Sport: Ireland’s up-and-coming sport stars honoured by UCC

Ireland’s sporting talent shines bright at UCC Sport Star Awards

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        (Photos: Diane Cusack)

Some of Ireland’s brightest sporting talent were honoured at the UCC Sport Star Awards, on April 9th.

Now in its 35th year, the annual awards ceremony recognises the outstanding performances of UCC’s sports club athletes.

The awards top off another stellar sporting year at UCC, which saw success for students across a broad range of sports at university, county and national levels.

GAA, hockey, soccer, rugby, sailing and rowing all featured in the award categories, with Double Guinness Book of Records Holder and UCC alum Dr Sinéad Kane presenting the prizes at a special ceremony in Devere Hall.

Winners were joined by their parents and coaches as well as various personalities from the sporting world.

Meet our awardees, below:

Libby Coppinger

Libby, a Public Health student, was honoured for her performances with both the UCC Camogie and Ladies Gaelic Football Clubs. As well as co-captaining the Senior Camogie team to the Ashbourne Final this year, Libby progressed to the Senior squads at county level in both sports.

“It’s a huge honour. It’s always great when you get something yourself. It’s a team sport, and you want to be winning together, but it is lovely when you get that bit of recognition yourself.”

Seán Powter

Seán, a Biological and Chemical Sciences student, was honoured for his performances with the UCC Gaelic Football Club. 2017 has been quite the year for Seán, who featured for the Cork Seniors and U21s, and was also a member of the Irish team who played in the International Rules series in Australia.

“My love for Gaelic Football started when I was playing Street Leagues in Douglas GAA club. Going down every Saturday playing with your friends really did kick start my Gaelic Football career.”

Jenny Clein

Pharmacy student Jenny accepted her award for her stellar performance with the UCC Ladies Hockey Club. Jenny played a key role in the team’s Munster Senior Cup Plate and Senior League title victories. She was selected for the Ireland U21 match series against the USA recently, and hopes to be retained for the upcoming European Championships in the summer.

“Winning the Munster Senior League this year is probably my most memorable moment with the club. Our team trained really hard to win this, and coming top of the league just showed that all the training really paid off.”

Sam Grace

Sam, a Sports Studies and PE student, was honoured for his performances with the UCC Men’s Hockey Club. As well as captaining the UCC club team to Intervarsity Plate and Peard Cup victory, Sam has enjoyed success on the international stage, with appearances for the U21 Hockey team last year, and again in 2018.

“This award has been one of my goals for a long time. It’s really significant for me, because it represents all sports in UCC, not just the hockey team. To be included among such brilliant sportsmen and women is humbling.”

Emma Spillane

Commerce student Emma was honoured for her performances with the UCC Ladies Football Club. An All Star awardee in 2017, Emma has enjoyed success at both club and county level, with her performances for Cork earning her several underage All Ireland and Munster titles.

“I always loved watching football and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to grow up playing the game. My older sister was probably the biggest influence on my career. When she was younger she played football with various Cork underage teams and I used to love watching her play.”

Ciara McNamara

Social Science student Ciara accepted her award for her performances with the UCC Ladies Soccer Club, captaining the team to the Intervarsity Finals. Ciara has also enjoyed major success with Cork City Women’s FC, also captaining the team to FAI Women’s Senior Cup success.

“I was lucky enough to go to the World Student Games in Taipei, in August, with Ireland. That was a life-changing experience, and something I will honestly never forget. Cork City FC also won the FAI Senior Cup in the Aviva Stadium in November, and I was captain. Being able to lift that trophy in the national stadium, in front of your family and the people who come to your matches every week, was just unbelievable.”

Ronan Byrne

Ronan, a Food and Nutritional Science student, was honoured for his performance with the UCC Rowing Club. Ireland’s top heavyweight rower this season, Ronan won gold representing Ireland in the Home International Regatta in Glasgow.


“I’ve never received an award like this before, and it means a lot to me. It tells me that I am improving and getting faster. It gives me confidence going into the racing season against other high-calibre athletes.”

