Feb 28

Irish hockey star Róisín Upton named Limerick Person of the Year 2019

Hockey player Roisin Upton has been named Limerick Person of the Year 2019. Picture: Brian Arthur 

Irish hockey star Róisín Upton named Limerick Person of the Year 2019

A Limerick woman who played a pivotal role in securing a first-ever Olympics appearance for the Irish Women’s Hockey team has been named Limerick Person of the Year for 2019.

Hockey player Róisín Upton from Raheen, Limerick showed nerves of steel and ice-cool precision as she scored one of the goals in the sudden death shoot out last November to see Ireland through to the finals in Tokyo this summer.

Accepting the award, a visibly shocked Róisín said she was ‘completely blown away’ as a very proud Limerick woman: “I’m so proud of my roots, to have gotten to where I am, it takes an absolute village. I was lucky to part of a history-making group of women in the World Cup – I’m one of 28 on the Irish team and I’m the only one from Limerick and I carry that flag proudly and the support has just been phenomenal. To have made history again in 2019, being the first female team to have qualified for the Olympics is very special and I hope that we can top this again in 2020 as we’re on this road to Tokyo. The calibre of people in this room is incredible, this means the world to me.”

At the gala event in the Clayton Hotel in Limerick today (Thursday 27 February 2020) the monthly winners for 2019 gathered to see who would be chosen as Limerick Person of the Year.

Now in its 19th year and sponsored by The Limerick Leader, Southern Marketing Design & Media, and the Clayton Hotel, and supported by Limerick City and County Council, the Limerick Person of the Year Award was set up to honour the achievements and success of local people at home and abroad.

Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Sheahan said: “Congratulations to Róisín Upton on receiving her award today. She has shown her true colours in the white heat of sport when the stakes were extremely high. She has the edge when it comes to being on the pitch and competing for club and country, and her enthusiasm and the way she interacts with supporters and the general public is all-embracing. She epitomises what Limerick is all about.”

Eugene Phelan, editor of the Limerick Leader said: “Limerick Person of the Year is one of the highlights of the year for us at the Limerick Leader as it gives us a chance to honour ordinary people who have done extraordinary things during 2019. There is great diversity in this year’s nominees: we have two Emmy Award winners; sports stars; campaigners and the winner of the Rose of Tralee not to mention Love Island.”

Pat Reddan, General Manager, Clayton Limerick Hotel said: “The Clayton Hotel Limerick is delighted to be a sponsor of The Limerick Person of The Year since its inauguration. To be involved in a group, with my fellow sponsors, that gets the chance to recognise the extraordinary achievements by an individual or a group of people to better our city, county, and country, is, as a Limerick man, something that I am very proud to be a part of.”

Congratulating all nominees, Dave O’ Hora, Managing Director of Creative and Media Agency Southern said: “Creativity and storytelling are at the heart of what we do at Southern. The people nominated here today as Limerick people of the year each tell a very different story. They share a common credit, their individual, powerful tales of achievement, endeavor, winning, losing and above all else trying, to reinforce the story of this remarkable place, Limerick!”

Past winners of the title include Richard Lynch of ilovelimerick.com, philanthropist JP McManus, Limerick’s All-Ireland winning senior hurling team, world champion boxer Andy Lee, rugby star Paul O’Connell, Tidy Towns champion Helen O’Donnell and anti-bullying campaigner Luke Culhane, whose important video against bullying has been highlighted again since the tragic death of TV star Caroline Flack.

This year’s Limerick Person of the Year judging panel consisted of Cllr. Michael Sheahan Collins, Mayor of the City and County of Limerick, Eugene Phelan, editor of the Limerick Leader and Dr. Pat Daly, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council.

Monthly Award Biographies

January: John Shinnors

The January Person of the Month award was presented to renowned artist John Shinnors who published the book, Adult Reading at Artist’s Bedtime – a stunning collection of illustrated stories.

John began his studies at Limerick School of Art and Design under Jack Donovan before leaving the confines of conventional education to pursue his own vision of artistic creativity.

Despite going on to become one of Ireland’s foremost artists, John’s parents were “totally indifferent” to his talent when he was growing up.

His father tore up some of his paintings in later life “because he thought they were obscene.”

That didn’t deter John however, he went on to show his work in many solo and group exhibitions in Ireland. His hands have produced paintings, which commanded up to €70,000.

