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Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Only the best get our Player of Year award

By Steven Beacom

The Player of the Year prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards has been collected by some of the biggest names in Northern Ireland sport.

Take a look down the list of previous winners and it's encouraging to see the wide variety of sports represented.

Consider this magnificent seven for example: Peter Canavan (GAA), Margaret Johnson (Bowls), Graeme McDowell (Golf), Stephen Ferris (Rugby), Michael Dunlop (Motorcycling), Paddy Barnes (Boxing) and Steven Davis (Football).

One of the highlights of the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards will be finding out who is the latest sporting hero to go on the illustrious list.

The ceremony takes place on February 6 at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, where Claire McCollum and Craig Doyle will present the star studded show.

The Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year award, named after the newspaper's former late, great Sports Editor, recognises an individual who has delivered outstanding displays.

There are plenty of contenders for the prestigious prize, which will be sponsored by Celerion.

Ulster star Rory Best had an amazing 2016, captaining Ireland to their first ever victory over New Zealand and winning his 100th cap in another memorable success against Australia.

Another skipper, Davis, who was the 2015 Player of the Year, had a glorious year with Northern Ireland at the Euro 2016 finals and in the World Cup qualifiers that followed. Michael McGovern, Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans did the same.

On the Irish League scene, Sean O'Neill, Billy Joe Burns, Colin Coates, Paul Heatley and Jordan Owens all excelled as Crusaders retained their title.

In GAA, Sean Cavanagh and Peter Harte were superb as Tyrone won the Ulster Championship while Chrissy McKaigue was outstanding for the hurling and football teams of Slaughtneil.

Carrickfergus motorcycle rider Alastair Seeley had an historic year, winning his 16th race at the North West 200, overtaking the record set by Robert Dunlop.

In hockey, Ireland stars Eugene Magee and Paul Gleghorne enjoyed memorable moments while boxer Jamie Conlan, brother of Michael, produced heroics in his Fight of the Year success against Anthony Nelson to claim the Commonwealth super-flyweight title.

No doubt the judges considered those names and many more when selecting their shortlist and the overall winner.

Paula Quinn from Celerion said: "Celerion, Northern Ireland's leading medical research facility, is proud to sponsor the Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year Award at the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

"Celerion has made significant contribution to healthcare over the last 26 years. By offering free blood pressure and health checks, Celerion highlights the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

"We recognise the role sport plays in creating a better, healthier society and feel it is important to recognise the achievements of our sporting heroes."

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