Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Hall of Fame to welcome legend
It is a who's who of Northern Ireland sporting greats — gazing at the household names in the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame leaves you appreciating the incredible talent our tiny province has produced through the decades.
There's George Best, Dame Mary Peters, Dr Jack Kyle, Barry McGuigan, Pat Jennings, Harry Gregg, Maeve Kyle, Paddy Hopkirk, Sean O'Neill and Willie John McBride for starters... all giants in their particular sports.
Legendary jump jockey Tony McCoy was inducted a few years ago and is still competing and winning — a true champion.
When the sporting icon entering the Hall of Fame is announced at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, which has Linwoods as the title sponsor, there is always a genuine feeling of warmth inside the room towards the recipient.
Certainly that was the response when rugby great Mike Gibson and football hero Gerry Armstrong were asked to make their way to the stage at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast during the ceremonies celebrating the sporting years of 2011 and 2012.
For the next winner, who will be crowned on Monday, it will be no different.
Gibson was presented with his prize by fellow Ulster and Ireland rugby legend Jack Kyle while our World Cup stars Pat Jennings and Billy Hamilton were on hand to surprise Armstrong last year.
It meant the world to Gerry, whose wife Debby, knowing that her hubby would be honoured, organised for his family to be there.
The man who scored that never to be forgotten winning goal against Spain in the 1982 World Cup says: “It was a great night and a huge honour to be inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.
“It was fantastic having my family there too. There were lots of smiles when I made my way back to our table and it was really lovely being congratulated by so many sports people I admire.
“When you look at the previous sporting heroes to be presented with the award, I'm delighted to now be on the list. I'm sure the person who is inducted at this year's awards will feel extremely proud too.”
The respected Sky Sports pundit added: “The Hall of Fame shows you that for a small country we have produced an incredible amount of talent.
“What's so interesting is that they come from so many sports. Sometimes we don't give ourselves enough credit in Northern Ireland, and that's why the Sports Awards are so important because they show just how well we are doing.
“In terms of the Hall of Fame winner this time, I'm really looking forward to seeing who joins the illustrious list.”
Gerry is not the only one.
On the gala night next week, the Hall of Fame will be the penultimate award presented just before those in attendance find out who the Sports Star of the Year is. The Hall of Fame prize is sponsored by Belleek Living, who will provide the beautiful trophies for all the award winners.
Jackie Fullerton and Claire McCollum will present the ceremony, regarded as the biggest and best sports awards show in the country. If you wish to be part of it and attend the black tie affair you can purchase tickets or tables by contacting JPR on 02890 760066. Guests are advised to arrive at 6.45pm for the big event.
Reds boss Rodgers is a hard act to follow
Brendan Rodgers continues to impress as Liverpool boss. That will come as no surprise to anyone who was at the 2011 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, because you could tell then that there was something special about the Carnlough man.
At the ceremony he collected the always keenly contested Manager/Coach of the Year prize for his stunning achievement in inspiring Swansea City into the Premier League.
On the night he proved a big hit with other award winners and the audience, being extremely generous with his time.
As for the award itself, he was delighted to receive it.
“What makes this award so special to me is that I'm receiving it back home in Northern Ireland and on the shortlist there were top class coaches from other sports who are doing superbly in their fields,” Brendan said on the night.
It was a point well made and one that will be appreciated by coaches and managers more than most. They tend to be a different breed from players and realise the work, skills, organisation and planning that is required in other sports to keep teams or individuals at the top.
The Belfast Telegraph Manager/Coach of the Year prize, sponsored by Volvo this year, is one to cherish.
Belfast Telegraph Digital