The History of the Texaco Sportstars Awards
In 2012, the decision was taken to cease sponsorship of the Texaco Sportstars Awards. This decision was not easily taken, particularly when consideration was given to its long 54 years history and its status as Irelandís longest running commercial sponsorship in Irish sports history.
Across the 54 years since they were first presented in 1958, the Texaco Sportstars Awards stood as a celebration of Irish sporting achievement and a testament to the sense of pride and pleasure which our sporting ambassadors had brought to Ireland through their success in national and international competitions. In the words of one leading athlete “despite the numerous awards schemes that existed, the Texaco Sportstars Trophy was the one we all liked to win.”
Film Sparks Sportstars Idea
It was in a Dublin cinema that the idea for the Texaco Sportstars Awards was born. On screen was a film entitled The Champion in which Kirk Douglas portrayed a world middleweight boxing champion the pinnacle of whose career was recognised by the presentation to him of the American Boxing Writers’ Award of the Year.
Amongst the audience were two members of the Texaco (then Caltex) public relations staff. Watching the story unfold, the thought occurred to them that a similar awards presentation in Ireland could arouse tremendous public interest. In that flash of inspiration, the Texaco Sportstars Awards were born. The rest is history!
In bringing the idea to fruition, the immediate task was to devise an appropriate awards format - one that would be recognised as expert and impartial and acceptable to the vast majority of the sporting public in Ireland.
After some deliberation, it was decided that an approach should be made to the Sports Editors of the main national newspapers to determine if they would form the judging panel.
The idea of bringing a group of newspaper editors together was unique at that time. After careful negotiations with the editors and their proprietors, agreement was reached regarding the composition of the panel that would meet collectively to select the Texaco Sportstars Award winners. Their first meeting took place in 1958.
Members of that first Texaco panel were names distinguished in history of Irish sports journalism: Mitchel Cogley (Irish Independent), Oliver Weldon (Irish Press), Paul McWeeney (Irish Times), Gerry Merrin (Evening Herald), George Gormley (Evening Mail), Paddy Flynn (Evening Press), George King (Sunday Independent), and Tom O’Hara (Sunday Press). In 1960 Eugene Murphy (Cork Examiner) and Malcolm Brodie (Belfast Telegraph) were invited to join followed, in 1969, by Michael O’Hare, then Head of Sport at Telefis Eireann.
Over the years, though the personnel changed, the structure and composition of the adjudication panel remained virtually unchanged. In 2011, the members were: Ryle Nugent (RTE), John Greene (Sunday Independent), David Courtney (Irish Independent), Pat Keane (Evening Herald), Steven Beacom (Belfast Telegraph), Malachy Logan (Irish Times), Tom Ahern (Irish Examiner), Brian Farrell (Sunday World), Kieran Holden (TV3) and Eoin Brannigan (Irish Daily Star).
At their first meeting in 1958, the adjudicators decided that ten awards would be presented to the sports men and sports women who had achieved outstanding performances in their respective fields of sporting endeavour. In 2008, this was reduced to eight awards.
In 1960, the Hall of Fame trophy was inaugurated, its purpose being to honour a famous sports star of the past whose achievements would have merited a Texaco Sportstars Award had the award existed during his/her sporting era.
In 1970, the Supreme Sportstars Award was introduced and became known as the Texaco Special Achievement Award. This Award recognised those who were not eligible to win a Texaco Sportstars Award but whose contribution to Irish sport was nonetheless noteworthy. In 2008, this was replaced by the T exaco Young Sportstar Award, aimed at young sports people under the age of 18 years.
Standing 14 inches high, the Texaco Sportstars Award was one of the most coveted awards in sport. Next to an Olympic, World, European or national sporting trophy, it became the Award that every sports person wanted to have in his or her trophy cabinet - one that came to symbolise success and achievement in every aspect of Irish sporting life.
Created by Alwright & Marshall of Fade Street, Dublin, the Award had a classic design that remained unchanged since the very first versions were presented in 1958. It comprised a silver Corinthian pillar mounted on a base of black polished marble with silver nameplate on which the recipients name was engraved. Mounted above the column, positioned within a gold laurel wreath, was a silver medallion bearing the Texaco ‘star’ trademark engraved with the legend ‘Texaco Trophy’.
The venue for the first Texaco Sportstars Awards presentation ceremony was the Aberdeen Hall in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel - the preferred location until 1971 when, due to developments at the hotel and an increase in guest numbers, the ceremony transferred to the Burlington Hotel which remained its home till 2006. The event was subsequently held in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin.
Guests of Honour
As befits the star-studded nature of the event, the Awards have traditionally been presented by leading figures from Government and other dignitaries whose presence has brought added stature to the occasion. In 1958, the first awards were presented by Dr. Tim O’Driscoll, then Director General of Bord Failte Eireann.
Since then, Na Taoisigh Sean Lemass TD, Jack Lynch TD, Liam Cosgrave TD, Garret Fitzgerald TD, John Bruton TD, Charles Haughey TD, Albert Reynolds TD and Bertie Ahern TD and Brian Cowen TD have graced the occasion with their presence.
Who’s Who’ of Irish Sport
In its 54 year history, the Texaco Sportstars Awards became a ‘who’s who’ of Irish sporting success. Giants of Irish sport who have received awards during that period included: Ronnie Delaney and Sonia O’Sullivan (Athletics), Johnny Cadwell and Michael Carruth (Boxing), Vincent O’Brien and Aidan O’ Brien (Horse Racing), Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke (Golf), D.J. Carey (Hurling), Roy Keane (Soccer), Ken Doherty (Snooker) and many more. A full listing may be viewed at www.texaco.ie.