It's been another 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 Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke enjoying major success in a magical summer.
They weren’t the only Ulster stars to shine with the great Tony McCoy winning a remarkable 16th jump jockey title.
In football Steve Davis and Kyle Lafferty shone with Rangers as they clinched the SPL crown while Jonny Evans helped Manchester United claim their 19th league title and Carnlough’s finest Brendan Rodgers led Swansea City into the Premier League.
In boxing Paul McCloskey and Brian Magee may have lost world title bouts but proved they can mix it with the best. Ditto Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea on motorcycling circuits across the globe.
Our rowers Alan Campbell, Richard Chambers and Peter Chambers walked on water with their performances while our female stars, cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel and squash ace Madeline Perry also hit the heights.
All their achievements and many, many more will be celebrated when the Belfast Telegraph once again honours Northern Ireland’s leading sports stars of the year at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on January 16.
And we want you, the readers, to help us.
Today we launch the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards for 2011, a selection process that will culminate with that gala banquet early next year 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.
Below you will see how you can recommend your choice of winner from the various categories.
Last year our top award, the Sports Star of the Year, was won by brilliant golfer Graeme McDowell for his US Open and Ryder Cup heroics.
So, who will walk away with the big prize this time?
Well, Graeme’s good friends Darren and Rory will be in the frame.
Holywood hero McIlroy produced some of the greatest golf ever seen to claim the US Open title — and this after recovering from his US Masters disappointment when he led at Augusta with just nine holes to go.
McIlroy’s outstanding character and ability was there for all to see at the US Open.
The same could be said of Dungannon man Clarke, as he won The Open in astonishing style. It was an extraordinary performance from big Darren amid the bitter wind and rain at Royal St Georges.
Both Darren and Rory will have enjoyed the contribution made by Ulster rugby heroes Stephen Ferris and Rory Best to Ireland’s World Cup success so far. Both were immense in the magnificent win over Australia and hopefully will help the Irish go all the way to the final.
Ireland could meet England in the last four. William Porterfield knows all about that fixture. The Donemana native excelled as he captained Ireland to a famous World Cup victory over the England cricket team earlier this year.
Wendy Houvenaghel enjoyed both individual and team success in 2011, claiming a third British Time Trial Championship crown recently and this after winning a gold medal at the track cycling World Championships in March.
Later in the year that other gifted lady Madeline Perry made it to number three in the world squash rankings.
On the athletics track Jason Smyth created history by becoming the first paralympian to compete at a European Championships while in the swimming pool teenager Sycerika McMahon won medals galore at the European Junior Championships and the Commonwealth Youth Games.
Another brilliant young talent, rower Peter Chambers, enjoyed a terrific season that saw him come first at the under-23 World Championships in Amsterdam and at the World Championships in Slovenia a month later, eclipsing his brother Richard and Alan Campbell who won bronze in their respective events.
This long list is an indication of how successful Northern Ireland sport has been this year on a global stage. 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’s 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.
Last year's winners
Sports Star of the Year: Graeme McDowell
Hall of Fame: Tony McCoy
Player of the Year: Paddy Barnes
Young Player of the Year: Ciara Mageean
Team of the Year: Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Team
Young Team of the Year: Tyrone Minors
Manager/Coach of the Year: Stephen Friel and Michael Hawkins
Sports Person with a Disability: Sally Brown
WJ ‘Paddy’ Patterson Award: Bobby Platt
George Best Breakthrough Award: Craig Cathcart
Special Recognition Award: Bryn Cunningham
Local Heroes Award: Banbridge Academy Boys’ Hockey teams
The Purpose of the Awards
The purpose of the awards sponsored by Linwoods and supported by Sport Northern Ireland , is to identify sporting achievement and recognise those individuals, teams and organisations whose contribution to Ulster Sport is outstanding. Nominations for the awards may be made by organisations, governing bodies of sport, district councils, local sport councils and individuals.
Special Recognition Award
This award recognises outstanding achievement and is an additional award agreed by the judges.
How to Nominate
Nominations close on Wednesday 23rd November at 5pm and can either be posted by clicking on one of the links above or by hard copy which should be no more than 200 words. Hard copy nominations should be posted to Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, C/O JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast BT4 2AW or email email@example.com.