UCC Sports Stars honoured at 35th Annual Sports Star Awards

35th Annual UCC Sports Star Award winners, proudly sponsored by River Lee Hotel


Name: Libby Coppinger
Course: Public Health
Sport/Award: Camogie & Ladies Gaelic Football

Where did your love of camogie and Gaelic football come from? My parents played a huge part, because my father would have played football growing up. My mum is actually from America, but she always had a huge interest in it. So, we would have been heading down to the hall whenever we had a bit of free time at home, just to get out and play. That’s really where I got my interest, and it’s taken off from there.

What has been the most memorable moment from your time with the UCC clubs? We’ve had a few good days, alright. Unfortunately, we haven’t got the big one yet, but I have two from last year.
With the Camogie Club, we won the semi-final against WIT, and that was a huge win because they were our rivals there for a while. We finally got one over them, so that was great!
Then, in football, we beat UCD in the O’Connor Cup in the same year.

What does winning this award mean to you? It’s just a huge honour. To be honest, I was very surprised when I found out. It’s massive. It’s always great when you get something yourself. It’s a team sport, and you want to be winning together, but it is lovely when you get that bit of recognition yourself.


Seán Powter (Gaelic Football)
BSc Biological and Chemical Sciences II
Award: Gaelic Football

Where did your love of Gaelic football come from? Who were the biggest influences on your career? My love for Gaelic Football started when I was playing Street Leagues in Douglas GAA club. Going down every Saturday playing with your friends really did kick start my Gaelic Football career. The biggest influences on my career has to be my parents; they really do everything for me, from making my food to ensuring all my gear is ready before a game. They really are amazing, and I’d be lost without them.

What is your most memorable moment of your time to, date, with UCC Gaelic Football team? My most memorable moment to date playing with UCC has to be winning the senior league in January. We beat a very strong UL side and it really was a special moment for my teammates and I. It was the first medal for many of us in a UCC jersey so hopefully we can use this a springboard for future success.

What does this award mean to you? Receiving this prestigious award is very special. To be recognized by such a renowned college like UCC is extremely satisfying. For the hard work I put into my sport, this award is an acknowledgement of that effort and I’m extremely grateful to UCC for the opportunity to further my career both on the pitch and off it.


Jenny Clein (Hockey)
Pharmacy I
Award: Hockey

Where did your love of sport come from? Since I was very young I’ve always had a huge passion for sport and competition. When I was in primary school I played almost everything, and the secondary school I went to also placed a huge emphasis on sport, so I’ve been immersed in sport all my life. For as long as I can remember, it has been all I wanted to do with my time.
I’m a really a competitive person by nature and I love to win, so I guess that’s a huge part of why I love to play.

What is your most memorable moment of your time with the club to date, and why? Probably winning the Munster Senior League this year. Our team trained really hard to win this, and coming top of the league just showed that all the training really paid off. It also meant that we secured our spot in the playoffs, where we will compete to get into the EY League. This was a goal of ours from the start, so it was great that we were able to achieve it.

What does winning this award mean to you? Winning this award is a huge honour for me, because I know just how prestigious it is. I’m very encouraged by, and appreciative of the fact that the college recognises my effort and commitment to the sport.


Sam Grace
Sports Studies & PE 111
Award: Hockey

Sam Grace, is a UCC Sports Quercus recipient, captained UCC Men’s Hockey to Intervarity and Peard Cup success, as well as a strong Munster league campaign.  Grace has also been a success on the International stage with appearances for both U21’s and Senior Ireland Hockey teams.

Where did your love of hockey begin? I played hockey in my first year of school at Kilkenny College. Ever since then, I loved the sport. I have great memories of the school and will always remember the support I got from the staff and my friends on the team. I have some lovely memories of travelling up and down to matches and training in Dublin and spending lots of time in the company of my mum, Ann.
Most memorable moment during your time in UCC? During my first year in UCC, the Men’s Hockey Club won both the Peard Cup and the Munster League. For the latter we had to win the final two matches against Bandon. We won both matches, with the winning goal being scored in the final minute for the second match.
What does winning a Sports Star Award mean to you? The award has been one of my goals for a long time. It’s really significant for me because it represents all sports in UCC, not just the hockey team. To be included among such brilliant sportsmen and women is humbling.


