Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2015: Competition fierce for Team of the Year prize

By Frank Brownlow

It has been a monumental year for teams from the province, making the job of judging in the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards a real challenge.

The winners of the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards - supported by overall sponsor Linwoods - will be announced at a glittering bash at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast on January 25.

The Team of the Year award - sponsored by Volvo - is always very fiercely contested with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games boxing squad emerging victorious last year, following on from triumphs by Cliftonville FC and Ulster Rugby.

The Northern Ireland football team have had an amazing year, culminating in qualification for a place at next summer's Euro 2016 Finals in France.

Michael O'Neill's side secured a first ever place at the Euro finals - and first major tournament since 1986 - with a 3-1 win over Greece on a night of euphoria at Windsor Park last month.

And not only did Northern Ireland qualify in style, they also managed to top a highly competitive group that also contained the likes of Romania, Hungary and Finland.

O'Neill's leadership has been inspirational while there have been several stand-out performers such as Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davis and Gareth McAuley.

Now the Green and White Army are counting down the days to the draw on December 12 before the tournament starts on June 10.

Northern Ireland competed in the World Cup Finals of 1958, 1982 and 1986 - but after such a long wait, next summer's extravaganza could be the most eagerly anticipated of the lot with local fans travelling in their thousands.

In the Irish League, Crusaders ended up as champions while Glentoran lifted the Irish Cup.

In hockey, Banbridge's men had a great campaign, winning the Premier League, Anderson Cup, Kirk Cup and Irish Senior Cup.

In the women's game, Pegasus won the Irish Hockey League and the Elks secured the Irish Senior Cup.

In GAA, Tyrone powered their way through to the All-Ireland semi-finals, bowing out to Kerry 0-18 to 1-11 at Croke Park before Dublin beat the Kingdom 0-12 to 0-9 in the final.

In rugby, Ulster made the PRO12 play-offs, going down 13-9 in the semi-final to old rivals and eventual champions Leinster in Dublin.

Ulster were edged out in the pool stages of the European Champions Cup, finishing just a point behind Leicester Tigers in a group topped by eventual champions Toulon.

We're sure you'll have a few ideas of your own for Belfast Telegraph Team of the Year and we'd love to hear them.

To let us know who you want to win, simply visit www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sportsawards2015

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