Reflecting a remarkable and unforgettable year for local sport world amateur champion boxer Michael Conlan was crowned ‘Sports Star of the Year at the 2015 Linwoods backed Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel last night (25th January).
AIBA bantam weight title holder Michael triumphed over fellow nominees; rower Joel Cassells, footballer Steven Davis, retired champion jump jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, world superbike rider Jonathan Rea and boxer Carl Frampton. He received his Belleek trophy from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Linwoods Head of Marketing Sarah Shimmons and Editor of the Belfast Telegraph, Gail Walker.
Michael Conlan has previously won the George Best Breakthrough and several Special Recognition Awards but this is the first time he’s clinched the top accolade at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. Other personalities to claim the overall award include Rory McIlroy, Carl Frampton, AP McCoy and Wendy Houvenaghel as well as top sports stars Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Phillip McCallen and Peter Canavan.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductee sponsored by The Outlet, was football folk hero and current Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. The 1982 NI World Cup captain was presented with his trophy by legends and former team mates Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong as well as Neil Lennon. Martin joins Hall of Fame sporting greats including David Healy, Gerry Armstrong, Dame Mary Peters, AP McCoy, Barry McGuigan, Maeve Kyle, Sean O’Neill, Paddy Hopkirk, Jack Kyle, Willie John McBride and Mike Gibson.
The 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods and supported by Sport Northern Ireland honoured sporting heroes from both the amateur and professional arenas.
Volvo backed Special Recognition awards were won by record breaking Crossmaglen Rangers goalkeeper, Paul Hearty and young golfing prodigy Olivia Mehaffey currently 12th in the world rankings.
Top Paralympian Michael McKillop clinched the Big Lottery Fund sponsored Sports Person with a Disability category. The middle-distance athlete struck ‘Gold’ twice at the IPC World Championships in Doha with victory in the 800 and 1500m races.
Larne swimmer Conor Ferguson collected the Young Player of the Year Award sponsored by Sport Northern Ireland following a gold and two silver medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. Conor collected his trophy from Olympic legend Dame Mary Peters.
Also backed by Sport Northern Ireland this year’s Local Heroes Award was presented to handball sensation Aisling Reilly. The 26 year old from Antrim successfully defended her Senior Singles title, then achieved a double at the World Championships in Calgary and also won the US Open title.
Winners of the Linwoods sponsored Team of the Year award were Euro heroes, the Northern Ireland Football team. The team topped a highly competitive European Championship Qualifying Group to reach the Euro Finals in France for the first time in the country’s history. Collecting the award on behalf of the team were manager and assistant coach, Michael O’Neill and Jimmy Nicholl.
Danny O’Connor was named recipient of the WJ ‘Paddy’ Patterson Award, presented annually by the Northern Ireland Sports Forum. This category recognises individuals who have brought honour to the province and served Ulster sport with great distinction over a period of years. Danny, a former Head of PE at schools and colleges made a huge contribution to the Belfast City Marathon, the Belfast Hills Partnership, Belfast Play Forum and the Irish Basketball Association. Danny was represented by his granddaughter Anya to collect the Award on his behalf.
The Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year award sponsored by the Ramada Plaza was won by NI football captain Steven Davis who secured two crucial goals in a man of the match winning performance against Greece during the European Finals qualification campaign.
The NI Youth Commonwealth Games team took the Young Team of the Year accolade which is backed by Subway. The trophy was presented to team representatives Danielle Hill, Conor Ferguson, James McGivern and Ben Fisher by Ireland rugby star Tommy Bowe.
This year’s Manager/Coach of the Year was awarded to Michael O’Neill, who made history in 2015 when he guided the Northern Ireland team to their first ever Euro finals and first major football finals in 30 years. Presenting the award to Michael was star former footballer and current Bolton manager, Neil Lennon.
Ulster and Ireland rugby star Iain Henderson collected the Belleek sponsored George Best Breakthrough Award following his magnificent contribution to Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations 2015 title and his outstanding contribution to Ireland’s Rugby World Cup matches. Iain received his prestigious trophy from legend Willie John McBride and Director of Rugby for Ulster, Les Kiss.