Emma Spillane
B Comm I
Award: Ladies Gaelic Football

Where did your love of Gaelic Football come from? Who were the biggest influences on your career? My love of football came from my father – he was very involved with my local GAA club, Bantry Blues, when I was younger so I was always going to football matches with him. I always loved watching football and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to grow up playing the game.
My older sister was probably the biggest influence on my career. When she was younger she played football with various Cork underage teams and I used to love watching her play.

What is your most memorable moment of your time, to date, with the UCC Ladies Gaelic Football team? I’m only in my first year in UCC at the moment so I haven’t been playing for too long with the college ladies football team but I’m hoping to have some great years ahead of me in the skull and crossbones! So far my most memorable moment has been reaching this year’s O’Connor Cup semi-final. To be part of such a prestigious tournament so early in my time at UCC was very special.

What does this award mean to you? It’s fantastic to be recognised by the college and for them to acknowledge our achievements with both county and college as a lot of hard work and dedication goes into competing at the highest level. It’s an honour for me to receive this award and it’s a moment that I will always treasure.


Ciara McNamara
Social Science III
Award: Soccer

Where did your love of soccer come from? My dad would have been involved in local soccer teams when I was younger. He worked nights and would coach during the day, so I was always brought along to sessions. The love just kind of grew from there.

I was always at the training sessions, kicking and ball, and then I started with a boys’ team – because there was no girls’ team in my area – so I was like ‘the girl who played soccer’. And then it just spiralled on from there. Now I do coaching as well.

What has been the most memorable moment from your time with the UCC club? This year, 2017/2018, is one of the stand-out years with UCC, but also with Cork City FC.
With UCC Ladies Soccer, we got to the final of the Intervarsity’s, which the club hadn’t got to for a number of years. Unfortunately, we lost in the last minute of extra time, but it was a great experience for me.
I was also lucky enough to go to the World Student Games in Taipei, in August, with Ireland. That was a life-changing experience, and something I will honestly never forget.

With Cork City, we went on an historic FAI Cup run. We actually won the FAI Senior Cup in the Aviva Stadium in November, and I was captain. So, being able to lift that trophy in the national stadium, in front of your family and the people who come to your matches every week, was just unbelievable.

What does winning this award mean to you? It’s just a great honour to receive an award like this from UCC, especially when it’s such a big university with such a wide variety of sporting talents. To be recognised this year, for me personally, is just a great honour. I’m in my final year in college as well, so it’s just the cherry on top for me.


Ronan Byrne
Food & Nutritional Science II
Award: Rowing

Ronan Byrne, received a UCC Sports Quercus Scholarship for rowing and has seen a natural progression in his performances all year. 3rd and 4th finishes in London Metro Regatta, Division 1 Cork Regatta and Irish Rowing Championships in June and July last year, was followed by Gold representing Ireland in the Home International Regatta in Glasgow in July. Since October Byrne has had 5 1st place finishes out of 6, in which he finished 2nd. Byrne has established himself as Ireland’s top heavyweight rower this season despite his young age of 19, dominating the field at every High Performance National trial.

Where did your love of rowing begin? My love of rowing comes from acknowledging my own improvements and watching my times get faster. My own success in rowing motivates me to train and keeps me in a positive mindset.

Most memorable moment during your time in UCC? My favourite time with UCC Rowing was the Blessington training camp in Wicklow over the Christmas holidays. We spent a week there in the rain and cold in different boats. It was great for bonding as a squad which is an important aspect of rowing.

What does winning a Sports Star Award mean to you? I’ve never received an award like this before and it means a lot me. It tells me that I am improving and getting faster. It gives me confidence going into the racing season against other high-calibre athletes.


Jack O’Sullivan
BSc Finance I
Award: Rugby

Where did your love of Rugby come from? Who were the biggest influences on your career? I started playing rugby at seven years of age with Sunday’s well and then moved on to play with Presentation Brothers Cork where I had a lot of success which contributed to the enjoyment and love of the game.

