Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was honoured by the Rugby Writers of Ireland at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers Awards, having been awarded the prestigious Tom Rooney award in recognition of his immense contribution to Irish rugby.
Schmidt was unable to attend the gala event at the Guinness Storehouse last night having returned to New Zealand due to a family bereavement but Ireland captain Rory Best collected the award on his behalf while Irish and Leinster lock James Ryan was named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Men’s Player of the Year, in recognition of another outstanding season for club and country.
Ireland, Munster and UL Bohemian back-row Ciara Griffin was recognised by the Irish rugby media as the Women’s Player of the Year while the Irish U20 Men were awarded the Dave Guiney Guinness Rugby Writers Team of the Year following their Six Nations Grand Slam.
The Club of the Year trophy went to All-Ireland League champions Cork Constitution in recognition of their brilliant season, winning 23 of 26 games and also adding the Munster Senior Cup and Cork Charity Cup to their haul while a Dolphin man who was inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers Hall of Fame.
British & Irish Lion, Ireland, and Munster’s Michael Kiernan was honoured at the Storehouse for a glittering career that saw him play 43 times for Ireland, winning the Triple Crown in 1982 and 1985, the latter success for which he is best remembered, his famous drop goal in Lansdowne Road securing victory against England. Kiernan toured with the Lions to New Zealand in 1983 and was a member of Ireland’s team at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.
The Rugby Writers of Ireland also broke new ground with awards given to Ireland’s Sevens players for the first year. Jordan Conroy was named the inaugural Men’s Sevens Player of the Year whilst Aimee-Leigh Murphy Crowe is the first Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.
Ireland head coach Schmidt sent a video message expressing his delight at receiving the accolade as he prepares for his final campaign at the World Cup this autumn before stepping down after six years.
“It is a real honour to receive the Guinness Rugby Writers Tom Rooney Award,” Schmidt said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland. My family and I feel that we have been made to feel part of the community here, right from the outset.
We are not sure where we will be or what we’ll be doing next but I’m really looking forward to the exciting challenge that lies ahead in the upcoming Guinness Summer Series in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“The management and players at both Leinster and Ireland have been incredible to work with. I accept this award on all of their behalfs and will be forever grateful to all of them for the privilege of working alongside them.”
First appointed to the Leinster head coaching role in the summer of 2010, Schmidt has made a huge impact in the nine seasons he has been coaching in Ireland. During his tenure with the province, Leinster were crowned European champions in 2011 and 2012, adding the 2013 Challenge Cup and Guinness PRO12 double in his final season.
Schmidt took up the reins with Ireland in 2013, delivering unprecedented success, claiming three Six Nations Championship titles including a 2018 Grand Slam. They secured their first series wins in Argentina (2014) and Australia (2018), a first victory on South African soil in June 2016 and victory against the All Blacks in Chicago in November of that year.
Twelve months later, his team made further history recording a first home victory against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium. In November 2018 Schmidt was named World Rugby Coach of the Year.