Captain Rory Best was the toast of Ulster as he scooped the top gong at Friday night’s gala awards dinner in the Culloden Estate and Spa in Holywood.
Ireland’s most capped hooker and the player to the forefront of the Irish Province, was named the Heineken Ulster Rugby personality of the year.
This season marked a second stint with the skipper’s armband and he has proven a quality leader with Ulster currently pressing for the Guinness PRO12 title.
Best also won his third Six Nations Championship with Ireland this season.
The citation for Friday night’s presentation read: “Rory epitomises the connection between the players on the pitch and the supporters in the stand. He leads the team by example and through his own dedication and relentless commitment, inspires others.”
In total there were 13 awards presented to recipients across schools, club and professional rugby in the province as the good and the great in the game was recognised.
There was double success for Ireland winger, Craig Gilroy.
He won the coveted Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year and was also named as the Ulster Rugby Writers’ Player of the Year, as voted for by the local media.
Gilroy is currently the PRO12’s leading try scorer this season, with 11 tries in the competition so far including memorable scores against Scarlets and Leinster.
He made his 100th appearance for Ulster, against Treviso, at just 23 becoming the youngest player to reach the milestone for the province.
Darren Cave was presented with the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club’s Outstanding Player of the Season Award by rugby legend, Willie John McBride.
Stuart McCloskey won the BT Young Player of the Year award, while Ireland Under 20s centre, Sam Arnold, picked up the Hughes Insurance Academy Player of the Year Award.
The domestic front is a vital part of rugby in Ulster and many were recognised at last night’s gala event.
The keenly contested Kukri Club of the Year went once again to Ballynahinch - the third year in a row they have received the accolade.
Oisin Quinn from Randalstown RFC was given the Referee of the Year Award.
Lauren Maginnes, of Ulster and Queen’s University, was selected as The Errigle Inn Women’s Player of the Year and back-row forward, Paul Pritchard, capped a good night for Ballynahinch by winning the Ken Goodall Award for Outstanding Club Player of the Year.
Tom Christie of Armoy took home the Dorrington B Faulkner Award for services to rugby following a remarkable playing career that spanned 40 seasons and which saw him score a try for the club in each of those seasons.
Robert Lyttle, of Methodist College Belfast, was selected as the Danske Bank Schools’ Player of the Year, while Aaron Hall, of Ballyclare High School and the Ulster Youth team, won the first award of the night, the Ulster Carpets Youth Player of the Year.