Larry Cummins, Park Hotel presents the November Waterford Sport Star Award to the winner Stephen O’Keeffe. Included are his parents Noel & Catherine O’Keeffe and Kieran O’Connor, adjudicator. Photos: Dan McGrath.
The final list of monthly winners of the Park Hotel Waterford Sports Star Award for 2017 is almost complete after the award winners for the months of October and November were announced this week.
After a brilliant display for the Republic of Ireland senior soccer team that saw him score both goals in Ireland’s 2-0 World Cup Qualifier victory over Moldova at the Aviva Stadium, Waterford City native, Daryl Murphy is the October winner. It was a third Park Award for the former Waterford United man, who was unable to attend the awards lunch as he was lining out for Nottingham Forrest in the English Championship against Bristol City. His award was accepted by his mam, Karen.
The November winner is Ballygunner and Waterford goalkeeper, Stephen O’Keeffe who wins the award after he produced outstanding displays between the posts for the four in a row Waterford senior hurling champions in their Munster Club Championship games against Sixmilebridge of Clare in the semi-final in Walsh Park and the final against Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh in Thurles.
It caps a fantastic year for the Déise number one and he was delighted to be winning his first Park Hotel Award.
“Obviously I understand that there is a huge variety sports considered for this award every month so to be considered and then be the one selected for November is a huge honour.
“It was definitely a year of getting close but not quite close enough. Obviously it was a huge achievement to win our fourth county senior title in a row but our sights were firmly fixed on the Munster Final and unfortunately it just got away from us near the end but that’s sport and we’ll just have to revaluate and go again next year.
When asked for his highlight of the inter-county season with Waterford that included that memorable win over Kilkenny and culminated on All-Ireland Final day in Croke Park, Stephen said, “I think it would have to be the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork. It was a very special feeling to be out there with three or four minutes and knowing that you had the game won and that you would be playing in your first All-Ireland Final in a few weeks. Coming in off the field it was a bit surreal but it was a wonderful feeling.”
In a standout season for the Ballygunner netminder, that saw him win his first All-Star Award, was there a save that stands out in the memory from 2017. “It’s tough to say, but maybe one or two I made in the Munster club quarter-final win over Thurles Sars, that was a very tight game and it was nice to be able to make a contribution. “
Stephen now joins an illustrious group of Ballygunner players who have won a Park Hotel Award and he’s delighted about that. “Growing up as a young lad in Ballygunner I really looked up to the likes of Fergal Hartley and Mick Mahony so to have the picture going up beside them for the same award is a very nice feeling,” said O’Keeffe.
So just one more monthly award remains, before it will be all systems go for the overall awards night which will take place on Saturday, January 13 next.
Larry Cummins, Park Hotel presents the October Waterford Sport Star Award to the Karen Murphy who accepted it on behalf of the winner, her son, Daryl Murphy. Included is Marie Simpson with Kieran O’Connor and Neil Gough, adjudicators.