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Jonny Sexton is named Player of the Year at Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland awards

By Claire Cromie

Ireland and Lions fly half Jonny Sexton has been named Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year.

The Dubliner, who came of age during Leinster’s successful Heineken Cup run in 2009, collected his award at an event in the Guinness Storehouse in his home city on Monday evening.

The No 10 now plays for Paris club Racing Metro 92 and was delighted to receive the accolade, which was voted for by the Irish rugby media.

“It has been a long time since I won an individual award," said Sexton.

"It’s not something you set out to achieve, you want to win things from a team perspective, but it is nice to see your efforts recognised on an individual basis.

"As an out half you need to thank all of the players you’ve played with and the coaches as well, because you rely on them so heavily. It’s a good sign that if the No 10 wins an award that the team has done their job well, too."

Sexton’s former province, Leinster, were awarded the Dave Guiney Team of the Year for the third year running after claiming three trophies last season, namely the Amlin Challenge Cup, RaboDirect Pro12 League and the British and Irish Cup.

Niamh Briggs picked up the Women’s Player of the Year award after a fantastic season where she played an instrumental role in the Irish Women’s team historic Grand Slam victory in the Six Nations. The women’s side were also honoured for their heroics with a Special Recognition Award.

Lansdowne FC were voted Club of the Year due to their success in the All-Ireland League this past season, as they sauntered to the title by a margin of 18 points.

The Tom Rooney Award went to Alain Rolland for his exceptional contribution to refereeing, which saw him represent Ireland at the highest level on the world stage.

Former Ireland and British and Irish Lions player and manager Donal Lenihan was inducted into the Guinness Hall of Fame.

The award ceremony was hosted by Peter O’Brien of Guinness, John D. O’Brien, Honorary Secretary and Michael Corcoran, incoming Chairman of the Rugby Writers of Ireland.

The 2013 Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland award winners

Player of the Year: Jonathan Sexton

Jonathan Sexton announced himself to European rugby when he replaced the injured Felipe Contepomi in the first half of Leinster’s famous semi-final victory over Munster in 2009. He then went on to win three European Cup medals with the province. Last season, Sexton helped Leinster to their first ever Amlin Challenge Cup as well as the RaboPro Direct 12 title. On the back of these performances, he was selected for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia this summer. He made 7 appearances in Australia and played a strong hand in the Lions first tour win since South Africa in 1997. He started all 3 tests against the Wallabies and played an influential role in the penultimate test, creating several tries and scoring one himself.  This season Sexton plays with Racing Metro and is a key member of their squad.

Dave Guiney Perpetual trophy (Team of the Year): Leinster

Leinster continued on their winning ways in the 2012-13 season, as they claimed not one, but three trophies. Having missed out on qualification for the European Cup, they stormed to success in the Amlin Challenge cup, beating Stade Francis 34-13 in the RDS. The following week they went on to beat provincial rivals Ulster 24-18 RaboDirect Pro 12 Final and claimed the trophy that had eluded them for so long. Alongside these two victories, Leinster A also claimed the British and Irish Cup, making it another great season for the province.

Tom Rooney Award: Alain Rolland

Alain Rolland is considered one of the top referees in world rugby.  In his playing days, Rolland played at scrumhalf for Leinster and also gained three caps for Ireland.  After retiring from playing, he began his refereeing career, with his first Test appointment coming in 2001. The experienced official has enjoyed an excellent career at the forefront of world rugby and has been involved in three World Cups, peaking in 2007 where he officiated the final between England and South Africa. He was also an assistant referee in the 2011 final. Rolland has recently announced his intention to retire from refereeing at end of the 2013/14 season.

Guinness hall of Fame: Donal Lenihan

Donal Lenihan made his Irish international debut in 1981 against Australia at the age of 22. Donal has played for his county an impressive 52 times including captaining on 17 occasions. He was selected for three Lions Tours (1983, 1986, 1989) and was the popular captain of the unbeaten 1989 mid-week side that became known as 'Donal's Donuts'. After retirement from rugby, he took over as manager of Ireland in 1998. He later resigned as manager at the end of the 2000 season to take over management of the British & Irish Lions for their 2001 tour to Australia. Donal is still very much involved in the game, and can be heard co-commentating on radio and TV.

Womens Player of the Year: Niamh Briggs

Niamh Briggs started playing club rugby with Dungarvan RFC, before making the move to senior rugby with Clonmel and she now plays for UL Bohemians. First capped for Munster in 2006, she went on to play a key role in Munster's winning Interpro sides that claimed the title in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. For Ireland, Niamh has been capped over 30 times. She played a vital role in Ireland’s 2013 Six Nations Grand Slam winning side, scoring three tries and kicking 28 points as she helped her side to a historic victory.

Club of the Year: Lansdowne Rugby Club

Lansdowne RFC was founded in 1872 by Henry WD Dunlop. Steeped in the history of the game, the club is one of the oldest rugby clubs in Ireland as well as the one of the best known wherever the game is played.  In 2012-13, Lansdowne, under the guidance of Welsh Grand-Slam winning coach Mike Ruddock, took the All-Ireland League by storm. Playing an attacking brand of rugby that opposing sides struggled to cope with, Lansdowne romped to victory, winning the league by a margin of 18 points.

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