Ireland and Leinster out-half, Johnny Sexton, was named Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Awards hosted at Aviva Stadium last night.
Sexton played a vital role in what was a truly historic year for Irish rugby.
With the Ireland team Sexton has won the NatWest Six Nations, a Grand Slam, the Triple Crown, and a first series win on Australian soil since 1979, and with Leinster, the Guinness PRO14 and European Rugby Champions Cup.
Last weekend’s 16-9 victory over New Zealand in Dublin, 113 years in the making, has further cemented his position as the best out-half in the world.
Sexton was honoured at the gala awards evening, hosted by Gavin Krenski and Rory Sheridan of Guinness, and Simon Lewis, Chairman of the Rugby Writers of Ireland.
Awards were also presented to the Ireland’s Men’s National Team, Dr. Claire Molloy, Leinster Rugby and Lansdowne FC, while Gerry ‘Ginger’ McLoughlin and John O’Driscoll were inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame.
A delighted Sexton who was chosen following a vote by the Irish rugby media, said : “It’s a very prestigious award to win in Ireland. You look at the list of players that have won it before, it’s very pleasing that your efforts can be acknowledged.
“It could have gone to many, many players with the season we had in this country, I can think of six or seven lads just off the top of my head, so I’m very happy to have been chosen.”
The Dave Guiney Team of the Year Award was presented to the Ireland Men’s National Team who have risen to number two in the world rankings with a Grand Slam, and historic wins in Australia and at home just this weekend against the All Blacks.
The team has achieved an unbeaten record of 11 tests in the Aviva Stadium and will play their final fixture for the Guinness Series tomorrow against the USA.
Dr. Molloy picked up the Women’s Player of the Year for a second year in a row.
Flanker Molloy, the current Irish captain, plays her club rugby with Wasps.
In an Irish jersey, she led the team to wins over Italy and Wales in the Six Nations earlier this year. The former Galway Minor footballer is also an Accident & Emergency doctor.
Molloy previously captained the Ireland Women’s Sevens team during the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Russia.
She said: “I’m truly honoured to receive the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year Award for the second year in a row.
“I’m very lucky to have great coaches and teammates that have helped my game develop over my career.
“It was a year of mixed results for the Irish team, in the Six Nations we had some great results at home, but we didn’t quite get the results we wanted on the road. We’re looking forward to another big test next weekend in Twickenham.”
Leinster were named as Club of the Year, marking an incredible season where they claimed a historic double: beating Racing 92 in the European Cup Final in Bilbao for their record fourth title, and then two weeks later, winning the Guinness Pro14 Final against Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium.
The Tom Rooney Award is awarded to a person or club who have made a significant contribution to rugby and this year it was awarded to Lansdowne FC, one of the oldest rugby clubs in Ireland. Lansdowne FC had an incredible 2017-18 winning every competition they entered at senior level. Under the guidance of Mike Ruddock, Lansdowne won the All-Ireland League, All-Ireland Cup, Leinster Senior League and Leinster Senior Cup.
Two former players were inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers Hall of Fame on the night:
Gerry ‘Ginger’ McLoughlin – is a former Irish international who famously scored a try at Twickenham in 1982 carrying half the English pack over the line.
The win was instrumental in Ireland winning the triple crown for the first time since 1949.
Ginger played his club rugby with Shannon RFC and played on the 1983 British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
John O’Driscoll – is a former Irish international who received 26 caps for Ireland. He toured South Africa (1980) and New Zealand (1983) with the British & Irish Lions, and O’Driscoll played for Connacht at Inter-Provincial level.
In 2001 O’Driscoll was a selector for the British & Irish Lions.
Rory Sheridan, Head of Partnerships for Diageo, Europe added: “Guinness has a long and proud heritage with Irish rugby and is committed to supporting the game that embodies grit, camaraderie and extraordinary passion at both club and international level.
“2018 has been an incredible year for Irish rugby, one that will long be celebrated and remembered.
“We are delighted to award Johnny Sexton the Guinness Rugby Writers “Player of The Year Award” for his outstanding performances for Leinster and Ireland.
“We are honoured to be part of this evening’s celebrations at the home of Irish rugby where we saw history made on Saturday, and to welcome so many of our past and current players to Aviva Stadium to acknowledge their achievements.”