Blade and Dixon lead Connacht Rugby awards

Connacht Rugby has celebrated the end of a successful season with Caolin Blade and Orla Dixon named the Connacht players of the year for 2022/23.

Having delivered Champions Cup rugby yet again after finishing seventh in the United Rugby Championship, Connacht could enjoy the celebrations at its end-of-season awards, and appropriately farewell coaching director Andy Friend whose five year tenure finished on a high.

Scrumhalf Blade won the prestigious Player of the Year award for the first time in his 10-year career at the Sportsground, having scored 11 tries in 20 fixtures. In both URC matches against the Lions and Edinburgh, the 29-years-old Monivea player scored two hat-tricks.

The Galwegian and Connacht centre Orla Dixon, who has made a name for herself as an athletic and abrasive player, was a nominee for the Energia try of the month in January when playing for Galwegians against Old Belvedere in which she scored a brace of tries. One of 12 Galwegians on the Connacht women's team, Dixon, who can also play on the wing, is also head coach of St Jarlath's Tuam who were this season's Connacht Junior C winners, and a deserved recipient of the women's player of the year.

The two Galwegians led the list of award winners at Saturday's annual Connacht Rugby Awards at the Galmont Hotel,

Other nominees for the men's player of the year were Finlay Bealham (second ) and Mack Hansen (third ), and Máiread Coyne and Clara Barrett in the women’s category. Niall Murray was voted the Fans’ Player of the Year by the public, while the Academy Player of the Year award went to Galwegians' Hugh Gavin, who was also named U19 Player of the Year.

Portumna’s Daithí Frawley was the deserving recipient of the Lifetime Contribution to Rugby Award from former student, and the evening's surprise guest, incoming coach John Muldoon.

The full list of winners is as follows:U18 Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Sound to Light, Tomás Farthing (Corinthians RFC/Coláiste Creg Mhuire ); U18 Women’s Player of the Year, sponsored by RDJ, Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Tuam RFC/Oughterard RFC/Corinthians RFC/Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin ); U19 Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Grant Thornton, Hugh Gavin (Galwegians RFC/Coláiste Iognáid ); Academy Player of the Year, sponsored by Total Health Pharmacy, Hugh Gavin; Referee of the Year, Shane Touhy; Coach of the Year, Eddie Walsh (Westport RFC ); Women’s Club Player of the Year, Karly Tierney (Tuam RFC/Oughterard RFC ); Junior Club Player of the Year, Eoghan Coyle (Creggs RFC ), Senior Club Player of the Year, Mark Boyle (Corinthians RFC ); Club of the Year, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, Sligo RFC; Connacht Rugby Unsung Hero, sponsored by Keystone Lintels, Fergus ‘Gussie’ Farrell; Try of the Year, sponsored by Western Postform, Niall Murray (v Benetton ). Fans’ Player of the Year, sponsored by Murty Rabbitts Niall Murray; Women’s Player of the Year, sponsored by G-P, Orla Dixon; Men’s Player of the Year, sponsored by Genesys Caolin Blade; Lifetime Contribution to Connacht Rugby, sponsored by Oliver Carty Meats, Daithí Frawley.

Macron sponsorship

Sportswear brand Macron has become Connacht Rugby's official kit partner in a long-term, multi-year partnership, which begins the 2023/24 season.

Macron will supply kit for all men’s, women’s and age grade teams, and the new Connacht Rugby home jersey - the first to be designed by Macron - will be revealed later this summer, with the away and European jerseys to follow later in the year.

Macron, already with a strong presence in European rugby, is official kit partner to the Scottish, Welsh and Italian Rugby Unions, and a number of teams in the BKT United Rugby Championship, in addition to a host of football clubs.

Connacht Rugby's head of commercial and marketing, Philip Patterson, says as the Connacht Rugby brand has continued to grow, and it was "vital to find an official kit partner to take the brand to the next level".

Macron will produce all official Connacht Rugby apparel, and Patterson says the agreement followed discussions the Macron team in Italy for a number of months.

"We’re incredibly excited by how our two organisations can creatively work together. The new Connacht Rugby jerseys, training wear, and leisure wear will be a sure-fire hit with supporters when they start to hit the shelves, exclusively at Intersport Elverys, later this summer," he says.

Ross Cook, senior sports marketing manager at Macron, says Connacht Rugby is Macron’s first Irish rugby club.

"Our leadership in rugby is growing stronger every day, and we are delighted to welcome Connacht Rugby to our large family. It is an agreement that involves a long journey together, and it is very exciting to work side by side with them. The intention is to develop match kits and apparel of high quality and technicality, as well as innovative designs and customised graphics, to best express the identity, colours and symbols of a club with 138 years of history."


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