Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2016 - it's time to choose the winners
Northern Ireland sports stars on top of the world - our awards will mark another big year of glory
It's been another stunning year for Northern Ireland sport. Our sensational sporting stars continue to shine at home and abroad.
The country's football team, for example, ensured all eyes were on France for the month of June as Michael O'Neill's men made it into the Euro 2016 knockout stages with players like captain Steven Davis, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Michael McGovern performing heroics.
Later in the summer, attention turned to Brazil and Rio and, while Northern Ireland competitors did not bring home any medals from the Olympics, our Paralympians stepped up to the plate and onto the top of the podium time and time again with Bethany Firth, Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth all winning gold.
Another Northern Ireland sporting superstar feeling on top of the world this year was magnificent motorcycle ace Jonathan Rea, who retained his World Superbike crown in impressive fashion.
Carl Frampton knows all about winning titles and the brilliant boxer from Tigers Bay became a World champion in the featherweight division with a thrilling victory over the highly rated Leo Santa Cruz in New York.
America also played host to another famous triumph at the weekend when Ulster's Rory Best captained Ireland's rugby team to their first ever success against the mighty All Blacks.
All their achievements and many, many more will be celebrated at a gala event 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 2016 and begin a selection process that will culminate with our star-studded ceremony early next year when the winners will be revealed.
Regarded as Northern Ireland's most prestigious sports awards ceremony, the Belfast Telegraph is proud to celebrate our sporting successes.
Elsewhere on these pages, you can see how to nominate your choices for the various categories. Last year our top prize, the Sports Star of the Year, was won by Belfast boxer Michael Conlan after, in 2015, he became the first man from Ireland to win a World Amateur title.
Conlan, now in the professional ranks, was the third king of the ring to be named Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year in the long and illustrious history of the event, following in the footsteps of Wayne McCullough, who was the first winner, and Frampton, who shared the 2014 award with golfer Rory McIlroy.
The question is, who will walk away with the big prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards this time?
Frampton will be a contender once again having enjoyed a hugely successful 2016. In February he defeated Scott Quigg in Manchester in a much hyped contest to add the WBA super-bantamweight title to the IBF title and, on a memorable July night, overcame Leo Santa Cruz in an epic New York featherweight battle to become Northern Ireland's first two weight world champion.
The popular fighter was one of thousands who took time out to roar Northern Ireland on at the Euro finals and, while it was a team effort to make it to the last 16, notable individual displays from goalkeeper Michael McGovern, defenders Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley and midfielder Steven Davis will be worthy of consideration for the Sports Star of the Year award.
So too inspirational Ulster hero Rory Best, who created history on two counts this year, being the first Ireland captain to guide the team to a Test victory in South Africa and then on Saturday becoming the first man to skipper the nation to victory over World champions New Zealand, with that staggering 40-29 win in Chicago.
Another history maker was Dungannon rally driver Kris Meeke, whose triumph in Argentina was the first victory for a British driver in the World Rally Championship since 2002.
Jonathan Rea is also certain to be in the mix for the 2016 Sports Star of the Year trophy. Winning the World Superbike title in 2015 was a fantastic achievement but retaining it this year was even better. The Ballyclare man dominated throughout the season and is now regarded as one of Northern Ireland's modern day sporting greats.
Paralympians Bethany Firth, Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop also deserve to be in that category.
All three performed with distinction at the Paralympics in Rio and will no doubt contend for major honours at the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.
Swimmer Firth was in world record breaking form in Brazil, winning three gold medals (S14 100m backstroke, 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley) and a silver (100m breastroke) in a superb show in the water.
Smyth and McKillop, victorious in the 2008 and 2012 Games, each had one gold to go for in Rio and, true to form, came up trumps. Sprinter Smyth raced home to win the T13 100m while middle distance runner McKillop retained the T37 1500m title.
This 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 Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year award, named after our late, great Sports Editor, the Team of the Year, Manager/Coach of the Year, Young Team of the Year and Young Player of the Year prizes.
As usual, we'll go beyond the big back page headlines to honour our sportsmen and women with a disability 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 and nominations in.
Nominate your choices now and reward the Best in Sport in Northern Ireland
The Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards aim to identify sporting achievement and recognise those individuals, teams and organisations whose contributions to sport in Northern Ireland is outstanding and displays excellence and professionalism in the region.
