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Ulster star Jacob Stockdale makes it a trophy treble with Irish Young Player of the Year award

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Jacob Stockdale last night won the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year honour at the Zurich Irish Rugby Awards.

The accolade, named after the former Ulster centre who died suddenly in 2012, went to Stockdale after a remarkable year for both his province and the national side.

Twelve months ago, the 22-year-old was still to win his first Ireland cap but, after a try-scoring debut against the USA, he hasn't looked back.

The Ulster Academy graduate, who also won the Malcolm Brodie Sports Star and George Best Breakthrough at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards earlier this year, has crossed the whitewash 11 times in just nine Test outings, and set a new record with seven tries in the Six Nations.

His try-scoring feats saw him beat out competition from highly decorated Leinster duo Jordan Larmour and James Ryan to scoop the prize.

The top award on the night, the Zurich Players' Player of the Year, went to Keith Earls.

The 30-year-old wing was in sensational form throughout the year for both Munster and Ireland and was instrumental in the Grand Slam success.

Playing on the opposite wing to Stockdale, the Moyross man may have scored just one try in the Championship but provided plenty of memorable moments aside, including his leap and catch against France.

On receiving his award, Earls commented: "It has been a great season with many special memories for me. For all the successes, there were some challenges along the way too, and so it means a lot to get the recognition of my fellow players across the country.

"I've given it my all, but it wouldn't have been possible without the support of my team-mates, friends and of course my family."

Simon Keogh, CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, added: "Winning a Zurich Irish Rugby Award is one of the highest honours a player can receive in the game here in Ireland.

"There have been many great achievements by Irish players this season, but to be acknowledged by your team-mates and opponents in this manner shows just how much of an impact a player has made throughout the season.

"I am thrilled for Keith who has had a fantastic season, and many before that."

The event at the Clayton Hotel on the Burlington Road in Dublin also saw Ireland and Leinster legend Brian O'Driscoll welcomed to the BNY Mellon Hall of Fame, while the Women's XVs Player of the Year honour went to Claire Molloy.

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