TOP MAN?Alan Dillon is pictured with the Willie McNeela Perpetual Trophy after being named Club Stars Mayo ‘Senior Player of the Year’ last Saturday night. Alongside him were his parents Gerry and Eileen Dillon, and Ashling Cunningham.?Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Dillon a shining Club Star
Ballintubber ‘great’ crowned as huge crowd turns out for tenth annual charity awards
BALLINTUBBER veteran Alan Dillon was named Senior Footballer of the Year at the tenth annual Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars Charity Banquet in Knockranny House Hotel, Westport on Saturday night.
The 32 year-old from Ballyheane was presented with the Willie McNeela Perpetual Trophy by Angelina Nugent of Midwest Radio and special guest Rachel Wyse of Sky Sports. He was selected for the honour after being short-listed alongside team-mate Stephen Broderick and Castlebar Mitchels forward Neil Douglas.
Although Dillon has been on the Club Stars Team of the Year in eight of the last nine years, this was his first time to win the top individual award.
Hailed by Master of Ceremonies Mike Finnerty as ‘one of Mayo’s all-time greats’, he inspired Ballintubber to their third county senior title in five years.
“Once you play at a high level, you get the bug for it,” he said after accepting the award.
“I live for championship Sundays, year in, year out … The last five years with Ballintubber have been phenomenal … and it goes without saying, our club boys this year, I wouldn’t be in this position [but] for the amount of effort they put in behind the scenes.”
All proceeds from the banquet, which was run in association with AIB, will go to Pieta House West, the suicide and self-harm crisis centre in Tuam. Tom McEvoy, the organisation’s Director of Advocacy, said every penny collected from the event will go into ‘therapeutic hours’ for the free service, which has helped 300 people in the Mayo, Galway and Roscommon region since opening its doors in Tuam last December. “We’re preventing suicides every day of the week,” he said.
Dillon was one of ten Ballintubber players named in the Club Stars Team of the Year, which honours the cream of Mayo club footballers for their performances in the 2014 championship. He was joined on the first 15 by Stephen Broderick Myles Kelly, Cathal Hallinan, Alan Plunkett and three of the O’Connor brothers – Ruaidhrí, Pádraic and Cillian – while Diarmuid O’Connor and Michael Plunkett were among the five replacements selected.
Three players from beaten senior finalists Castlebar Mitchels were among those picked by Seán Rice (The Mayo News), John Casey (Midwest Radio analyst), Eamon Clarke (former Knockmore manager) and Austin Garvin (The Mayo News) out of the 32 nominees short-listed. They were Neil Douglas, Donal Newcombe and replacement Alan Feeney.
County semi-finalists Garrymore had two players in the starting 15 – goalkeeper Morven Connolly and wing back Martin Maloney, whose selection prompted a huge roar from the large South Mayo contingent. Maloney, who targeted winning a Club Star as one of his goals for the year, was involved in a serious car accident last October.
“It’s been difficult,” he told Mike Finnerty, “but I’m delighted to be here tonight, and my recovery is going well, so it’s onwards and upwards.”
Intermediate champions Ballyhaunis also had two players on the team - Niall Prenty and Keith Higgins. County semi-finalists Knockmore had two players in the 20 – Kevin McLoughlin at midfield, and forward Keith Ruttledge among the replacements, a group which also included Ballaghaderreen’s Keith Rogers.
Diarmuid O’Connor – nominated alongside Ballintubber club-mate Michael Plunkett, Breaffy’s Matthew Ruane and Brian Reape of Moy Davitts – was selected as the Young Player of the Year, an award sponsored by Mayo Sports Clinic in Ballina.
On a big night for Ballyhaunis, Niall Prenty edged out Keith Higgins and Hollymount/Carramore defender Darren McHugh for the Intermediate Player of the Year Award. Keith Higgins was named Personality of the Year (having picked up his third successive All Star), while his father Pete received the Hurling Recognition Award, sponsored by Jim Hogan Couriers, for managing Ballyhaunis to another county title.
Former Mayo manager James Horan received a Special Achievement Award marking the county’s four successive Connacht titles. Achill’s Stephen Grealis was named Junior Player of the Year ahead of Castlebar Mitchels duo Kevin Filan and Paul Fitzmaurice.
Ballintubber’s Cillian O’Connor got the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the Mayo Senior Championship, and shared the distinction of being the top scorer from play with club-mate Alan Plunkett.
Darren Coen of Hollymount/Carramore was the top scorer in the Mayo Intermediate Championship, while Gary Ruddy of Cill Chomáin was the top scorer from play.
Ballintubber bosses Peter Ford and Tony Duffy were named Managers of the Year for guiding their team to the Moclair Cup, while PJ Hughes of Crossmolina was chosen as the inaugural winner of the Volunteer of the Year. The Hall of Fame award went to Garrymore legend Billy Fitzpatrick.