Sports Awards Categories Download Awards pdf
1. Sports Star of the Year
This is awarded to a person identified with the province whose sporting performances or achievements are seen as outstanding. Recent winners have included Michael Conlan, AP McCoy, Rory McIlroy, David Healy, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Wendy Houvenaghel.
2. Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year
The award will be made to an Ulster player who competes mainly in the province and whose performance and overall contribution are seen as outstanding. Former trophy holders are Steven Davis, Michael Dunlop, Rory Best, Ryan Farquhar, Glenn Ferguson, Sean Cavanagh and Stephen Ferris.
3. Team of the Year
A team based in Ulster, whether club or composite, which has achieved remarkable success in the current year. Ulster Rugby, Linfield FC, Tyrone GAA, Cliftonville FC, Ballynahinch Rugby Team and the Northern Ireland Football Team are past winners.
4. Young Player of the Year
An individual aged 19 or under on 31st December 2016 and identified with the province whose sporting performances or achievements are seen as outstanding. Winners of this award have included Paralympian Bethany Firth, archery champion Patrick Huston,racing driver Wayne Boyd, athlete Ciara Mageean, swimmers Conor Ferguson, Sycerika McMahon and Conor Leaney.
5. Young Team of the Year
A team aged 19 or under on 31st December 2016 and identified with the province, whose performances or achievements are seen as outstanding. Previous winners include St Oliver Plunkett U16 football team, Lurgan College 1st XI Girls’ Hockey, Royal School Armagh 1st XI Hockey Team, NI Commonwealth Games Youth Team and Armagh Minors GAA.
6. Manager / Coach of the Year
An individual identified with the province whose managing/coaching achievements are seen as outstanding. Former trophy holders have included Brendan Rodgers, Michael O'Neill, PJ O'Mullan, Donal Murtagh, David Jeffrey, Tommy Breslin and Liam Bradley.
7. Sports Person of the Year with a Disability
This award is open to people identified with the Province and involved in a recognised category of sport for people with a disability whether as performers, organisers or supporters. Past winners are Kelly Gallagher, Janet Gray, Michael McKillop, Sally Brown, Jason Smyth and Niall McVeigh.
8. WJ 'Paddy' Patterson Services to Sport Award
This award recognises individuals who have brought honour to the province and served Ulster sport with great distinction over a period of years. The service may be as an administrator, manager, coach or referee etc. NB This award is made by the NI Sports Forum. Past winners have included Danny O’Connor, Jack Monaghan, Danny Murphy, Roy Torrens, Dame Mary Peters, Ken Nixon and Bob Colhoun.
9. George Best Breakthrough Award
This award recognises a sporting individual who has made a spectacular rise from obscurity during the past 12 months. This award is made by the sports writers of the Belfast Telegraph. Former winners have included Iain Henderson, Martyn Irvine, Michael Conlan, Peter Chambers, Martin Rogan, Rory Mcllroy and Niall McGinn.
10. Local Heroes
This award recognises special achievement at grass roots level. Nominations may be for both Clubs and/or individuals. Past winners include handball player Aisling Reilly, hockey aces Ian Sloan and David Ames, fencer Fiona Haldane, boxing coach Billy McKee, Natalie Kane from Motocross, Banbridge Academy Boys Hockey teams and wrestler Mohammed Ali.
11. Hall of Fame
This award recognises an Ulster sports person whose contribution to sport through the years has been outstanding. This award is made by the sports writers of the Belfast Telegraph. Previous stars installed in the Hall of Fame include Martin O’Neill, George Best, Jack Kyle, Dame Mary Peters, Mickey Harte, Gerry Armstrong, Mike Gibson, Barry McGuigan, Harry Gregg and Maeve Kyle.
12. Special Recognition Award
This is awarded to a person identified with the province whose sporting performances or achievements are seen as outstanding. Recent winners have included Olympians Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Peter and Richard Chambers and Alan Campbell, road racer Michael Dunlop, cricket legend Kyle McCallen and boxing star Carl Frampton. Also on the roll call of Special Recognition award past winners are GAA player Paul Hearty and young golfer Olivia Mehaffey.
Nominations for the awards may be made by local organisations, governing bodies of sport, regional councils, local sport councils and any individual.
Email your nomination in no more than 250 words including their name, all contact details to Sportsawards@jcomms.co.uk.
Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards
c/o JComms, Sylvan House,
232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast, BT4 2AW
Tel: 028 9076 0066
or Email Sportsawards@jcomms.co.uk
Friday 9th December
2016 at 5pm