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Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2015: Stars ready to fight it out for your vote

By Frank Brownlow

Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton set a stunning standard as last year’s joint winners of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star award.

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

And although 2015 hasn’t gone as smoothly as golfing superstar McIlroy would have liked, Frampton has continued his relentless bid for world domination.

The World super-bantamweight champion has been making headlines by securing the much-anticipated domestic blockbuster with Scott Quigg in Manchester on February 27.

Belfast fighter Frampton, under the guidance of the legendary Barry McGuigan, has powered his way to the top of the boxing world with more triumphs in 2015, stopping Chris Avalos at the Odyssey Arena in February before forsaking home comforts by jetting to Texas for a points verdict against Alejandro González Jr.

Jonathan Rea raced to the World Superbike title, leaving rivals trailing in his wake.

The 28-year-old from Kilwaughter secured the coveted title at Jerez in Spain in September, joining an elite group of Ulstermen to have become world motorcycling champions.

Rea is the fourth member of an elite club of riders who have won world titles and the first since double TT Formula 2 world champion Brian Reid in 1985 and 1986. 

Belfast man Ralf Bryans was the first in 1965 when he won the 50cc Grand Prix world title, followed by the legendary Joey Dunlop who won five TT Formula One world titles between 1982 and 1986.

The son of TT winner Johnny Rea and grandson of leading road racing sponsor John Rea paid tribute to both Reid and Dunlop by wearing replicas of their famous Arai helmet designs.

It will be the last time AP McCoy figures in the race for the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star award, and what a momentous year it has been for the iron man from Moneyglass.

McCoy retired from the saddle in April — just before turning 41 — after clinching an incredible 20th successive champion jockey title and with a record tally of 4,348 winners that will never be bettered. He bows out as one of the all-time greats of Ulster sport.  

Michael Conlan achieved a unique feat when he became the first Irishman to win a world amateur title, beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan on a unanimous decision in the bantamweight final in Doha last month.

The 23-year-old from Belfast  fancies his chances of Olympic gold in Rio next summer.  

Ulster has made a splash in rowing in recent years thanks to the likes of Coleraine trio Alan Campbell and the Chambers brothers, Richard and Peter.

And this year a new champion emerged.

Joel Cassells — also from Coleraine — won lightweight pairs gold, alongside GB team mate Sam Scrimgeour, at the World Championships in France in September.

At just 21, Cassells will be looking to make a major impact at the Rio Olympics next summer. 

Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop are also tipped for glory in Rio.

The pair are two of the finest Paralympians on the planet, with both striking gold at last month’s IPC World Championships in Doha.

Smyth, from Eglinton, took gold in the 100m, retaining his title in a time of 10.62 seconds, making him the fastest Paralympian on earth.

The 28-year-old opted out of defending his 200m crown to fly home and be with his wife Elise for the birth of their first child. McKillop (25) bagged a middle distance double in the 800m and 1500m.

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland have been propelled to next summer’s Euro finals by a great team spirit allied to some superb individual contributions.

We’re sure you’ll have your own contenders for the coveted Belfast Telegraph  Sports Star award.

To vote visit www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sportsawards2015

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