John has been involved in supporting the visual arts in Ireland through the Shinnors Scholarship for an MA in Curatorial Studies in partnership with LIT, LSAD and Limerick City Gallery of Art, and the Shinnors Drawing Award at LCGA.

When he goes away somewhere John’s paints travel with him. While working he has to have music playing – Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky, “anything big and heavy” he says.

His paintings often combine the figurative and abstract at once. The drawings and paintings in the sketchbooks are more figurative as they illustrate personal stories that are poignant, humorous and surreal.

February: Malachy Browne

Malachy may have arrived at journalism a little later than most, but he has made up for lost time.

Not alone has he landed a job with the most famous newspaper in the world, The New York Times, but he also played a key role in seeing the publisher land an Emmy Award.

The Broadford native who is a multimedia journalist and senior story producer with The Times, joined his colleagues from the Visual Investigations Unit, at the 39th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in New York.

The Times won the award for an investigative film documentary into the Las Vegas massacre of 2017.

Malachy and his team were presented with the prestigious accolade exactly one year to the day after the massacre took place in which 58 people attending a concert were gunned down and slain.

Having completed his formative education at Broadford National School and St Munchin’s College in Limerick city, Malachy studied engineering at UCD before going on to complete a Masters in International Relations in UL.

His uncle, veteran journalist Vincent Browne gave him an apprenticeship at Village, the current affairs and cultural magazine.

He joined Storyful around 2011 before working for Reported.ly which was set up by the founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar.

Malachy was based in Dublin and they were based in New York so he was over and back to New York quite a bit. A conversation with some of the editors in The Times led to him landing his dream job.

March: Crafty Angels

A group of women who have devoted countless hours to making clothes and other items for the less fortunate in Limerick and around the world were honoured with the Limerick Person of the Month award for March.

Crafty Angels, a group of 30 ladies, meet every Monday in the Millennium Centre in Caherconlish for two and a half hours. They combine a chat, a cuppa, and an interest in all forms of craft with charity work.

Liz Stanley, from Caherline, set up the Crafty Angels with the late and much-missed Maureen Kenny towards the end of 2013.

One of the charities to benefit greatly from their work is KidzCare, which provides care, education, and love to underprivileged and orphaned children in Tanzania. The group sends out suitcases packed with skirts, baby clothes, toiletry bags, and school supplies to various parts of the world through charities.

Incubator covers, tiny little caps and snuggle blankets are given by the group to the neonatal ward in University Maternity Hospital Limerick and therapy dolls and Freddy bags go to the Ark Unit in University Hospital Limerick.

The Crafty Angels hail from Kildimo, Murroe, Doon, Caherconlish and Mitchelstown.

April: Students of Ardscoil Mhuire, Corbally

A group of students whose work on raising awareness of sexting looks set to see a change in legislation was named the Limerick Persons of the Month for April.

Students from Ardscoil Mhuire in Corbally have met with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris in Limerick to brief him on their work and to discuss their concerns in relation to sexting abuse among minors in Ireland.

Their campaign to highlight the issue, Keep it PG, has garnered national attention and has seen them secure a number of high -profile awards including Young Social Innovators (YSI) of the Year 2018 and a Garda National Youth Award.

Sexting abuse is the sending of unsolicited sexually explicit digital images, videos, text messages, or emails, usually by mobile phone.

The overall aim of the campaign, according to student Erin Barrett, is to make sure changes take place nationally “because every teenage girl should be able to open their phone without the threat or risk of there being a nude image on their screen”.

The students conducted a survey in class which showed that 20 out of the 27 female students had received “nudes”.

The survey was also conducted in the local boys’ school with similar results.

Brid Herbert, principal at Ardscoil Mhuire, Corbally joked that she feels almost like the girls’ PA, such is the level of media interest in their campaign.

May: Sean Byrnes

A teenager whose motto in life is ‘all things are possible’, was named the Limerick Person of the Month for May.

It’s the latest honour for 14-year-old Sean Byrnes from Pallasgreen. He was honoured with a Limerick Garda Divisional Youth Award and was also named a winner of the inaugural Garda National Youth Awards 2019 in the Special Achievement category.

Sean has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. He is a wheelchair user but he won’t let it define him.

His vision is to start Limerick’s first-hand trike club to encourage others with disabilities to take part in activities, be inspired, and have fun.

Sean has experienced first-hand the benefits of sporting activities, how it has empowered him to be independent and to exceed.

