South Tipperary GAA Board has announced the winners of its Annual Awards, and will host its Presentation Ceremony, on Friday May 11th, in the South Tipperary GAA Centre, Clonmel, commencing at 8:30pm. Tickets are still available from all clubs in the Division and are priced at a very reasonable €10. The winners, chosen from categories in both codes, based on their 2017 performances, will be joined by two more inductees into the South Board’s Hall of Fame. This year marks the 40th anniversary of these prestigious awards and as per tradition now, ‘The Voice of Tipperary’ Paddy Finucane will reprise his role as MC on the night, in what promises to be a great occasion, so patrons are advised to arrive early.

Player of the Past Football 2017: Michael ‘Babs’ Keating (Ardfinnan)

Colourfully woven into the tapestry of GAA giants, undoubtedly, is the name Michael ‘Babs’ Keating. From his barefooted brilliance in ’71, to ending the ‘famine’ in the 80’s, Babs’ hurling exploits are part of Premier County folklore, but what sets him apart from his peers, is that he combined his hurling greatness with a stellar football career that spanned exactly two decades. Blessed with herculean strength and sublime footballing talent, he helped Ardfinnan, emerge spectacularly from the doldrums in the 60’s, to claim a historic three in a row (1962,63,65), and so began a legendary rivalry with Commercials, that is still talked about today. After the agony of three losing finals in a row at the close of the decade, he claimed two more Co. titles (1970 & 74), that bookended National League Division 2 success with Tipperary, captaining a very talented Premier side. A Railway cup regular between 1964 and 1974, he tasted success in ‘72 on a star-studded line-up that included Billy Morgan, Mick O’Connell, Mick O’Dwyer and Ray Cummins. His collection also boasts the complete set of Junior, Intermediate and Senior Divisional titles, with his beloved Ballybacon-Grange. Already enshrined as a Hurling Player of the Past, into the Hall of Fame in 2002, Michael ‘Babs’ Keating now stands alone, with deserved dual distinction, just as he did as a player, and becomes the South Board’s Hall of Fame 2017 Football Player of the Past

Player of the Past Hurling 2017: Eddie Maher (Skeheenarinky)

When Eddie Maher swapped the Cathedral Town of Thurles for the foothills of the Galtee Mountains, he had already achieved much in his fledgling hurling career. An understudy to the great Michael ‘Blackie’ Keane, he captured Co. titles with Thurles Sarsfields, in Minor and Junior in 1957 & 58 respectively, Mid Senior Hurling Titles in 60,61 and a County Senior Hurling medal in 1961. For the next four decades he became the embodiment of Skeheenrinky GAA club. Soldiering, gallantly between the posts, with the odd foray out the field, but without reward for the remainder of the 60’s and throughout the 70’s. The breakthrough came in 1981, when appearing in their first ever adult final, Skeheenarinky lowered the colours of Marlfield, and came away with their maiden Junior Hurling title, in an emotionally charged victory. Three years later Eddie lined out again in the Junior decider, this time with his three sons Eamon, John and Thomas, and continued to line out for the Junior B’s into the early 90’s. He served as club secretary for over 30years and was also a highly regarded referee for many of them. Presented with a Sean-Gael Award in 2009, having given a lifetime to the Association and twenty years after his son Eamon claimed the Young Hurler of the year, Skeheen’s Eddie Maher rightfully takes his place in the South Board’s Hall of Fame.

Senior Footballer of the Year 2017: Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen)

Tipperary’s rise as an Inter-County Senior Football force, continues to be spearheaded by the talismanic Conor Sweeney. A former County Minor captain (2008), Conor won a Munster U21 Championship medal with Tipperary in 2010, the same year in which he made his Senior debut against Laois in the All-Ireland qualifiers. In 2013 he captained his club to County Intermediate honours and played in a Sigerson Cup final with UCC the same year. 2016, saw Conor and his teammates light up Croke Park, with the Ballyporeen man blasting home 2-2 in the destruction of Connaught Champions Galway. Last year, he was consistency personified during Tipperary’s National league Division 3 success, which included a player of the week award for his blistering 2-7 against Longford. Conor was also part of the Skeheenarinky side that were victorious in last year’s South Junior Hurling Final and rounded off a great year by being selected on Joe Kernan’s Irish International Rules team in November, scoring an over in the first test in Adelaide.

