disappointed in my life after a defeat but, I suppose, there is no point in dwelling on it. Sean Delargy and I decided to play with Antrim the following Sunday and beating Wexford was a tonic.

“Now hearing that I have won the Monthly Merit Award is great. Obviously, I’m delighted with that – it is very much appreciated,” stressed Neil. He added: “It eases the pain a little more.”

Neil has already gained quite an array of trophies. He has won three Antrim SHC medals, two each of Antrim and Ulster minor medals. He has collected two Ulster SHC awards, a Walsh Cup medal, two Bank of Ireland Ulster College Allstars and now two UGAAWA Monthly Merit Awards.

McManus began his hurling life as a centre-back at St MacNissi’s and continued in the No.6 position at minor level with Antrim but since then has played at midfield, centre-

Ulster Gaa Writers’ Association Vice-Chairman, Micheal McGeary, presents Cushendall's Neil McManus with the Monthly Merit Award for February - adding a touch of glamour to the proceedings is Rowena Cassidy.

© Michael Cullen

February seems to bring the best out of Neil McManus as the Cushendall star has won our Monthly Merit Award for February for the second year running.

However, last month was a bitter-sweet time for the Ruairi Og 20-year-old. He turned in a five-star performance against De La Salle (Waterford) but it wasn’t enough for Cushendall to beat the Munster champions in the AIB All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Championship semi-final.

It’s history, of course, that the Ulster winners had victory snatched from their grasp seconds from the end and then lost out in overtime. A bitter pill for Neil and his colleagues to swallow, indeed.

“It was a hard one to swallow, for sure. I was never as

Neil McManus.

Neil McManus.

© Michael Cullen

forward and full-forward with the county.

For his February ‘09 award he beat off the challenges of Armagh’s Ryan Henderson and Monaghan’s Conor McManus. The performances of Fermanagh footballer Shane O’Brien and the UUJ lady footballers who retained the O’Dowd Cup also came in for consideration.

The presentation of a UGAAWA voucher, an engraved Belleek China vase, specially designed silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Gareth Mallon and training gear from O’Neill’s International Sports was made to Neil McManus at a function in the Balmoral Hotel, Belfast, on Wednesday, March 11.