Michael Conlan named Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year as Tele salutes the stars who made 2015 a year to remember
From a world-beating boxer to Euro 2016 finalists, there have been plenty of stunning highs for Northern Irish sport in 2015 - and last night our stars lined the red carpet to celebrate.
The prestigious Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, and now in their 21st year, honour the top sports achievers both in the amateur and professional ranks.
Boxer Michael Conlan was named Sports Star of the Year after he made history by becoming the first man from this island, north or south, to win the World Amateur boxing title.
Buoyed by his record-breaking success, he promised there would be more to come in 2016.
"I'm over the moon to be here tonight. I've had a great year but next is the big one - the Olympic Games. I'm only coming back with gold. I'm one million per cent sure that I will be coming home with a gold medal," he said.
As the glitzy celebration got under way earlier at the Ramada Plaza hotel, speculation was rife among the glamorous guests about who would be walking away with a trophy. Many mentioned the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland football teams who both qualified for the European Championships in France as the highlight of the year.
And it was no surprise when Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was crowned Coach of the Year, and the boys in Green and White won Team of the Year.
Despite football being the talk of the night, Michael was quick to highlight some of the other great moments from 2015.
"Our golfers are still at the forefront of world golf and the boxers, both amateur and professional, have all excelled as well," he said. "There's so much to be positive about in Northern Ireland sport. Sport is the biggest thing that brings people together in Northern Ireland. It's imperative that we celebrate that."
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill didn't miss out on his moment on stage as he was inducted into our Hall of Fame, joining legends such as Dame Mary Peters, George Best, Pat Jennings, Willie John McBride, Mike Gibson, Barry McGuigan, Mickey Harte, Tony McCoy and David Healy.
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Northern Ireland's footballers secured another award as the 1982 Northern Ireland vs Spain game was voted by our readers as the Belfast Telegraph Greatest Sporting Moment of all time. Footballing legends Martin O'Neill, Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Michael O'Neill and Neil Lennon were reunited on stage to celebrate.
The awards also recognised sportsmen and women who don't always get a chance to appear on the big stage. Paralympian Michael McKillop - who has won a clutch of World and Paralympic golds, including the 800m and 1500m at the 2015 Athletics World Championships in Doha - was presented with the Sportsperson with a Disability award. Young Player of the Year went to Newtownabbey swimmer Conor Ferguson, who won gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the night was a great chance to celebrate our sports stars. He said: "I know that it's very important to acknowledge the amazing sporting achievements of all our sports stars."
Full list of winners
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY SPORT NORTHERN IRELAND
Winner : Conor Ferguson
Young Player of the Year Conor Ferguson was presented with his trophy by Dame Mary Peters and Arthur Scott, Sport NI Interim Chief Executive
SPORTSPERSON WITH A DISABILITY SPONSORED BY THE National Lottery
Winner: Michael McKillop
Michael McKillop was presented with his trophy by Paddy Barnes and Joanne McDowell, Director for Northern Ireland of category sponsor, The National Lottery
LOCAL HEROES SPONSORED BY SPORT NORTHERN IRELAND
Winner: Aisling Reilly
Aisling Reilly was presented with her trophy by GAA Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte and Brian Henning, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland
MALCOLM BRODIE PLAYER OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY THE RAMADA PLAZA
Winner: Steven Davis (collected by father David)
Rugby Legend Stephen Ferris and Rajesh Rana, Director of category sponsor Ramada Plaza presented David Davis with Stephen’s trophy.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD ONE SPONSORED BY VOLVO
Winner: Paul Hearty
Paul Hearty was presented with his trophy by Belfast Giant’s Matt Nickerson and Robert Cairns, Volvo Parts Manager of category sponsor Volvo
W J ‘PADDY’ PATTERSON SERVICES TO SPORT AWARD
Winner: Danny O’Connor (Collected on his behalf by grand daughter Anya O’Connor)
Danny O’Connor’s granddaughter Anya O’Connor accepted the award on his behalf from Roy Millar, Chair of Northern Ireland Sports Forum
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD TWO SPONSORED BY VOLVO
Winner: Olivia Mehaffey (Olivia’s father Philip to collect)
Philip Mehaffey accepts Olivia’s trophy from Paralympian gold medallist Kelly Gallagher and Stewart Reid, Sales Manager of category sponsor Volvo
YOUNG TEAM OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY SUBWAY
Winner : Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Youth Team
Representatives from the Commonwealth games Youth team, Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collected their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe. Category sponsor Subway
TEAM OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY LINWOODS
WINNER : Northern Ireland Football Team
Michael O’Neill, NI Football Manager and assistant coach Jimmy Nicholl collected the trophy on behalf of the Northern Ireland football team from champion cyclist Martyn Irvine and Patrick Woods, Director of Linwoods.
GEORGE BEST BREAKTHROUGH AWARD SPONSORED BY BELLEEK LIVING
Winner: Iain Henderson
Iain Henderson was presented with his trophy from all time rugby great Willie John McBride and Director of Rugby at Ulster Les Kiss
COACH/MANAGER OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH
Winner: Michael O’Neill
Michael O’Neill was presented with his Award from Neil Lennon Manager at Bolton Wanderers and Richard McClean, Managing Director, Belfast Telegraph.
HALL OF FAME SPONSORED BY THE OUTLET BANBRIDGE
Martin O'Neill was inducted into the Hall of Fame and presented with his trophy by football legends Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Michael O’Neill, Neil Lennon and joined by Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of category sponsor The OUTLET Banbridge.
BELFAST TELEGRAPH GREATEST SPORTING MOMENT OF ALL TIME
Winning moment - 1982 Northern Ireland V Spain
BELFAST TELEGRAPH SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY LINWOODS
Winner: Michael Conlan
Michael Conlan was presented with his ‘Sports Star of the Year’ trophy by Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister, Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph Editor and Sarah Shimmons, Head of Marketing from title sponsors Linwoods.