Pierce Flynn presents the January Joint Park Hotel Sport Star award to Declan Queally. Included are Declan’s parents Declan Snr and Bernie, his daughter Eva and Kieran O’Connor, adjudicator. Photos: Sean Byrne.
It was very much a case of new year and new winners at the first Park Hotel Waterford Sports Star Awards of 2019 on Friday.
Just weeks after Thomas Barr was crowned as the overall Park Hotel Award winner for 2018, we are straight onto the monthly awards for 2019 and the search for the next overall winner.
After two performances really stood out in the first month of 2019, the judges took the decision to jointly award the January accolade to Declan Queally (Point-to-Point Racing) and Kelyn Cassidy (Boxing). Both men are first time Park Hotel Award winners.
QUEALLY’S SUPER MONTH
Declan had a great month in Point-to-Point racing world. On the opening weekend in January he rode and trained a winner at Mainstown. The following week he trained a winner at Aghabullogue. The week after that he trained a winner at Boulta and the following week he rode three winners and trained two of them at Kilfeacle. He’s currently leading the Irish trainers race with 15 winners, five clear of his closest rival for the season so far. He becomes the first ever Point-to-Point winner in this award’s scheme which began in 1991.
The Cappagh man was delighted to have been chosen as a joint award winner for January.
“I’d like to thank Pierce and the Flynn family and the judges as it’s an absolute honour to win this award,” said Declan Queally.
Declan combines riding in the Point-to-Points with training in that sphere and also horses on the track and it’s fair to say that he’s having a season to remember on all fronts.
“Absolutely. Since the Point-to-Point season began back in October it’s just been an unbelievable season for myself riding, training and the yard at home. At the moment we have just under a 50% strike rate which means that one out of every two horses we run wins, it’s unheard of and it’s unbelievable and to be here and to get this award just tops it all off.”
With almost half the Point-to-Point season completed, Declan currently sits on top of the national trainer’s table, five wins ahead of his nearest rival and he’s anxious to stay there, even if he knows the size of the task.
“It’s not easy to be fair. Point-to-Point racing is a big industry and there’s big money in it so it’s very very competitive so to be at the top of the table at this stage of the season is just phenomenal so hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Queally family are no strangers to the Park Hotel awards, with Declan’s brother Tom a seven time monthly award winner and a three time overall winner and Declan is delighted to now have won his first monthly award.
“I’m thrilled. You’d see all the monthly awards at home that Tom has won and you’d think yourself I wouldn’t mind one of those alongside his seven or eight so I’ve done that now and I’m really happy.”
SECOND U-22 TITLE FOR CASSIDY
January saw Kelyn Cassidy win his second National U-22 Elite boxing title but with it comes his first Park Award and he was delighted to get the call.
“Yeah this is unbelievable that people are following what you’re doing and I’m delighted to be honoured as opportunities like this don’t come around too often.”
January was also a month to remember for Saviours Crystal Boxing Club’s Kelyn Cassidy. After beating Thomas O’Toole of the Celtic Eagles 3-2 in the semi-finals, Kelyn took on Sean Conroy of Castlebar BC in the National U-22 Elite Final and as Sean Conroy had stopped Kelyn, the last time they met, the Saviours Crystal man had a point to prove.
“I just owed him one, it’s as simple as that. All week in the build up to the final I was just very positive thinking to myself that I just need to get one over him. He has nine or ten Irish titles and a couple of European bronze medals so I just wanted to go up there and show everyone that I’m at that level and thankfully I did that.” Kelyn certainly did as he won the final on a 5-0 scoreline.
So what’s the plan for the rest of 2019 after claiming that second Irish U-22 crown.
“2019 now is all about getting as much international experience as I can and just show the people of Waterford and Ireland the top class amateur that I want to be and know that I can be.”
Kelyn was quick to share this award with his team.
“To be honest I just box because it’s something I love to do but what makes me happiest is bringing such pleasure to my coaches Joey and Paul (Simpson) and everyone in the club. They dedicate huge amounts of hours to help me be the best I can be and when I see them happy then I’m happy. I’m delighted to win this award and I hope this is the start of my association with these awards and I intend to enjoy every minute of the journey.”
Both men were accompanied by family and friends and coaches as the awards were presented by Pierce Flynn of the Park Hotel and adjudicators Kieran and John O’Connor.