Awards and accolades
May 18, 2010
Jamie Heaslip has been in scintillating form for both Leinster and Ireland this season © Getty Images
Nearly there. After 10 months of toil, Irish rugby staggers towards the finish line with Leinster's Magners League showdown against the Ospreys at the RDS the last club commitment of the season before the national team steps up for four June assignments.
Given the rate of attrition and levels of fatigue involved, those matches against the Barbarians, New Zealand, Maoris and Australia appear increasingly daunting, but that is next month's concern. For now, we can take a look back at what has been achieved thus far in 2009/10.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Jamie Heaslip
After his Lions tour-de-force, the number eight ripped into the new season with a series of stunning performances for Leinster and Ireland. Physical, athletic and skilful, Heaslip is a consistently inspirational presence, among the best in the world in his position and now being regularly touted as a future Ireland captain.
YOUNG PLAYER - Fionn Carr
With Luke Fitzgerald a long-term absentee, Connacht's left wing assumed his mantle as the most exciting attacker on Irish soil - despite his side province regularly being forced to operate on the back foot. Carr's return of 14 tries from 22 outings is a statistical demonstration of the former Leinster man's startling speed and powers of evasion.
UNSUNG HERO - John Muldoon
The Connacht captain has the unenviable task of trying to keep morale high in Ireland's Cinderella province but continues to be an admirable figurehead out west. A proud Galway man, Muldoon never gives less than his all and the bruising blindside flanker has played as well as he has led.
COACH - Kurt McQuilkin
The New Zealand-born former Ireland centre is returning home after playing a crucial role in making Leinster's defence among the most effective in Europe. McQuilkin's effectiveness was demonstrated by Leinster keeping Munster try-less in their three derby encounters this season and he departs with the province's gratitude ringing in his ears.
TRY - Fionn Carr (v Leinster, RDS)
Connacht lost a Magners League match they should have won but Carr's jink-and-surge effort, starting from 50 metres out on the left touchline, will live long in the memory.
PERFORMANCE - Munster (v Perpignan, Stade Aime Giral)
Munster were written off in almost every quarter when they travelled to the bear-pit stadium of the Top 14 champions for their Heineken Cup pool clash in December. However, it all came together beautifully for Tony McGahan's men and a shell-shocked Perpignan could not cope with the ferocity of the visitors, who ran out 37-14 winners.
STADIUM - Lansdowne Road (Aviva Stadium) The redeveloped home of Irish rugby is an impressive, state-of-the-art €410million edifice boasting, among other features, 200 car parking spaces, 400 press berths, 900 catering staff and 35,000 cubic meters of cast in-situ concrete. It all adds up to an impressive symbol of progress on the south Dublin skyline.
PR LANDMINE - Lansdowne Road (Aviva Stadium) The Gaelic Athletic Association, through their initial inertia and subsequent about-turn on the availability of Croke Park, forced the hand of the IRFU when it came to the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road. They did a fine job but, for a variety of unavoidable reasons, are limited to capacity of just over 50,000 at the new stadium. When the likes of South Africa, New Zealand, England and France come calling over the next 10 months, the 32,000 shut-out punters who would have been accommodated in Croke Park are going to react badly. Furthermore, foreign media are unlikely to be over concerned with the minutiae of the capacity issue and Irish rugby, unfairly, is going to get it in the neck.
QUOTE - Donncha O'Callaghan Munster's popular and in-form second row struck up a good relationship with spin doctor Alastair Campbell on the 2005 Lions tour. Last week, Tony Blair's former right-man was a guest on Ireland's premier chat show and received the following text from O'Callaghan: "Everybody in Ireland watches The Late Late Show … don't make a balls of it."
Hugh Farrelly is the rugby correspondent for the Irish Independent