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Rory McIlroy and Kelly Gallagher go head to head for BBC sports prize

By Anthony Barnes

Rory McIlroy may be hot favourite for BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2014 - but the World No.1 golfer isn't the only Northern Irish sportsperson in contention for the title.

McIlroy from Co Down is predictably facing off against the likes of newly-crowned Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton.

But visually impaired skier Kelly Gallagher is also in the running, after her inspirational gold medal win at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

The Bangor woman and her guide Charlotte Evans triumphed in the Super-G event.

After she was awarded an MBE last month, Gallagher said: "We've changed people's perceptions about living in a country where we don't have that much snow."

However, the skiier faces an uphill battle to beat McIlroy, who has emerged as the bookies' early favourite with William Hill, which puts him at 2/9 to land the title - ahead of Hamilton at 3/1.

Hill's spokesman Rupert Adams said: "Even at this early stage it looks like a two-horse race and Rory is already a couple of lengths ahead." Yesterday McIlroy, who won the BMW PGA Championship in May just days after calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, said 2014 had been a year "full of ups and downs, mainly ups, which is a great thing".

"I learned a lot from it and I feel like I came through this year stronger and wiser, and I can go into 2015 in a much better place," he said as he prepares for this week's Australian Open in Sydney - the competition that kickstarted his resurgence last year.

"I'm happy with the success that I've had and I feel like there's been a lot that I've learned this year, as well, and that's a great thing going into the future."

The Co Down pair face competition for the Sports Personality title from age-defying track victor Jo Pavey and dressage star Charlotte Dujardin. Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale, boxer Carl Froch, swimmer Adam Peaty, gymnast Max Whitlock and skeleton bob racer Lizzy Yarnold complete the 10-strong list for the annual prize.

Profiles

Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans became the first Britons to win an Olympic or Paralympic title on snow when they came first in the women's visually impaired Super-G event in Sochi, Russia, earlier this year.

Rory McIlroy enjoyed a year of massive success after a lacklustre 2013, with Major victories in the Open and US PGA Championship. He was also on the triumphant Ryder Cup team, and won the Race to Dubai.

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