Jack O'Sullivan

Finance student Jack received his award for his performance with the UCC Rugby Club. Jack was selected for the Ireland U20 Six Nations squad this year, going on to start all five games and being named ‘Man of the Match’ in two.


“My first start for UCC also happened to be a derby match against Dolphin, in the Mardyke. I was only new to the team, and it was great to see the emotion of the players and supporters after we won – it really showed what this club is about.

John Poland

John, studying Finance, was also honoured for his performance with the UCC Rugby Club. Lauded for his impressive full debut against Zebra in the Pro 14, John lined out with Munster ‘A’ in the BOI Cup.

My most memorable moment with UCC RFC so far was our victory against Naas RFC at the beginning of our season. It was that game that kick-started our season. We are now in prime position for a promotion playoff spot.”

Fionn Lyden

Civil Engineering student Fionn received his award for his performance with the UCC Sailing Club. Fionn has enjoyed huge success this year, with three 1st and two 2nd place finished at various national and provincial championships. He also finished 3rd in the U23 Finn World Championships, and was awarded Afloat ‘Sailor of the Year’ in August 2017; a singular honour for the All Ireland Championship winner.

“My most memorable moment with the club was this year, I think, when we won the Varsities. We fought right to the end. It was just lovely to win it in Final Year, as well.”

Shane Daly Butz

Shane, an Early Years and Childhood Studies student, is a Roy Keane Sports Scholarship recipient who received his award for soccer. A winner at the Collingwood Cup final in 2017, Shane also represented UCC Soccer at the World University Games in Taipei, in 2017.

My most memorable moment to date with UCC would have to be beating three Dublin teams in the 2017 Collingwood Cup, and eventually defeating UCD 2-1 in the cup final, where we scored a last-minute winner. The Collingwood Cup is a prestigious tournament that the college really embraces, and to be part of the 13th winning UCC team was something very special for myself, the team, the coaches and those who supported us all the way.”

Team of the year

This award went to UCC Sailing I (Gold Fleet): Fionn Lyden, Liam Manning, Mark Hassett, Cian O’Regan, Jill McGinley, Eoin Lyden, Lisa Smith, Aodh Kennedy and Brendan Lyden. As well as claiming 1st place in the Team Racing Nationals in November 2017, the team were victorious at the IUSA Intervarsities.


For more information on Sport at UCC, simply follow this link.

Fantastic four: Relentless Rowers set new Irish record with epic fundraising adventure

Flying the flag with pride. (Photo: Gareth Collins, Collins Photo Agency)


A four-man team has set a new Republic of Ireland rowing record, after racing across the Atlantic in ‘one of the toughest challenges on Earth’.

The Relentless Rowers completed the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge in 32 days and 22 hours, crossing 500km of ocean from December 2017, to January 2018.

The team – comprised of UCC medical graduates Seán Underwood and Patrick O’Connor, along with Eoin O’Farrell and Thomas Browne – began their journey at the Canary Island of La Gomera, before touching land again in Antigua.

The team battled against gruelling conditions out on the open sea, enduring severe sea-sickness and sleep deprivation as well as ‘horrific’ winds and waves.



There were celebrations as Team Relentless touched Caribbean shores, setting a new record as the fastest Republic of Ireland rowing team to cross the Atlantic, on January 16.

The Relentless story, however, goes far beyond exceptional sporting achievement.

Seán, Patrick, Eoin and Thomas undertook this epic challenge in order to raise funds for the Cork University Hospital Charity and Children’s Unit.

"They see over 30,000 kids a year, so it's a good, worthy cause"

The team’s inspiring story and incredible achievement has seen them smash their original target of €20,000, going on to raise almost €30,000 for this much-needed facility. 

Speaking on The Late Late Show after the team’s homecoming, skipper Seán explained: “They’re renovating at the moment, so we’re helping out with the second-stage development.

“It’s a Cystic Fibrosis specialist centre; they actually see over 30,000 kids each year, so it’s a good, worthy cause.

“We’re looking to get some high-flow oxygen machines and some sleeping facilities for the parents.”

To donate to the Relentless fund for Cork University Hospital, simply follow this link.

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