Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2010: Who will we be saluting this year?
It's been a stunning year for Northern Ireland sport.
We have watched in admiration as our sporting heroes have delivered time and time again.
Take golf for example with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy excelling.
The great Tony McCoy won a 15th jump jockey title, claiming Grand National glory in the process.
On two wheels, cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel has continued to perform superbly and in the quicker sport of motorcycling Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea have been mixing it with the finest around.
Madeline Perry made it to number five in the world squash rankings, while many now see Ulsterman Tommy Bowe as the number one winger on the planet after his exploits on the rugby field for Ireland and Ospreys, who he inspired to Magners League success.
In football Steve Davis shone with Rangers as they clinched the double, as did Linfield on the local scene, with boxers Paul McCloskey and Brian Magee confirming their class becoming European champions.
Then there was the Down GAA team, who enjoyed a fantastic run all the way to the All-Ireland final.
Those achievements and many, many more will be celebrated when the Belfast Telegraph once again honours Northern Ireland’s leading sports stars of the year.
And we want you, the readers, to help us.
Today we launch the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards for 2010, a selection process that will culminate in a gala banquet in Belfast in January when the winners will be revealed.
Regarded as the most prestigious sports awards ceremony in the country, sponsored by Linwoods and supported by Sport Northern Ireland, The Belfast Telegraph is proud to celebrate our sporting successes.
On the opposite page you will see how you can recommend your choice of winner from the various categories. As is normally the case, the competition will be fierce.
Last year our top award, the Sports Star of the Year, was won by brilliant young golfer Rory McIlroy for his heroics on the fairways and greens around the globe.
Rory had previously won the Young Player of the Year award and proved to be a popular winner of the main prize.
The question is: who will walk away with it this time?
Well, the Holywood hero is in the frame once again after another remarkable 12 months in which he contended at the Open and the USPGA championships. He was in record-breaking form to woo Americans by triumphing in the Quail Hollow Championship, before being very much part of the victorious European team who regained the Ryder Cup earlier this month.
Playing a defining role in that success was Rory’s great pal and partner during the event, Graeme McDowell.
Winning the final point for Colin Montgomerie’s European side against the USA was the icing on the sweetest of cakes, after success a few months previously at Celtic Manor when he lifted the Wales Open trophy. That was followed by a historic US Open victory at Pebble Beach.
He became only the second Ulsterman to win a major, following in the footsteps of the legendary Fred Daly, and was the first European to win that particular event since Tony Jacklin 40 years ago. Awesome.
That made Northern Ireland proud and so too did the emotional triumph for AP McCoy at the Grand National. Despite many attempts Tony had never won national hunt racing’s most famous race, but he came up trumps this year romping home on Don't Push It.
It was a magical moment seeing him cross the finishing line.
On top of that McCoy won many other big races and a 15th jump jockey title confirming his status as the best of all time.
Two men who use horsepower of a different kind are Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea. Eugene won an amazing eight races in the World Supersport title battle and was unlucky to finish as runner-up, while Jonathan ended up fourth in the World Superbike Championship, despite suffering injuries during the season.
Both deserve credit for fine achievements, as does Wendy Houvenaghel, who won silver in the individual pursuit in the Commonwealth Games, adding that to a world silver medal won earlier in the year.
Another lady, Madeline Perry, made it all the way to number five in the world on the squash courts, claiming Australian Open and Irish Open titles on the way.
Paul McCloskey and Brian Magee are now targeting the number one spot in their weights at boxing, with world title fights on the agenda after their magnificent European successes.
The list above is an indication of how successful Northern Ireland sport has been this year. Maybe you can think of someone else who deserves to be considered for the main prize.
We also have the Player of the Year award, which is made to an Ulster player who competes and excels mainly in the province.
The Team of the Year is always keenly contested while there is also the Manager/Coach of the Year, Young Team of the Year and Young Player of the Year prizes.
As usual, we will be going beyond the big back page headlines to honour our disabled sportsmen and women and those people who make unheralded, but significant contributions to local sport at grassroots level.
We don’t want any deserved winners to miss out . . . and that’s where you can help. Over the coming weeks we’ll update you with news about the forthcoming event and look at categories in more detail, but in the meantime, start getting those votes in.
The big evening has been a special event down the years and with the incredible drama we’ve had in sport this year, that trend is sure to continue.