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Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Good times never seemed so good after Northern Ireland treble joy

By Steven Beacom

Published 26/01/2016

Main man: Michael O'Neill receives his Coach of the Year award from former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon and Belfast Telegraph Managing Director Richard McClean
Main man: Michael O'Neill receives his Coach of the Year award from former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon and Belfast Telegraph Managing Director Richard McClean
Top team: Representatives from the Commonwealth games Youth team, Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collect their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe and Muriel O'Grady, chair of the SUBWAY Ireland Marketing Board
Delighted: Paul Hearty is presented with his trophy by Belfast Giants ace Matt Nickerson, right, and Robert Cairns, the Volvo Parts Manager of category sponsor Volvo
Young gun: Conor Ferguson receives the Young Sports Star of the Year award from Dame Mary Peters and Arthur Scott of Sport NI having had an amazing 12 months in the pool
Football focus: Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and assistant Jimmy Nicholl pick up the Team of the Year award on behalf of the international side from champion cyclist Martyn Irvine and Patrick Woods, Director of Linwoods
David Davis - father of Northern Ireland captain Steven - picks up the Player of the Year award on behalf of his son from Stephen Ferris and Rajesh Rana, Director of category sponsor Ramada Plaza

The Northern Ireland football team enjoyed treble glory at the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards with the players and manager Michael O'Neill rewarded for their outstanding success.

Last year, O'Neill's Northern Ireland team created history by becoming the first side from this country to qualify for the European Championship finals and in France in the summer will follow in the footsteps of the legendary 1958, 1982 and 1986 World Cup sides by playing in a major championships.

It was hardly surprising then that O'Neill picked up the Coach/Manager of the Year prize at the Belfast Telegraph Awards.

O'Neill and his squad were judged to be the Team of the Year and there was an individual honour for captain Steven Davis, who won the Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year trophy.

Southampton midfielder Davis scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Greece at Windsor Park in October to secure qualification for the Euro 2016 finals.

After his first goal, which set the home team on their way to France, Davis pointed to the sky in tribute to his late mum and biggest fan Laura, who passed away in 2008.

It was one of the most striking and heartfelt moments in sport throughout 2015.

It was fitting that the former Aston Villa, Fulham and Rangers star was the hero on the night when dreams came true because over the course of the campaign he proved to be an inspirational figure for the rest of the players on and off the pitch.

In fact, the only game out of 10 that Northern Ireland lost in Group F was when Davis was absent through injury.

He was the heartbeat of the side as they finished top of the table and they are now looking forward to the Euro finals, where they will play Poland, Ukraine and World champions Germany in the group stages.

