Henry O'Toole Named Boots Award Winner

16 May 2024

Henry O'Toole Named Boots Award Winner

Henry O'Toole of Connemara RFC was inaugurated as this year’s IRFU Boots Award winner at a function last Friday, 10th May at the Station House Hotel in Clifden.   

When the legendary Willie John McBride retired from playing rugby in 1980, one of the last matches he played in was against Arklow RFC. After the game, instead of hanging up his boots, he presented his famous footwear to the Arklow club as a memento of the occasion.

In memory of Willie John’s outstanding contribution to Irish Rugby, and in particular to Junior Rugby, it was decided to honour “Mr. Boots” by presenting an annual award to a person who, in the opinion of the adjudicators, has rendered long and outstanding service to Junior Rugby in Ireland. A silver badge suitably inscribed, is presented to each year’s winner at a dinner.

Dick Smyth of Thomond was the very first recipient in 1981. Forty more have followed in the footsteps of Dick Smyth, and Henry O’Toole of Connemara RFC is a most worthy successor.

The Boots Award recognises Henry's contribution and work in coaching and playing for Connemara RFC, playing for Corinthians and playing for Connacht in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was a speedy full back, and played in a Final Irish trial in late 1980s. Henry has also coached the Connacht Juniors.

In 1985 at Lansdowne Road Connacht beat Leinster for the first time since 1955 and Henry (who was a goal kicker in those days) scored all of Connacht’s nine points. The following season, he was in the Connacht side that defeated Munster in Thomond Park- Connacht’s first ever victory at the ground. Henry returned to his home club of Connemara RFC in the early 1990s and has played, coached and has volunteered at all levels since then.

Congratulations to Henry on receiving this prestigious award – he has given extraordinary service not just to Connemara RFC, but also to both Connacht and Irish Rugby. Henry follows in a line of great Connacht winners such as Paddy Beatty (Our Lady’s Boys Club), Frank Petit (Creggs RFC), Padraic McGann (Monivea RFC), John Carr (Tuam RFC), Padraic Concarr (Monivea RFC), Adrian Leddy (Creggs RFC), Mick Grealish (Our Lady’s Boys Club) and John Martin (ARCB/University of Galway). It’s an illustrious club, some with us and others no longer, and it is an honour fully deserving of Henry’s contribution to the game.

The national Boots Award Committee consists of Padraic McGann, Ross Workman and John West.

Banner group photo:

Back row, (Left to Right):  John Martin (Univ of Galway), John Hanly (Kilfeacle & District), Derick Turner (Longford), Pat Fitzgerald (Longford), Brian Reid (Coleraine), Ross Workman (Omagh), Adrian Leddy (Creggs), John Carr (Tuam).

Front row, (Left to Right): Padraic McGann (Monivea), Henry O'Toole (Connemara), John West (Trinity).

Photos by Stephanie Salmon (Connemara)