Senior Hurler of the Year 2017: Stephen Hahessy (Carrick Swan)

Carrick Swan endured somewhat of a metamorphosis in 2017. Damaging, heavy defeats in the Co. SHC, were washed away by a thrilling march to their record 23rd South Senior Crown, and in the thick of it was Stephen Hahessy. A graduate of Swan’s prolific underage production line in the early 2000’s, he was integral to the 3-in-a row South Minor winning team (2003, 2004,2005), with County honours claimed in 2004, and followed that up with an U21 3-in-a row (2006,2007,2008). A first Senior Hurling final in 2010 soon followed and was met with much jubilant scenes as The Ryan Cup came back to Carrick after a decade long absence. Stephen’s great ball winning ability, inspirational point scoring, and great turn of pace, have been the hallmark of Swans wonderful ‘off the cuff’ brand of hurling that won so many admirers in recent years. A former Co. Minor (2005) and Senior Footballer (2010) with Tipperary, Stephen becomes the third Carrick Swan player, to be honoured as the top hurler in the division, following in the footsteps of club legends Gerry Walsh and Tony Fitzpatrick.

Young Footballer of the Year 2017: Rian Quigley (Moyle Rovers)

Central to Moyle Rovers’ County Minor & U21 double last year, was the sensational scoring prowess of classy forward Rian Quigley. A member of 2017 Inter County U17 and Minor panels last year, as well as being part of the victorious South Tipperary Celtic Challenge hurling panel, Rian is fast making a name for himself as one of the top young dual players in the County. A fifth-year student at Cashel Community School, Rian and was a major player for them this year as they came agonisingly close to winning the Munster Hurling B Championship in February against Mitchelstown CBS. Another South U21 Championship was captured a few months ago, with Rian amassing big scoring totals in every game. Very much one for the present, as opposed to one for the future, one would think it won’t be too long until Senior Success comes the way of the Moyle Rovers star.

Young Hurler of the Year 2017: Sean Kennedy (St. Mary’s)

Since coming on as substitute, in the 2015 Co. Minor Hurling final, Sean Kennedy’s star has been on the rise. Adding a second County Minor title and a South U21 title a year later, his hard work ethic dedication, and clinical finishing, has seen him become an integral part of the St. Mary’s forwardline, at underage, Intermediate and, more recently Senior level. Assuming the responsibility of free taker, he is a constant score provider, with a knack for coming up with important goals. A winner of Divisional and County titles at underage level with sister club Commercials, Sean like his older brother Seamus considers hurling his first love and will be a vital cog in St. Mary’s quest for the Seamus O Riain Cup this year.

Intermediate/Junior Footballer of the Year 2017: Johnny Cagney (Clonmel Og)

Johnny Cagney takes the Junior/Intermediate footballer of the year award, in a year when Clonmel Og came within a whisker of returning to Senior ranks. A free taker par excellence, Johnny’s fluid, balanced score taking off left and right, is always a refreshing sight, and he has been consistently Clonmel Og’s top performer for well over a decade. A Co. U21 B winner in 2006, Johnny’s performances soon caught the eye of County selectors, and following outstanding display’s in Clonmel Og’s ascent to County Intermediate success in 2008, he became part of John Evan’s Tipperary Senior Football panel from 2009-11, taking National League Division 3 honours in 2009. Described by many close to the club as possibly the greatest player Clonmel Og has ever produced, Johnny has been deployed in every line of the field for his Club, has worked tirelessly with underage boys’ and girls’ teams, and is currently the Clonmel Og minor football manager.

Intermediate/Junior Hurler of the Year 2017: Seamus Kennedy (St. Mary’s)

Similar, to Hall of Fame recipient Michael ‘Babs’ Keating, Seamus Kennedy has represented Tipperary at every level in both Hurling and Football. His hurling skills were nurtured in the famed Thurles CBS, he won an All-Ireland MFC in 2011, a Fitzgibbon cup with WIT in 2014, and a Munster Club SFC with Commercials the following year. He returns to the winner’s enclosure this year, having received the Senior Footballer of the Year accolade in 2015. Since then, he has claimed yet another Co. SFC with Commercials, and an unforgettable All-Ireland SHC medal in 2016. His performances for St. Mary’s on their way to County Intermediate Hurling success last year, where his athleticism, and over all hurling ability stood out brilliantly, particularly on that great October afternoon, in the final against Gortnahoe-Glengoole went along to securing this award. Still only 24, don’t be surprised if he’s back again next year, to collect the Senior prize.