Sean and his mum Fiona took part in their fifth Great Limerick Run 10k to help them raise funds and support the Mid-West Spina Bifida Association.

The goal is to purchase five trikes suitable for different age groups.

Sharing is a key aspect of the new Limerick Hand Trike Club, which has the slogan, Trike Something New.

“When we get the bike, each person will have it for a couple of weeks and then pass it on and pass it on,” Sean explained.

Sean is also a certified PADI Seal Team Diver. In the 2014/15 season, he was awarded Irish junior wheelchair basketball blitz’s best young player of the year. 

June: Saoirse Exton

Limerick teen climate change activist Saoirse Exton was named the Limerick Person of the Month for June.

The 14-year-old Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh student has been protesting every Friday for the past 10 months to raise awareness of climate change. Her action is part of the Fridays for Future, a global movement that sees students across the world highlight the cause across the world in solidarity with Greta Thunberg.

Saoirse and fellow Fridays for Future Limerick representatives led crowds of over 1,000 people through the streets of Limerick as part of the Global Climate Strike on September 20, resulting in one of the largest protests the city has ever seen.

“We’re striking here today because not enough action is being taken by our government locally, nationally or internationally so this is why we are fighting here today,” said Saoirse at the protest.

Hundreds of pupils from numerous schools across the city and county took part in the march.

So what is Saoirse’s message for the people of Limerick?

“Just think!”…“Think of what you’re doing when you buy things. Just think about what you’re doing. Think, can I take the bus today? Can I walk today? Can I cycle today? Just think.”

July: Adare Manor team

The Team at Adare Manor who secured The Ryder Cup for 2026, which is estimated to be worth up to €161m for the Irish economy, was named the Limerick Person of the Month for July.

Colm Hannon, CEO of Adare Manor accepted the award along with the manor’s golf course superintendent Alan MacDonnell. The duo accepted the award on behalf of the entire team at the five-star resort who secured the prestigious biennial golf competition between Europe and the United States.

Adare Manor resort was bought by businessman JP McManus, his wife Noreen and family in late 2014 and underwent a massive redevelopment over 18 months in 2016 and 2017.

With six years before the first player tees off in The Ryder Cup on Limerick soil, the 104 bedrooms at Adare Manor have already been block booked.

Sources say that the potential for tourism and international marketing far outweighs any financial investment the taxpayer will make.

Officials from The Ryder Cup first visited Adare Manor back in 2015 and carried out “a detailed inspection” of the course.

“Hopefully, touch wood, it will all go to plan,” said Mr. MacDonnell of the Ryder Cup.

“I think the roar of the crowd will be a hair standing on the back of your neck moment for me and the whole team in Adare.”

August: Sinead Flanagan

Adare native Sinead Flanagan was named the Limerick Person of the Month for August having been crowned the international Rose of Tralee.

The 28-year-old junior doctor was the first Limerick Rose to be awarded the title in 25 years.

Sinéad has used her new title to great effect both at a local, national and international level.

She embarked on a visit to Kolkata with the Hope Foundation as an ambassador to help out with the work they do.

And on Valentine’s weekend, she was joined by 14 fellow Roses and escorts in traveling to Belarus to work as a medic and teaching volunteers for children with special needs through Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International charity.

Sinéad qualified as a physiotherapist at the University of Limerick before studying Medicine in University College Cork, completing eight years of study between the two universities.

“It’s amazing, I’m really proud,” said Sinéad of taking the Rose of Tralee crown. “Twenty-five years is a long time, and Limerick has a proud tradition of having a strong Rose Centre and I’m so proud to represent our fine county and city – not everyone gets to represent their county, so it’s great.”

September: Greg O’Shea

A Limerick man who melted hearts on both sides of the Irish Sea was named the Limerick Person of the Month for September.

Rugby player Greg O’Shea was crowned the winner of Love Island 2019 with his partner on the island Amber Gill.

Limerick-born Greg who entered the Love Island villa in mid-July split the £50,000 prize with Amber after the pair were coupled up and voted as the overall winners by viewers of the popular ITV show.

The reality TV show attracted record audiences in the UK and was also hugely popular in Ireland – with the final attracting more than 650,000 viewers across all platforms.

Greg attended Scoil Ide, Corbally, in his youth before attending Crescent College Comprehensive. He played rugby in both schools and won all the Munster school medals with Crescent Comp.

