THE highest of the high achievers in sport in Kilkenny will be honoured at a glittering gala function in the city at the weekend.
Stars from the world of horse racing, Willie Mullins and Joseph O’Brien will be joined by peers including Brian Hogan (hurling), Karen Duggan (soccer) and the county’s Special Olympics heroes and others when the annual Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People sports stars banquet is held in Hotel Kilkenny on Friday night.
The monthly award winners from 2011 will be presented their Kilkenny Crystal trophies, and the two top awards from the year, the Supreme and Endeavour Awards, will also be presented.
As this is the 25th anniversary of the Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People scheme, it was decided to change things a little.
And Kilkenny Design Centre based gold and silversmith, Des Byrne, who created the new Sam Maguire Cup, the glittering prize for the winners of the All-Ireland football championship, has been commissioned to design a new style Supreme Award.
Just like the monthly awards, the design of which are based on a turret of Kilkenny Castle, the Supreme Award will have a strong Kilkenny theme and will include black marble from the area. The magnificent finished piece will be unveiled for the first time on Friday night.
The Supreme Award winner, who will be picked from the 11 monthly winners - no award was presented in February 2011 - is generally regarded as the highest achiever in sport in Kilkenny, or the supreme champion of sport.
Last year Paultown boxer, Darren O’Neill, took the Supreme Award following the winning of a silver medal at the European Elite championships. That was the first time a boxer had claimed the Supreme Award.
The night of the banquet Darren was fighting in the Irish championship in the National Stadium. Around the time he was winning what was his third title in-a-row in Dublin he was being honoured in Kilkenny, and his award was collected by his uncle, Jack O’Neill from Paulstown.
Winners of the Supreme Award in the past include Brian Cody (hurling), Gary Murphy (golf), Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh (handball) and Peter Daly (cycling).
The Endeavour Award is the second highest award presented by the Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People sports star committee. It recognises special achievement, be that by an active participant in sport, an administrator or whatever.
Winner last year was golfer, Mary Dowling following her victory in the Women’s Irish Close championship. Past winners included Sean Byrne (athletics) and Noel Keogh (boxing).
The Hotel Kilkenny and Kilkenny People scheme has been hugely successful, and winners have come from all sections of the sporting community. The monthly award winners, heads of sport, dignitories and other invited guests will have the latest champions revealed to them at around 10pm on Friday.
With such a rich choice up for selection, the champion will be supreme indeed.
The awards Selection Committee is former Kilkenny star, Noel Skehan, Michael Griffin (Operations Manager, Hotel Kilkenny) and John Knox (Sports Editor, Kilkenny People).