Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Mike Gibson a true Ulster legend

Michael Gibson, left, being presented with his Hall of fame award by Dr Jack Kyle. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Michael Gibson, left, being presented with his Hall of fame award by Dr Jack Kyle. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Brendan Rodgers being presented with his Manager of the year award by Peter Canavan. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Mike Gilson (Belfast Telegraph), Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Eamonn McCartan (CEO Sport NI) and Jack Kyle. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Dominic Walsh, Chairman Sport NI, Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Aogan O'Fearghail (Ulster Council) and Paddy Doherty. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Phil Simmons (Ireland Cricket coach), Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin and Kyle McCallan. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Jack Kyle, Betty Henderson and Jackie Fullerton. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Peter Canavan, Mike Gibson, Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, Dominic Walsh (Sport NI), Steve Martin and David Jeffrey. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Carl Frampton and Pat Jennings. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Dominic Walsh (Sport NI), Andrew Trimble and Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
David Jeffrey and Michael Gibson. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Alan Moneypenny, Jack Kyle and Rory Best. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
David Humphreys, Alan Moneypenny and Jack Kyle with current Ulster rugby squad members. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Eric Cunningham, Janet Gray and Paul Gray. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Johann Muller, Alison Campbell and Rory Best. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Todd Kelma (Belfast Giants), Janet Gray, Paul Gray and Nigel Carr. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Kenny Morris, Steven Martin, Alison Campbell and Jackie McCandless. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Sycerika McMahon being presented with her Young player of the year award by Eamonn McCartan, CEO of Sport NI. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Ian Sloan being presented his Local heroes award by Dr Stephen Martin and Jimmy Kirkwood. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Rory Best being presented with his Player of the year award by David Lawlor, marketing executive, Linwoods. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Sally Brown being presented with her Sports person with a disability award by John Spottiswoode, MD, Disability Needs Ltd. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Danny Murphy, left, being presented with his W J (Paddy) Patterson award by Ken Nixon, NI Sports Forum. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Sports star of the year award being accepted by Darren Clarke's fiancé Alison Campbell (centre) and presented by Mike Gilson (Belfast Telegraph), Caral Ni Chuilin MLA (Sports Minister), Brenda Beattie (Sales Manager, Linwoods) and Eamonn McCartan (CEO Sport NI). 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Mike Gibson, Peter Canavan and David Jeffrey. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Julie Hinds and Natalie Barr from Lurgan College girls hockey being presented with their Young team of the year award by Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin . 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Linfield manager David Jeffrey being presented with the Team of the year award by Michael O'Neill. Also pictured are Blues kit manager Gary Eccles, chairman Jim Kerr, players Michael Gault and Winston Murphy. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Michael Dunlop, left, being presented with his Special recognition award by fellow road racer Eugene Laverty. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Gillian Chambers recieves the George Best breakthrough award on behalf of her son Peter from Pat Jennings. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Leander Swimming Club member Sycerika McMahon and her mum Mary. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Matt McGovern , Leander Swimming Club member Sycerika McMahon and Ryan Seaton. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Sally Brown and her dad Richard. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Cathy McParlan, Miriam Morgan and Lorraine Trainor. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Leander Swimming Club member Sycerika McMahon. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Adam Stirling and Nicole Healey. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
David Lawlor, Brenda Beattie and Kieron Beattie. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Sarah Craig, Caitlin De Jode and Kathryn McCann from Dalriada U16. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

In an interview with modern day Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll last year, a smile lit up his face when I mentioned the great Mike Gibson. Then words of the highest praise shot out from the Dubliner's lips.

O'Driscoll said: “At times when Irish rugby wasn't successful Mike was always the shining light. He played international rugby for 15 years and that speaks volumes about him. He was a magnificent player and a true ambassador for the game.”

And so say all of us.

Gibson, a gentleman and a scholar as well as one of Northern Ireland's favourite sporting sons, was inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame last night at our glittering Sports Awards ceremony.

Gibson, who will be 70 this year, received the warmest of receptions from those in attendance at the ceremony as he walked towards the stage to collect his prize.

It was appropriate that the iconic Jack Kyle was there waiting to congratulate his friend.

Dr Jack Kyle and Michael Gibson — the two finest Ulster rugby players of all time standing together.

What a picture. What a moment.

The modern day Ulster rugby heroes, who did us all proud with that fantastic Heineken Cup victory over Leicester Tigers on Friday night, applauded along with everyone else.

Gibson enjoyed a brilliant career. Capable of creating all sorts of magic from the back line, especially at centre — the position for which he is most renowned — he was a sensationally gifted individual. Yet he was also the ultimate team player.

Centre he may have been, but he was not one who wanted to be the centre of attention, forever paying tribute to team-mates.

Educated at Campbell College in Belfast, he showed his prowess as a young man turning out for North and Ulster.

He recalls: “I would play games only using my left foot or my right foot and develop a strength in each area and then concentrate on getting the basic things right such as taking a pass or making a pass.

“Then there was the thinking bit which is all about making decisions — I believe that facet separates players.”

Gibson's thought process was invariably ahead of the rest, as he went on to star for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, after studying Law at Cambridge University.

He first played for Ireland as a 21-year-old in 1964, becoming a mainstay of the team during a stellar international career that didn't end until 1979 having amassed 69 caps.

Had Mike been around today with the amount of games played all over the world, staying at the top for 15 years would easily have earned him far more than 100 Irish appearances, although it wasn't until 2005 that his record haul of Irish caps was overtaken, which in itself illustrates his longevity at the top.

Gibson, who was awarded an MBE for his services to rugby, also featured on FIVE British & Irish Lions tours, including the momentous and victorious trips to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974.

His final test for Ireland came when he inspired a victory in Australia at the age of 36. Even then his undoubted class was evident, just as it was last night.

Cameron Michael Henderson Gibson is well worth a place in the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.

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