What is your most memorable moment of your time, to date, with the UCC Rugby team? My first start for UCC which also happened to be a derby match against Dolphin in the Mardyke. I was only new to the team and it was great to see the emotion of the players and supporters after we won and it really showed what this club is about.

What does this award mean to you? It’s an acknowledgement of the work I have put in over the year and is also a reflection of the great season UCC Rugby is having to date. Fingers crossed, our progression will continue with promotion of our team to the top tier of competition at the end of this season.


John Poland
Finance III
Award: Rugby

John Poland, UCC Rugby scrum half and UCC Sports Scholarship recipient has been ever present for the AIL squad. He has progressed to play games in the BOI Cup with Munster ‘A’ as well British and Irish Cup Champion. Poland made and impressive full debut versus Zebra in the Pro 14.

Where did your love of rugby begin? My love of rugby began when I was age five. I would go to training with my dad in Sunday’s Well and playing with the under-eights. My dad was the coach and in no time all my school friends had joined with me. The sweets in the shop on the way home made it all the better!

Most memorable moment during your time in UCC? My most memorable moment with UCC RFC so far was our victory against Naas RFC at the beginning of our season. It was that game that kick-started our season. We are now in prime position for a promotion playoff spot.

What does winning a Sports Star Award mean to you? It’s great to get the recognition from UCC in my first season with college. I have really enjoyed the season so far and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks which will be a crucial part of the season.


Fionn Lyden
Civil Engineering IV
Award: Sailing

Where did your love of your sport come from? My whole life, really. I live in Baltimore, in West Cork, and there’s a huge amount of sailing going on down there. My parents would have always done it – they took me out on the boat when I was so young that I can’t even remember, and some of the rest of my family used to do it as well. So, I suppose it started from there.

What’s your most memorable moment with the club, and why? I think it was this year, when we won the Varsities. I was on the team in First Year as well when we won it, but to be honest, we won it quite easily – this year, we fought right to the end. It was just lovely to win it in Final Year, as well.

What does winning this award mean to you? I’ve been on a Quercus scholarship the last four years, and in recent years I was doing a lot of sailing outside college – I wasn’t really representing UCC that much. It’s just nice to win something through UCC.


Shane Daly Butz
BA (Early Years and Childhood Studies) III
Award: Soccer

Where did your love of Soccer come from? Who were the biggest influences on your career? My love for soccer came from my family. My dad is American so soccer was never his thing, (mind you, he’s an expert now!) but each year all my Irish uncles and cousins get together for a game around Christmas time and that was my first taste of soccer and I loved getting stuck in! I grew up supporting Liverpool while they were in their prime so one of my biggest influences would have to be Steven Gerrard. His tenacity, team ethic, leadership and passion on the pitch resonated with me and I tried to bring that into my own game.

What is your most memorable moment of your time, to date, with the UCC Soccer team and why? My most memorable moment to date with UCC would have to be beating three Dublin teams in the 2017 Collingwood Cup and eventually defeating UCD 2-1 in the cup final where we scored a last minute winner. The Collingwood Cup is a prestigious tournament that the college really embraces and to be part of the 13th winning UCC team was something very special for myself, the team, the coaches and the likes of Johnny Mac and Kieran Nestor who supported us all the way! While the Collingwood was a special moment, I also have to mention winning the Munster Senior League title in front of a few thousand people in the Mardyke in the last game of the season against Cobh Wanderers. It was a fantastic way to end one of the most successful seasons that the college has ever had!

What does this award mean to you? I am extremely honoured and grateful to accept the award and to top off what has been and amazing three years with the club. Unfortunately, this is my final year of university and as a player with the UCC team – I owe so much to UCC soccer and everything that the club has done for me. My teammates and coaches have always spurred me on to do better so without them the successes achieved on the pitch would have not been possible.


Other Award winners on the night: 

Team of the Year – Sailing I (read more…)

‘Kieran Dowd Special Achievement Award’ – Donie Walsh (Athletics) (read more…)


Special thanks to UCC Office of Marketing & Communications – Donna, Nancy, Jane, and Denis for their support. 

Thanks to Diane Cusack for the great images.