Clare Champion, Friday, July 23, 2004
By Fidelma Mc Donnell
The All Star awards for Hurlers and Footballers was inaugurated in 1971 to formally honour the top GAA performers of that year. The awards recognised playing ability and sportmanship of players from all teams in hurling and football at inter-county level and not just the players on the All-Ireland teams of that year. Each recipient formed the All Star Teams for that year which would then spend a short period touring the West Coast of America, playing exhibition games against Irish-American teams in both hurling and football.
The concept of the awards is credited to the late Mick Dunne. He was a leading sports journalist for RTE and it was he who presented them for many years following their inauguration. There was a commercial element also to the awards as they were a form of sponsorship for the GAA. The first sponsors were Carrolls Cigarette Company, perfectly acceptable in the days before heightened health consciousness. Carrolls’ association with The All Star’s lasted from 1971 to 1978. The subsequent sponsors were Bank Of Ireland from 1979 to 1994; Powerscreen 1995 to 1996; Eircell 1997-2000 and from 2001 to the present the awards have been sponsored by Vodafone.
County Clare’s first All-Star recipient was Ger Loughnane for hurling in 1974, receiving a second award in 1977. In total Clare Hurlers have been awarded 39 All Star Awards for hurling and one award in football, presented to Seamus Clancy in 1992.
The roll of honour those who hold what for County Clare is as follows:
Johnny Mc Mahon (1976, 1977), Ger Loughnane, (1974, 1977), Michael Moroney (1977), Noel Casey (1978), Seamus Durack, (1977, 1978, 1981), Colm Honan, (1978), John Callinan (1979,1981), Sean Stack (1981), Seamus Clancy (Football – 1992), Anthony Daly (1994, 1995, 1998), David Fitzgerald (1995, 2002) Brian Lohan (1995, 1996, 1997, 2002), Liam Doyle (1995,1997), Seanie Mc Mahon (1995, 1997, 1998), Ollie Baker, (1995, 1998), Jamesie O Connor, (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001), Ger O’Loughlin, (1995,1997), Frank Lohan (1999), Colin Lynch, (1997, 2002), Niall Gilligan (1999).
The 1970’s and the 1990’s were the two most notable decades for Clare All Stars with some stalwarts coming through again in 2002, picking up three awards.
The concept of the Hurler or Footballer of the year selected from each year’s All Star recipients was inaugurated in 1995, the year Clare won it’s first All Ireland Hurling Championship in 81 years. Brian Lohan was the Hurler of the Year in ’95 and Jamesie O’ Connor in 1997. The Kerry Footballer, Pat Spillane has the distinction of winning the most All Star awards – nine.
The award featured here was presented to Ger Loughnane in 1974 for hurling. He later managed the Clare team which had phenomenal success from the mid-nineties onwards, winning All Ireland honours in ’95 and’97. When he stepped down from managing the Clare team, he was given a Civic Reception by Clare County Council on 15th October 2000 at the Old Ground Hotel. On the night the words he spoke were memorable in their humility, as he said, ‘Clare’s hurling achievements had its foundation in previous management teams, players and supporters’. He also stated that ‘it was not my sole endeavour that made the difference’. He subsequently published his autobiography and since he retired from management, he has been a frequent commentary panellist for GAA Games televised on RTE.