Following last year’s hugely popular Greatest Ever Sports Star online vote, the Belfast Telegraph this year asked the public to choose Northern Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Moment. It was revealed as the Northern Ireland V Spain match during the 1982 World Cup.
As a local company which has built its success, growth and international reputation on healthy foods and lifestyles, it is entirely natural that Linwoods should celebrate the achievements of Northern Ireland’s outstanding sportsmen and women supporting for the sixth consecutive year the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.
Sarah Shimmons, Head of Marketing at Linwoods, said:
“We have been delighted to engage, encourage and reinforce the company’s long-standing association with Northern Ireland’s top sporting achievers in both the amateur and professional arenas.
“In association with the Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland’s national newspaper we have celebrated another outstanding year of sporting achievement and performance highlighting once again the significant contribution which sport – in all its facets – makes to our community.
“Our congratulations go not only to the winners of the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, but also to all those who were shortlisted for the accolades. Their energy, determination and commitment to sport have inspired us all and we at Linwoods wish them continued success in 2016 and beyond.”
Brian Henning, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland, said:
“Sport Northern Ireland is once again extremely proud to support the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards as its sporting partner. 2015 was once again a fantastic and inspirational year and this event gives us the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the tremendous wealth of sporting talent from right across Northern Ireland.”
Steven Beacom , sports editor at Belfast Telegraph played tribute to all the winners and finalists:
“This year’s Sports Awards was a truly magnificent night with a huge range of worthy winners and an excellent shortlist of finalists. Northern Ireland can be very proud of our sporting accomplishments and look forward to a magnificent 2016 with the upcoming RBS 6 Nations Championship, Euro 2016 and of course the Rio Olympics.
“In addition to our nominees I would like to thank all our star sporting guests and presenters, our title sponsor Linwoods, sporting partner Sport NI and all our category sponsors. Everyone has helped make it an unforgettable evening.”
For more information visit www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sportsawards2015
Media contact: Rosemary Allister, JPR tel 028 9076 0066 or mobile 07880 504928 or firstname.lastname@example.org
List of award winners:
Young Player of the Year sponsored by Sport NI – Conor Ferguson
Sportsperson with a Disability sponsored by the Big Lottery Fund – Michael McKillop
Local Heroes Award sponsored by Sport NI – Aisling Reilly
Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year Award sponsored by the Ramada Plaza – Steven Davis
Special Recognition Award 1 sponsored by Volvo – Paul Hearty
WJ ‘Paddy’ Patterson Award sponsored by NI Sports Forum – Danny O’Connor
Special Recognition Award 2 sponsored by Volvo – Olivia Mehaffey
Young Team of the Year sponsored by Subway – NI Commonwealth Youth Games Team
Team of the Year sponsored by Linwoods – NI Football Team
George Best Breakthrough Award sponsored by Belleek Living – Iain Henderson
Coach/Manager of the Year Award sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph – Michael O’Neill
Hall of Fame sponsored by The Outlet – Martin O’Neill
Sports Star of the Year sponsored by Linwoods – Michael Conlan
Top 10 Moments:
ATHLETICS: Mary Peters winning gold at the Olympics in Munich 1972
BOXING: Barry McGuigan claiming the world title at Loftus Road in 1985
FOOTBALL: Northern Ireland beating hosts Spain 1-0 in the 1982 World Cup – winner
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GAA: Tyrone and Armagh playing each other in the All-Ireland final in 2003
GOLF: Rory McIlroy winning his first major title, the US Open in 2011
HOCKEY: Jimmy Kirkwood and Stephen Martin winning 1988 Olympic gold in Seoul
HORSE RACING: Tony McCoy securing Grand National victory in 2010
MOTORCYCLING: Philip McCallen’s five wins in a day at the 1992 North West 200
RUGBY: Ulster triumphing at Lansdowne Road in the 1999 European Cup final
SNOOKER: Dennis Taylor winning the 1985 World title in black ball finish