the Year was again well contested, with the list of nominees stretching the length of the river Shannon, apt with the Meelick Riverfest winning Event of the Year. Also nominated were – Junior Liffey Decent, Liffey Decent, Paddlefest, Meelick Riverfest, Intervarsities, Paddles Up, Galwayfest, Cranafest, Overload and K2 National Championships.
Also decided by popular vote, the Team of the Year was won by the U21 Ladies Canoe Polo Team.
Which brought the evening to potentially the most prestigious award, the volunteer of the year. In recognition of those without whom our sport wouldn’t be what it is today, giving up their time for nothing but their passion to see the sport succeed. With all the nominees being worthy of awards themselves the winner was ultimately Tom Egan, being recognised for his decades of volunteer work in the background of sprint and marathon, presiding over some of the most momentous results and performances in recent history for Canoeing Ireland. In addition, Tom’s own club, Salmon Leap, awarded him with a special recognition award for his long years of service to his club. Marking a touching end to the awards evening. The night closed out with the award winners and gathered supporters making good use of the DJ and their own questionable dancing ability.
A massive thanks must go out to the organising committee of Jon Mackey, Aisling Conlan, Fiona Kelly and Sam Curtis. And another thanks to all that attended, bringing energy and emotion to the event and making it a night to remember, and to look forward to for next year.
Full list of award winners-
Kayaking.ie Volunteer of the Year – Tom Egan
Community Impact of the Year – Mahon Cup
Event of the Year – Meelick Riverfest
Team of the Year – U21 Ladies Canoe Polo
Special Achievement – Oisin Feery
Special Achievement – Robert Hendrick
Freestyle Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – David McClure
Freestyle Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Female – Aoife Hanrahan
Freestyle Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Male – Daragh McConvey
Freestyle Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Female – Emma Doyle
Marathon Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – Peter Egan
Marathon Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Male – Matt McCartney
Marathon Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Female – Jennifer Egan
Marathon Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Female – Éabha Ní Drisceoil
Canoe Polo Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – Oisin McKay
Canoe Polo Player of the Year 2019 – Senior Female – Ciara Gurhy
Canoe Slalom Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – Liam Jegou
Canoe Slalom Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Male – Ethan Dowling
Canoe Sprint Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – Patrick O’Leary
Canoe Sprint Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Male – Matt McCartney
Canoe Sprint Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Female – Jennifer Egan
Canoe Sprint Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Female – Éabha Ní Drisceoil
Paddle Surf Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Male – Michael Barry
Paddle Surf Paddler of the Year 2019 – Senior Female – Aisling Griffin
Paddle Surf Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Male – Robbie O’Driscol
Paddle Surf Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Female – Megan Gamble
Wild Water Racing Paddler of the Year 2019 – Male Kayak – Odhran McNally
Wild Water Racing Paddler of the Year 2019 – Male Canoe – Darragh Clarke
Wild Water Racing Paddler of the Year 2019 – Junior Female – Aoibhin Ni Bhroin