With the glittering year of paddlesports we saw in 2022 it was the perfect year to make a return to an Awards evening of the calibre our athletes, volunteers and members deserve. Being able to welcome our members and guests to the Dunboyne Castle Hotel for a full gala evening was the most fitting way to end what has been an incredibly successful year on the water. The night was filled with great food, drinks and being able to connect with our community from all over the country, all of which was made possible thanks to Leadership Journeys, directed by Canoeing Ireland President Lynda Byron-Byrne and Frank Byrne, who sponsored the event.
The ceremony itself was opened by our President Lynda Byron-Byrne, who spoke about the fantastic work which has been done off the water in the sport this year, crediting those who work tirelessly in the background to make our sport what it is, and emphasising the need for continued focus on diversity and inclusion in our sport. This led into our first awards of the evening, the Athlete of the Year Awards. These were presented to Athletes in each of our disciplines to recognise incredible performances in the Irish jersey over the course of the season. Canoe Sprint, Canoe Slalom, Freestyle Kayaking, Canoe Polo, Wildwater Racing, Canoe Marathon, Paddlesurf, Ocean Racing and Stand Up Paddle were all recognised, with many of our outstanding Junior athletes also recognised.
We were also extremely honoured to have Sport Ireland CEO, Dr Una May, join us on the night to celebrate the achievements in the sport. Una May kindly made an address during the ceremony, praising the excellent work going on in Paddlesports, and paying tribute to the community and culture in the sport.
The first up of the main five community Awards was the Event of the Year. This award was the only of the night decided by public vote. For the second year in a row this Award was won by the Limerick 10k Charity paddle, which raised fantastic funds for Rape Crisis Midwest, all while getting people out on the water and introduced to the sport.
The Club Hero Award was presented to a member who has made an outstanding contribution to our amazing clubs. This year, awarded to Melinda Reddy Foley of Graiguenamanagh Canoe Club, a founding member and key driver of the club.
The Community Impact Award was this year won by Teen Connect. The Teen Connect programme has done amazing work to create a welcoming community of teenage girls in our sport to help more young women discover the brilliant world of Paddlesports. This work being done is the perfect reflection of the supportive and inclusive place we want the Paddlesports community to be.
Team of the Year was awarded to a team who not only did us proud on the field of play but also embodied the values of Canoeing Ireland. For the second year in a row this was won by the Freestyle Kayaking National Team. Not only did they have 5 athletes through to their respective finals at the World Championships, but kept an incredible team presence on the bank throughout the entire competition.
Potentially the most important Award we give each year, the Volunteer of the Year is where we can say thank you to our outstanding volunteers who make our sport what it is. Recognising this selfless work they do in sharing their passion for the sport is something we are always looking to ways to do. This years award went to Mick Butler from Clonmel Canoe Club. Having had a hand in setting up both Clonmel Canoe Club and Southeast Freestyle Mick has had a massive impact on the face of Paddlesports. One of the biggest things Mick brings to the sport is his sheer enthusiasm to drive Paddlesports on, seen from every level from introducing beginners, to travelling with the Freestyle Team to their World Championships to support the team to their incredible performance this year.
The Canoeing Ireland Awards also gave us a chance to recognise the amazing contributions people have made to the sport over the years. A long time servant of the sport, Ike Jacob, was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his continuing work for our sport. Since his first outing as Team Manager for the Canoe Slalom team in 1979, Ike has had a hand on the steering wheel, acting as team manager until only recently, where his focus has shifted to campaigning for improved whitewater facilities in Ireland.
We cannot wait to welcome our members back next year for the 2023 Canoeing Ireland Awards. Where we can again celebrate what we are sure will be an incredible year for our sport, and just as importantly, meet up as a community for a great evening of fun.