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It's treble joy for the Crusaders at Northern Ireland Football Writers' Awards

By Graham Luney

Published 05/05/2015

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast.
Judith Tully, Gerry and Debby Armstrong
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Judith Tully, Gerry and Debby Armstrong Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Paul Ferguson, Judith Tully, Cialan Tully and Shaun Tully Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Gerry and Debby Armstrong Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Michael O'Neill and David Jeffrey Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Pat Jennings presents the BT Sport Team of the Season Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Pat Jennings presents the BT Sport Team of the Season Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Conor McLaughlin from Sunday Life presents the Top Goalscorer award to Joe Gormley Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Eddie Patterson. Stephen Baxter and Tim McCann Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Paul Heatley (Footballer of Year), Stephen Baxter (Manager of the Year) and Gavin Whyte (Young Player of Year) pictured before the Awards. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Glenn Ferguson presents BT Sport Goal of the Season to David Cushley Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Timothy Dubois presents the BT Sport Non-Senior Team of the Season to Carrick Rangers captain Aaron Harmon Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Keith Bailie presents BT Sport Championship Player of Year to Jordan Forsythe from Bangor Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Paul Ferguson presents the BT Sport International Personality of Year award to Michael O'Neill who collected it on behalf of behalf of Kyle Lafferty Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Steven Brodie presents the NIFWA Dr Malcolm Brodie Hall of Fame award to Gerry Armstrong Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Conor McLaughlin from Sunday Life presents the Top Goalscorer award to Joe Gormley Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Mark McIntosh presents the NIFWA Merit Award to Ruth McCreery (Glentoran) Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Jackie Fullerton with the BT Sport Young Player of Year to Gavin Whyte from Crusaders Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Gerry Armstrong and Jackie Fullerton Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. BT Sport Manager of Year to Stephen Baxter Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. BT Sport Young Player of Year to Gavin Whyte from Crusaders Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Angela Rogan of BT Sport presents the BT Sport Footballer of Year to Paul Heatley Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Steven Brodie presents the NIFWA Dr Malcolm Brodie Hall of Fame award to Gerry Armstrong Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Stephen Baxter and players Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Peter Strain, Brian Strain and Dee Heron Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Paul Heatley (Footballer of Year), Stephen Baxter (Manager of the Year) and Gavin Whyte (Young Player of Year) pictured before the Awards. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 4th May 2015 - NIFWA Annual Dinner 2015 sponsored by BT Sport at the Ramada Hotel Belfast. Gerry and Debby Armstrong Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The champagne keeps flowing at the home of Crusaders Football Club and three of their heroes received special honours at the annual football writers' awards bash last night.

It was a stunning Seaview treble as Stephen Baxter, Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte lifted huge personal honours at the Ramada Hotel.

Baxter pocketed the Manager of the Year award while Heatley and Whyte lifted the BT Sport Player and Young Player of the Year prizes.

The Hatchetmen clinched the Gibson Cup for the first time in 18 years and it was only the fifth championship in the club's 117-year history.

Finishing 10 points ahead of nearest challengers Linfield, Baxter's men really slammed their foot on the accelerator in the second half of the season.

As well as winning two league titles at Linfield, former striker Baxter was part of the two championship-winning Crusaders sides in 1995 and 1997 but this Danske Bank Premiership title triumph - his first as manager - is his finest achievement in Irish League football.

When Baxter took charge of the club in 2005 they fought hard but couldn't avoid a first taste of relegation. The rest is glorious history with the Crues returning to the top flight at the first attempt and years of progression have seen them capture the Irish Cup in 2009, the County Antrim Shield in 2010 and the League Cup and Setanta Cup in 2012, though Gibson Cup glory this season tops the lot.

"The last 10 years have been tremendous, culminating with this year's title success," said Baxter, who agreed a three-year contract extension last month.

"We are enjoying our time and it is awesome to be involved with Crusaders at this time."

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton, who guided his side to Europa League qualification, and Glentoran chief Eddie Patterson, fresh from his second Irish Cup win in three years, were also nominated for the manager's award.

Heatley now adds the Football Writers' Player of the Year prize to his Ulster Footballer of the Year award presented by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters' Club. The 27-year-old beat off competition from Cliftonville ace Joe Gormley and Warrenpoint Town striker Daniel Hughes to become the first Crues ace to win the top player award since Chris Morrow in 2012.

Heatley finished the season with 29 goals, 27 of which were netted in the Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

Whyte saw off the challenge of Glentoran's Jordan Stewart and Dungannon Swifts' Jamie Glackin to be crowed Young Player of the Year and the 19-year-old's sensational wing play has also attracted significant interest from cross-channel clubs.

Bangor ace Jordan Forsythe was named BT Sport Championship Player of the Year, seeing off stiff competition from Carrick Rangers' Conor McCloskey and H&W Welders striker Michael McLellan.

The Jimmy Dubois non-senior team of the year award went to Carrick Rangers after Gary Haveron's men sealed promotion from Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 to the Premiership. Also nominated were NAFL Premier League side Ards Rangers and Harryville Homers of Ballymena Saturday Morning League Division One.

The football writers' Merit Award went to Ruth McCreery, an unsung hero at Glentoran who does a huge amount of voluntary work behind the scenes.

Belfast Telegraph

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