Double award delight for O’Keeffe

KILKENNY’S Eileen O’Keeffe was the big winner at Saturday night’s inaugural Athletics Ireland National Athletics awards in Dublin.

O’Keeffe won both the Field Event Athlete of the Year and the overall Athlete of the Year Award. The Kilkenny Harriers athlete had a fantastic year as she had excellent performance at the Irish National Championships taking gold. She followed this up with a sixth place finish in the Hammer at the World Championships in Osaka, which was a remarkable achievement for the 26-year-old.

Ireland’s fastest man Paul Hession was named Track Athlete of the Year. Hession has put sprinting back on the agenda in Irish athletics this year after breaking seven Irish records in three distances over the past 12 months. He also had an excellent World Championships as he qualified for a semi final in the 200m.

The Cross Country/Road Athlete of the Year award went to Fionnuala Britton. The Wicklow runner has lived up to her potential over the past year as she took silver in the U-23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Italy last December. She followed this up with an impressive 12th place finish in the 3000m Steeplechase Final at what was her first World Championships in August.

The Race Walker of the Year award went to Cork’s Robert Heffernan. The Togher AC clubman took the World Championships by storm in August as he finished 6th in the final of the 20k Walk and could be one of Ireland’s best medal hopes for next year’s Olympics in Beijing.

The Performance of the Year, which was voted for by a selection of Ireland’s sporting media, was awarded to David Gillick. The Dubliner put in a remarkable performance in the final of the 400m at the European Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March to retain the title he had won two year’s previous in Madrid and will be hoping to build on this ahead of next year’s Olympics.

The Junior Athlete of the Year Award went to Kelly Proper from Ferrybank AC in Waterford. The long jumper has had an exceptional season as both a senior and junior. Proper was a member of the Irish team that competed at the European Junior Championships and she returned from this to take first in the Long Jump at the National Senior Championships in Santry.

In other awards the Club of the Year was named as Clonliffe Harriers, while Dublin City University were named as University of the Year. The Official of the Year Award went to Harry Gorman from Donore Harriers in Dublin with Adam Jones from Rathfarmhan WSAF taking the Coach of the Year Award.

Niamh O’Sullivan from An Riocht in Kerry won the Master Athlete of the Year Award and Sean and Maeve Kyle from Balymena were given the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Hall of Fame Award was given to Ronnie Delany for his achievements in athletics including his gold in the 1500m at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

Official of the Year – Harry Gorman (Donore Harriers); Coach of the Year – Adam Jones (Rathfarnham WSAF); Junior Athlete – Kelly Proper (Ferrybank AC); Master Athlete – Niamh O’Sullivan (An Riocht); Track Athlete – Paul Hession (Athenry AC); Field Event – Eileen O’Keeffe (Kilkenny Harriers); Cross County/Road Athlete – Fionnuala Britton (Sli Chulainn); Race Walker – Robert Heffernan (Togher AC); Performance of the Year – David Gillick (Dundrum, South Dublin); Athlete of the Year – Eileen O’Keeffe (Kilkenny Harriers); Club of the Year – Clonliffe Harriers; Lifetime Achievement – Sean and Maeve Kyle (Ballymena); Hall of Fame Award – Ronnie Delany; University of the Year – Dublin City University

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