Annual Rugby 'Oscars' Presented in Dublin

You've gotta wonder if there will be a more decorated crop of Irish players than the current generation, given the history making year to date.

The achievements of the Irish rugby squad arguably added to the pressure on Ireland's soccer management given the way Joe Schmidt's squad have performed over the last 12 months.

No surprise then that a kingpin of the Ireland team is honoured in the end of season awards by the rugby scribes.

Leinster and Ireland out-half Jonathan Sexton was named the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year at the annual Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Awards, hosted at the Aviva Stadium.

Sexton played a vital role in what has been a truly historic year for Irish Rugby.

With the Ireland team Sexton has won the NatWest 6 Nations Championship, a Grand Slam, the Triple Crown, and a first series win on Australian soil since 1979, and with Leinster, both the GUINNESS PRO14 and Champions Cup titles.

Last Saturday's historic home victory over New Zealand in Dublin, 113 years in the making, has further cemented his position as the best out-half in the world.

Awards were also presented to the Ireland Men's team, Dr. Claire Molloy, Leinster Rugby and Lansdowne FC, while Gerry 'Ginger' McLoughlin and John O'Driscoll were inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame.

Rory Sheridan, Head of Partnerships for Diageo Europe, said: "Guinness has a long and proud heritage with Irish rugby and is committed to supporting the game that embodies grit, camaraderie and extraordinary passion at both club and international level.

"2018 has been an incredible year for Irish Rugby, one that will long be celebrated and remembered. We are delighted to award Jonathan Sexton the Guinness Rugby Writers' Player of The Year award for his outstanding performances for Leinster and Ireland.

"We are honoured to be part of this evening's celebrations at the home of Irish Rugby where we saw history made on Saturday, and to welcome so many of our past and current players to the Aviva Stadium to acknowledge their achievements."

Sexton was delighted to receive the accolade, which was voted for by the Irish Rugby media. "It's a very prestigious award to win in Ireland," he said.

"You look at the list of players that have won it before, it's very pleasing that your efforts can be acknowledged. It could have gone to many, many players with the season we had in this country, I can think of six or seven lads just off the top of my head, so I'm very happy to have been chosen."

The Dave Guiney Team of the Year award was presented to the Ireland Men's team who have risen to number two in the world rankings with a Grand Slam, and historic wins in Australia and at home just last weekend against the All Blacks.

The team have achieved a record of 11 successive home wins at the Aviva Stadium and will play their final GUINNESS Series match on Saturday against the USA.

Dr. Claire Molloy picked up the Women's Player of the Year award for a second year in a row.

Flanker Molloy, who captained Ireland at last year's Women's Rugby World Cup on home soil, now plays her club rugby with Wasps.

During the 2018 Women's Six Nations she ran in three tries, two against Wales and one against England, and was the player-of-the-match in both home wins over Italy and Wales.

Balancing her rugby career with her role as an accident & emergency doctor, Molloy said of the award: "I'm truly honoured to receive the Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year award for the second year in a row.

I'm very lucky to have great coaches and team-mates that have helped my game develop over my career.

"It was a year of mixed results for the Irish team, in the Six Nations we had some great results at home, but we didn't quite get the results we wanted on the road. We're looking forward to another big test against England this Saturday at Twickenham."

Leinster Rugby was named as Club of the Year, marking an incredible season in which they claimed a historic double - beating Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final in Bilbao for a record-equalling fourth title, and then two weeks later, winning the GUINNESS PRO14 decider against the Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium.

The Tom Rooney award is awarded to a person or club who have made a significant contribution to rugby and this year it was awarded to Lansdowne FC, one of the oldest rugby clubs in Ireland.

Lansdowne FC had an incredible 2017/18, winning every competition they entered at senior level. Under the guidance of Mike Ruddock, Lansdowne won the All-Ireland League, Bateman Cup, Leinster Senior League and Leinster Senior Cup.

Two former players were inducted into the Guinness Rugby Writers Hall of Fame on the night.

Gerry 'Ginger' McLoughlin is a former Ireland international who famously scored a try at Twickenham in 1982, carrying half the English pack over the line.

The win was instrumental in Ireland winning the Triple Crown for the first time since 1949.

Ginger played his club rugby with Shannon RFC and toured New Zealand with the 1983 British & Irish Lions squad.

John O'Driscoll is a former Ireland international who won 26 caps for his country. He toured South Africa (1980) and New Zealand (1983) with the British & Irish Lions, and O'Driscoll played for Connacht at provincial level. In 2001 O'Driscoll was a selector for the British & Irish Lions.

Chomhgairdeachas to all the winners.