Pioneering science students chosen as Cork Persons of the Year

Irish rugby coach, Joe Schmidt made an honorary Corkman for his contribution

Two young science students beat stiff competition from leading figures in sport, the arts and business to be named Cork Persons of the Year 2018 at a gala ceremony on Friday.

2018 BT Young Scientist of the Year winner, Simon Meehan (16) from Ballinora and Eilise Ireland (18), who was a winner at the Spellman Clean Tech competition in New York last July, received a standing ovation from the 250 invited guests .

Simon, a fifth year student at Colaistae Choilm in Ballincollig and Eilise, a Leaving Cert student at Regina Mundi in Douglas were honoured for their separate scientific successes. The awards were presented by Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn and Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy.

Simon won last year’s BT Young Scientists for his work in discovering a potentially new antibiotic capable of beating antimicrobial resistant bacteria including MRSA.


Eilise beat some 550 teams from 40 countries in New York to take one of the prizes for her project to produce energy from rainwater in downspouts and producing a prototype water turbine using recycled computer parts and plastic bottle tops.

The awards ceremony featured a host of high acclaimed Corkonians as monthly winners, including champion jockey, Davy Russell, author Louise O'Neill, champion rower, Sanita Puspure, Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre and medicinal cannabis campaigner, Vera Twomey.

The event saw a Hall of Fame Award given to Cork born BBC Special Correspondent, Fergal Keane for his reporting from war zones all around the world.

A special award was given to mark the 25th anniversary of Nationwide which is produced by RTE at its Cork studios on Fr Matthew Quay. It was presented to programme producer, Eoin Ryan and presenters, Mary Kennedy and Anne Cassin.

Also honoured was Irish rugby coach, New Zealand born Joe Schmidt who was presented with an award by Irish and Munster great Donal Lenihan.

"The last five seasons have provided a roller coaster of a ride with Schmidt elevating Ireland from 6th in the World Rugby's Rankings to a current high of 2nd with the potential of reaching No 1 slot- he will be a loss to the Irish game when he steps down after the World Cup later this year in Japan, " said Lenihan.

"But now he is an honorary Corkman with a Republic of Cork Passport, I might be able to swing a role for him with Cork Con," quipped Mr Lenihan to much laughter from the audience which included Tanaiste Simon Coveney, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Ireland South MEP Brian Crowley.

Mr Schmidt thanked the organisers for the honour as he recalled how he wasn't always popular with Corkonians, including rugby commentator George Hook who was less than impressed with his start with Leinster.

“After coaching Leinster, I thought I was severely disliked down here but it’s been an incredible journey for my whole family, we have been made feel incredibly welcomed by everyone we met in Ireland and it’s great to include the Independent Repbulic of Cork in that welcome as well,” he said.

"The quality people that come out of cork and represent Ireland continue, people like Peter O'Mahony - I'm sure some of you will be cheering him on bagainst Exeter on Saturday as I will in Thomond Park - I'm delighted to achieve this passport and I will feel a lot more comfortable coming down to Cork now.

“As Donal Lenihan mentioned, ,there’s a small tournament at the end of the year that we are going to try and break a glass ceiling in - we’re going to give it our best shot,” said Mr Schmidt before congratulating each of the 12 Cork Person of the Month Award winners and wishing them well.

The judges for Cork Person of the Year were Cork County Council chief executive, Tim Lucey and Cork City Council chief executive, Ann Doherty and among the other speakers were Irish Examiner managing director Ronan McManamy and RTE director General Dee Forbes while the guests also included Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times