The CBAI each season canvasses for nominations for the President’s Merit Award, with the President selecting the winner. This award is designed to recognise the unsung heroes and heroines of Irish bridge – the people who do all the hard work behind the scenes without which bridge clubs and competitions could not function, but without ever seeking official status or other recognition for themselves.

We are delighted to announce that Martin Keane, from Templeogue, Dublin (but originally, and proudly, from County Clare!) has been selected as this year’s winner of the President’s Merit Award. Martin was nominated by the five clubs that form the Templeogue Bridge Centre, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Martin has been a Trustee of the Centre since its inception. But that has been the least significant of his many contributions to the Dublin South bridge community. For several years from the start of the Centre, for example, Martin was the official TD for the major competitions in all five clubs operating within it.

For the entire 25-year period right up to today, Martin has acted, on a purely voluntary basis, as the unofficial caretaker, superintendent, and groundskeeper for the Centre – cutting the grass, trimming hedges, checking the drains and the electrics, opening up and closing up for visitors, filling potholes, and generally making sure that everything is shipshape and in top condition. One anecdote sums up perfectly Martin’s dedication to the cause. A friend of his arrived for morning bridge one day to find a man halfway down a manhole. She recognised him and said “Hi Martin, I thought you were in Australia”. Martin replied “I got home this morning at six. I was worried the bad weather might have caused the drains to block so I came up to check everything was okay”.

His attention to detail is also legendary. If you have played in the Templeogue Centre, you may have wondered what purpose the yellow dots on the floor serve. Martin painted those to establish a definitive position for each of the fifty-plus tables in the room (each individually numbered, of course), and personally ensures after each event that every table is back in its correct position. He deals with everything quietly and efficiently, and always has time for a friendly chat or even the occasional cup of tea. Martin is an unsung (and unpaid!) hero of the Templeogue Centre, and his contribution is warmly recognised by all the clubs and players within it, and by the CBAI, which as members will know, shares a premises in Templeogue and uses the bridge centre for several major events each season. CBAI CEO Dermot O’Brien echoed all the comments on Martin’s helpfulness and dedication, and his availability 24/7 at a moment’s notice.

CBAI President Gordon Lessells visited Knocklyon Bridge Club last Monday night to make the surprise presentation of his award to Martin, with many of his family, including his wife Joan, adding to the element of surprise by their attendance. Our thanks to Knocklyon President Jennifer Cullen and Martin’s Monday night partner Willie Kearney for setting everything up and keeping Martin in the dark about his well-deserved award.

There were, as ever, several deserving candidates nominated for the Award this year, but there can only be one winner. Many people at the presentation commented that Martin’s was exactly the kind of contribution that this award was designed to recognise. Many clubs across the country will have similar individuals working within them. If there is someone you would like to nominate for next season’s award keep an eye on our website in November or December, when the 2025 award will be publicised.