Sports Star of the Year: Michael Conlan . Trophy presented by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Telegraph's editor Gail Walker, and Linwoods head of marketing Sarah Shimmons. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Sports Star of the Year: Michael Conlan . Trophy presented by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Telegraph's editor Gail Walker, and Linwoods head of marketing Sarah Shimmons. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Team of the Year winner: Northern Ireland football team. Manager Michael O'Neill and assistant coach Jimmy Nicholl collect the trophy on behalf of the team from champion cyclist Martyn Irvine and Patrick Woods, Director of Linwoods. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Martin O'Neill is inducted into the Hall of Fame and presented with his trophy by football legends Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Michael O'Neill, Neil Lennon and joined by Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of category sponsor The OUTLET Banbridge. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Hall of Fame award: Martin O'Neill is inducted into the Hall of Fame and presented with his trophy by Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of category sponsor The OUTLET Banbridge. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Belfast boxer Michael Conlan gets a congratulatory kiss from his mum Theresa as he was named Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year at a glittering ceremony in Belfast’s Ramada Hotel last night
Manager of the Year winner: Michael O'Neill. Michael is presented with his award from Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon and Richard McClean, Managing Director, Belfast Telegraph. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
After his storming World Cup for Ireland, the George Best Breakthrough Award is given to Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Top team: Representatives from the Commonwealth games Youth team, Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collect their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe and Muriel O'Grady, chair of the SUBWAY Ireland Marketing Board
Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year: Steven Davis (collected by father David) .Rugby Legend Stephen Ferris and Rajesh Rana, Director of category sponsor Ramada Plaza presents David Davis with Stephen's trophy. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Young Player of the Year Conor Ferguson is presented with his trophy by Dame Mary Peters and Arthur Scott, Sport NI Interim Chief Executive. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Sportsperson with a Disability winner: Michael McKillop is presented with his trophy by Paddy Barnes and Joanne McDowell, Director for Northern Ireland of category sponsor, Big Lottery Fund. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Michael McKillop with Jackie Fullerton. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Winners all: Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Michael Conlan, flanked by Coach of the Year Michael O’Neill and Hall of Fame entrant Martin O’Neill
Local Heroes award winner: Aisling Reilly is presented with her trophy by GAA Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte and Brian Henning, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Special recognition award goes to Crossmaglen's Paul Hearty. Paul Hearty is presented with his trophy by Belfast Giant's Matt Nickerson and Robert Cairns, Volvo Parts Manager of category sponsor Volvo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Special recognition award goes to Crossmaglen's Paul Hearty. Photo: Paul Hearty aand Claire McCollum. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Young Team of the Year goes to the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Youth squad. Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collect their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe and Muriel O'Grady, chair of the SUBWAY Ireland Marketing Board and franchisee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Erin Cassidy, Julia McCann, Ella Rourke, Eile Bradley, Cara Gordon and Michela McAvoy pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Peter Spratt with his daughter Lucy pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Ben Fisher and Angel Reyes pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Eileen Logan and Debby Armstrong
Sarah Shimmons, Michael O'Neill and Paddy Barnes
Carol McMenamin, Joanne Hayden and Jane Rowe
Gail Walker and Neil Lennon
Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Pat Jennings
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with boxer Michael Conlan pictured at the awards night. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Steven Beacom pictured at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Guests at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Guests at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Stephen Baxter at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Claire McCollum and Jackie Fullerton pictured at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye

Also on the shortlist for the Player of the Year prize was team-mate Kyle Lafferty, who scored seven times in the Euro qualifiers, hockey star Eamonn Magee and Gaelic games and netball ace Caroline O'Hanlon.

"It is fantastic to win the Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year award. It feels even more special because it is across all sports," said 31-year-old Davis, who sent a video message as he was unable to attend due to injury.

"I remember being at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 10 years ago when I won the George Best Breakthrough prize. That night Rory McIlroy won the Young Player of the Year award.

"It is fantastic that Northern Ireland as a whole is doing so well in different sports around the world and we are so pleased that the football team could deliver for the people as well.

"Qualifying for Euro 2016 was incredible for everyone - Michael, the players and the fans. It was an emotional night that we all enjoyed and now we are looking forward to the country's first major tournament in 30 years.

"We aren't going there to make the numbers up. We are going there to make an impact and although we are in a tough group, our aim is to reach the knockout stages."

The Northern Ireland skipper's award was collected by his dad David.

Manager O'Neill also spoke about how much he and his team were relishing the finals.

He joins an illustrious list of Peter Doherty and Billy Bingham as the only men to have taken Northern Ireland to a major tournament.

"We can feel proud of achieving what we did. It provided a great lift for the country and a great lift for football here," said O'Neill, who received his Manager of the Year award from former international team-mate Neil Lennon.

"The players were magnificent. We had a great start to the campaign, winning our first three matches, and that gave us a chance to go and do something special.

"In 2015 there were some very big moments like Kyle Lafferty scoring a last-minute equaliser at home to Hungary to keep us in control of our destiny and of course the win against Greece, when Steven scored twice, is one that no Northern Ireland fan will forget.

"I'm delighted to win the Manager of the Year award and also for the squad to win the Team of the Year prize and Steven to be named Player of the Year. His performances over the campaign were fantastic and he epitomises what our team is all about.

"We will go to France with a positive frame of mind believing that we can get results. Our target is the knockout stages.

"We will have thousands of supporters in France and with their backing and the focus and ability of the players, we feel we can get points on the board."

Having a shrewd manager like O'Neill will be crucial to that aim.

As revealed by the Belfast Telegraph last year, he will sign a new four-year contract with the Irish FA. That deal will be announced in the near future.

In the meantime, the IFA and the Northern Ireland football team can savour another wonderful evening... winning three major prizes at the country's most prestigious sports awards.

Roll on Euro 2016.

Belfast Telegraph

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