The shortlist of three for the Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) Player of the Year award has been announced.
Those names are Stephen Ferris, Ronan O’Gara and Rob Kearney. None of the three have won the award previously in this, the tenth year of its existence.
Members (approximately 160 players) can vote for any player they want aside from themselves or players from their own province. Most people will agree with the list as it has been announced though there will always be a few who can count themselves as unlucky not to be on the shortlist. Foremost amongst the unlucky would probably be Connacht’s Gavin Duffy.
Having been Ireland’s star man at the World Cup (his cradle and carry tackle on Australia’s scrum-half Will Genia being a particular highlight); Stephen Ferris was also the main man for Ireland at this year’s Six Nations and has been the shining light of Ulster’s progress to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup. He would therefore be my favorite to win the Player of the Year gong.
Rob Kearney, having been typically brilliant under the high ball has also contributed with try scoring passes and pulsating line-breaks, he was second only to Ben Foden on that stat during the Heineken Cup Pool phases and the Leinster man won’t be far from winning the award in many people’s eyes.
O’Gara meanwhile regained his starting place for Ireland at the Rugby World Cup and was of course a pivotal figure in Munster’s record of six wins from six outings in the Heineken Cup Pool stages. Of course particularly noteworthy from that campaign was the last gasp long range drop goals in consecutive games against Northampton and Castres which earned victory from the jaws of defeat on both occasions for the southern province.
There was of course much more to O’Gara’s game than that and there will be some who would like to see O’Gara win this award, particularly seeing as, with the emergence of Jonathan Sexton as Ireland’s pre eminent out-half and O’Gara who is, at 35 years old – unlikely to be nominated for the award again.
IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year : Stephen Ferris (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ronan O’Gara (Munster).
Young Player of the Year: Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Ian Madigan (Leinster) Peter O’Mahony (Munster).
Try of the Year: Craig Gilroy (Munster v Ulster, Heineken Cup) Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster v Cardiff Blues, Heineken Cup), Niall Ronan (Llanelli Scarlets v Munster, Heineken Cup). Medal for Excellence : Shane Jennings (Leinster), Ronan Loughney (Connacht), Mick O’Driscoll (Munster).