O’Neill picks up All Star award
JONATHAN O’NEILL became the first Glenealy man to receive a Christy Ring All Star award, a well-deserved and long overdue recognition of the services he has given to the game of hurling down the years, writes Peter Keogh.
However, few people realise that Jonathan first came to prominence as a footballer. He won a Leinster Vocational Schools medal with Wicklow and also played against Meath in a Leinster Minor football final in Croke Park.
At one stage he was invited to join the Wicklow Senior football panel but when he was told that if he made the team he would have to give up hurling that was the end of that.
In the Hogan Suite in Croke Park to cheer him on as he received his award from the President Nickey Brennan was his wife Sandra and officers of the County Board which included County Chairman Andy O’Brien and his wife Ann; Mick Hagan, Tom Byrne, Jackie Napier and Peter Keogh.
The Nicky Rackard All Stars were also honoured on the night long with two rounders teams, Ladies and Mens.
Great Kilkenny Hurler Eddie Keher received the Hall of Fame award.
The Ring Cup champions Carlow had three players honoured – Mark Brennan, John Rogers and Shane Kavanagh; beaten finalists Westmeath had two – Brendan Murtagh and Paul Greville.
The other ten were – Jonathan O’Neill, Wicklow; Aidan Connolly, Mayo; Stephen Henry, Derry; Michael Kelly, Roscommon; Niall Hackett, Meath; Tony Murphy, Kildare; Paul Branniff, Down; Eugene McDonnell, Armagh; Niall Healy, London and John Griffin, Kerry.
One Sligo player to receive a Nicky Rackard Award was Mark Burke. Jackie Napier remembers his father Mick Burke winning a Wicklow Senior hurling championship with Forestry College in 1962 and playing for Wicklow in a Leinster JHC Final the same year.
Hall of Fame winner Eddie Keher recalled coming to Wicklow for a coaching session with Kiltegan before they won their first Junior hurling championship in 1973.
Martin Doogue, the manager/trainer of that team was the man who brought him up from Kilkenny. Perhaps it was dedication like that to the game that made Keher to hugely respected man he is today.
Jonathan O'Neill is presented with his Christy Ring award by G.A.A. President Nickey Brennan at the 2008 Christy Ring/Nicky Rackard Champion 15 and Rounders All Star Awards in Croke Park.