His grandfather, Bill, and father, Niall – as well as several uncles – are Shannon RFC men through and through, while his first cousin, former Ireland U20 flanker Kelvin Brown, is playing with the nine-time AIL winners.

Greg now has his heart set on seeing himself and his Irish Rugby Sevens teammates qualify for the Olympic Games in July. 

October: Max Dennison

One of the world’s leading lights in the visual effects industry was named the Limerick Person of the Month for October.

Max Dennison who grew up in Kildimo is one of the most respected artists in special visual effects.

Last September Max along with his team at DNEG, one of the world’s leading visual effects companies, took home an Emmy Award for outstanding special visual effects in a supporting role.

He scooped the most coveted prize in the television industry for his artistic touch on the hit HBO show that captured the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Speaking to the Limerick Limerick from London, Max said of the Limerick Person of the Month award: “This award recognises the singular achievements of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and I feel especially privileged to be included with such alumni.”

Max, who attended St Michael’s primary school and Villiers secondary school in Limerick city, was represented at the monthly award presentation by his parents Jim and Valerie.

Interestingly, Max’s interest in film was sparked during the 1980s when the Neil Jordan-directed High Spirits was being filmed in Dromore Castle near Pallaskenry.

Max would cycle up to Dromore Castle and was allowed onto the set to see the world of film in action.

A talented illustrator Max spent the first year of his college career in Limerick in the School of Art and Design before doing a degree in Product Design. Skilled at both illustration and computers Max has worked with a number of world-renowned companies.

His CV includes films and television series such as The Lord of the Rings, Superman Returns, X-Men, The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and Star Wars.

NovemberRóisín Upton

Irish hockey player Róisín Upton who played a starring role in helping the Ireland women’s hockey side qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time ever was named the Limerick Person of the Month for November.

The 25-year-old who was born in Janesboro but now resides in Raheen converted her penalty in a sudden death shootout to help Ireland book their plane tickets to Tokyo in July.

The Limerick woman showed incredible composure to covert her sudden death penalty after missing a penalty earlier in the shoot-out.

A former student of An Mhodhscoil primary school in the city, Róisín began playing hockey as a first-year student at Crescent College Comprehensive.

Despite her obvious skill and speed, Róisín admits she “wasn’t great at hockey at all in the first year”.

Fast forward then a decade to a November night at Energia Park in Dublin. The second leg at the Donnybrook stadium finished scoreless, as the first leg had, meaning the game went to penalties.

Róisín Upton squeezed home her effort in sudden death, allowing goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran to deny the Canadians and book Ireland’s ticket to Tokyo.

She didn’t know it but Róisín had broken the top of her ulna (a bone in the forearm that goes from the elbow up to the hand).

Preparation has already started for Tokyo with an Olympic medal firmly in Róisín’s sights. Hockey player Roisin Upton Hockey player Roisin Upton Hockey player Roisin Upton. Hockey player Roisin Upton. Hockey player Roisin Upton Hockey player Roisin Upton.Hockey player Roisin Upton.Hockey player Roisin Upton.

December: Sarah Corbett-Lynch

Sarah Corbett-Lynch who lost both her parents in tragic circumstances was named the Limerick Person of the Month for December after penning a self-affirming book, which has helped children explore grief, loss and a range of other complex emotions.

Sarah was only 12 weeks old when her mother Margaret ‘Mags’ Fitzpatrick died in November 2006 from a severe asthma attack.

In August 2015, when she was just eight, Sarah’s devoted father Jason, 39, was then murdered in North Carolina.

Sarah and her older brother Jack returned to live in Ireland with their aunt Tracey, Jason’s sister.

While at home one day, feeling somewhat bored, Sarah started writing.  She liked it so much she continued, and some 18 months later she had her debut book ready for publication.

Noodle Loses Dad, her first book of the Boogawooga series, sees Noodles take the reader on a journey as she faces the loss of a loved one, moving houses, becoming part of a blended family and learning to find hope and happiness again.

Part of the proceeds from the book sales go towards the Children’s Grief Centre.

The response to the publication has been “amazing” with Sarah finding herself on The Late Late Show couch chatting to Ryan Tubridy.

At the tender age of 13, Sarah has five other books written and there has already seen interest from publishers in the United States.

Her aunt Tracey said the family is “immensely proud” of Sarah particularly her empathy towards other children, and her ability “to be able to climb down there and feel what other people feel”.

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