McCloskey back on the podium again

Gareth Williamson, Bank Of Ireland Branch Manager in Portadown presents the Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year Award to Stuart McCloskey
Gareth Williamson, Bank Of Ireland Branch Manager in Portadown presents the Bank of Ireland Ulster Player of the Year Award to Stuart McCloskey

Stuart McCloskey impressive displays for Ulster which saw him go on to make his Ireland international debut this season saw him scoop one of the major gongs at last night’s Ulster Rugby awards.

Having received the ‘young player of the season’ last year, McCloskey last night returned to the stage to collect the Bank of Ireland ‘Player of the Year’.

The centre followed up last year’s breakthrough season by impressing further in the midfield with his powerful running and ball carrying.

It earned him a call to the Irish squad, but although he missed out narrowly on going to the Rugby World Cup, his efforts back home in the PRO12 and European Champions Cup, saw him rewarded with an Ireland cap.

That came against England during the Six Nations championship where he gave a solid account of himself.

McCloskey proved his all-round abilities when handed the place kicking duties at the start of the current season with regular kickers such as Paddy Jackson and Ruan Pienaar on World Cup duty and injuries ruling out Ian Humphreys and Peter Nelson.

He managed five conversions and three penalties as he answered his province’s call.

Meanwhile, young prop Kyle McCall, who made such an impact this season, starting five of Ulster’s six European games, collected the BT Young Player of the Year accolade.

Two other standout players in the Ulster shirt this season were also honoured last night.

Outhalf Paddy Jackson, who has been instrumental in the key position as Ulster pressed on to secure a play-off place in the Guinness PRO12 was named Ulster Rugby Supporters Club ‘player of the year.’

He recently crossed through the 500 points total for his Guinness PRO12 career.

The hard wearing lock Franco van der Merwe were was named as the Rugby Writers’ ‘Player of the Year’.

The local scribes acknowledged the contribution the South African has made to the side this season, playing in 25 of Ulster’s 28 matches to date this season.

The commandant of the lineout he has helped Ulster return the best percentage returns in the PRO12 this season.

Adam McBurney collected the Hughes Insurance Academy Player of the Year.

Bangor’s truly brilliant season, during which they won Kukri Qualifying League One, the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup and the Powerade Towns’ Cup, and also secured promotion to the Ulster Bank All Ireland League, saw them collect the Kukri Sports ‘Club of the Year award.’

Well-known volunteer, Willie Gribben, Chairman of Portadown Panthers Disability Rugby Club, won the SONI Community Rugby Champion award, while Inishowen RFC’s John Merritt won the Dorrington B Faulkner award in recognition of his services to rugby in Ulster.

Rodger McBurney (Ballymena RFC), Jonathan Stewart (Wallace High School), John McCusker (Rainey Old Boys RFC) and Kathryn Dane (Enniskillen RFC) also picked up individual awards for their performances this season. Daniel Carson was selected as Autotrader Referee of the Year.