UGAAWA MERIT AWARD For February 2015

The highlight of February was, undoubtedly, O’Donovan Rossa’s tremendous victory in the AIB All-Ireland Club IHC final when the Belfast boys defeated Kilburn Gaels by 1-9 to 2-3, at Croke Park. It was a great result for the Antrim champions with many of the winning players standing out.

None More so, however, than teenage half-back GERARD WALSH who covered acres of ground in his pursuit of victory as he tracked his opponent all over the pitch and, also, contributed three points to Rossa’s winning total – the actual margin of victory.

“I was wearing No 5 on my back but my instructions were to follow my man wherever he went,” reveals schoolboy Gerard (17) who thought that his dad was “winding him up” when he delivered the news that Gerard had won the UGAAWA Monthly Merit Award.

“When I came home from St Mary’s Grammar School and Da told me the news I just didn’t believe it,” enthuses six-footer Gerard. “I’m overwhelmed with the award. It is a nice award to get and, along with winning the All-Ireland, it gives me a great boost to keep on training and playing.”

Gerard, who has played minor football and hurling with Antrim and has won U18 championship medals with his club in both codes, as well as other underage awards, joins three other 17-year-olds as the youngest winners of the UGAAWA monthly honour.

“Being among the youngest to win the award makes it even more special,” says the ‘A’ Levels student, who is studying four sports related subjects at St Mary’s CBGS with a view to qualifying for a sports studies degree at the University of Ulster.

To win the award, Gerard Walsh overcame challenges from Slaughtneil midfielder Patsy Bradley, who was ‘man-of-the-match’ in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final and Darren McCurry who turned in some good performances with Tyrone in the Alliance NFL.

UGAAWA Merit Award winner Gerard Walsh (extreme right front row) celebrates with his family.

Front - Dad Gerard senior and sister Fiónnuala.

Back - Ssiter Roisín, mother Angela and uncle Manuel.

Picture by John McIlwaine.

Now it is upwards and onwards for the winner and his club colleagues as Rossa return to senior hurling ranks and Gerard is looking forward to mixing it with the likes of Ballycastle and Dunloy in the Senior Hurling Championship.

“That will show us just how far we have come. It will be a good yardstick for us,” he says.

The presentation was made at the Rossa Complex in Belfast with Gerard receiving a Belleek Living engraved vase, specially designed silver cuff links from Carlingford Design House and training gear from O’Neill International Sports. He will also receive two tickets and overnight accommodation for the UGAAWA 28th annual banquet, at Great Northern Hotel Bundoran, later this year.