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Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Our starlets have potential to shine at top

Pick your sporting moment of 2016

By Steven Beacom

Published 29/11/2016

Big splash: Conor Ferguson has had another great year after lifting our 2015 Young Player of the Year award
Big splash: Conor Ferguson has had another great year after lifting our 2015 Young Player of the Year award

Watching gifted youngsters achieve their potential is one of the most exciting elements of sport.

There's something really special about seeing a teenage talent coming through to shine.

Over the years, the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards have provided a clue to the next big thing in Northern Ireland sport when recognising the Young Player of the Year and Young Team of the Year.

We are sure the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, which will take place early next year, will be no different.

Swimmer Conor Ferguson won the 2015 Young Player prize, following in the footsteps of some extremely big hitters in Northern Ireland sport including four-time Major golf champion Rory McIlroy, two-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea and snooker star Mark Allen, who on Sunday hit his first 147 maximum break in competition at the UK Championships.

Others on the list of previous winners of the award are Parlaympic swimming sensation Bethany Firth, and archery star Patrick Huston and athlete Ciara Mageean, both of whom competed in the Rio Olympics this year.

The Young Player of the Year award will go to an individual aged 19 or under on December 31, 2016 whose sporting performances or achievements are considered outstanding.

Some of the contenders will come from individual sports and others from team sports.

The Young Team of the Year award will be won by a side whose members are aged 19 or under on December 31, 2016.

The Methody Girls Senior hockey side may be in with a shout after winning the final of the Belfast Telegraph Schools Cup for the first time in 28 years, beating Sullivan Upper 1-0 in the final. Captain Katie Larmour scored the decisive goal and then went on to star as player of the tournament as Methody were victorious in the All-Ireland Kate Russell Cup.

Another hockey team, Banbridge Academy, will be contenders after their Senior Boys First XI won the Burney Cup in dramatic fashion and were very unlucky to lose in their All-Ireland final.

In GAA, St Pat's Maghera should be in the mix after defeating St Paul's Bessbrook in the MacRory Cup final. Shane McGuigan excelled for St Pat's, scoring two goals and four points in the decider.

On the same day in March, RBAI's first XV won back-to-back rugby Schools Cups, beating Campbell College 13-3 at Kingspan Stadium with centre James Hume scoring all their points.

It completed quite a year for the school with their 2nds, 3rds and Medallion teams lifting their respective trophies too in what was an outstanding season for the Belfast men.

In football, Linfield's teenage ace Paul Smyth has enjoyed a superb year and warrants interest for the Young Player of the Year award.

He has constantly impressed for the Blues in 2016, so much so that Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill took him to France as part of the Euro 2016 finals training squad.

Gymnasts Ewan McAteer and Rhys McClenaghan will also be in the running for the individual prize. McAteer won a bronze in the vault at the British Gymnastics Championships while McClenaghan finished third at the same event in the pommel horse behind Olympic heroes Max Whitlock and Louis Smith.

McClenaghan continued his stunning form in the European Championships, becoming the first Irish gymnast to secure a podium finish at that competition. The 16-year-old claimed silver in the pommel horse.

Swimmer Ferguson had another fine year, as did Danielle Hill with both breaking Irish records.

The Young Player and Young Team of the Year awards are hugely competitive. The above are just some of the names that the judges may be considering.

If you think they deserve to be discussed, or if there are others that merit mentions, please tell us.

To nominate candidates email sportsawards@jcomms.co.uk or write to Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, c/o Jcomms, Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast, BT4 2AW. Please include your reasons why you believe they should win the award. Nominations close on December 9.

As well as looking for your nominations in the various categories of the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, you can also vote for Northern Ireland's greatest sporting moments of the year.

Please see the 10 options below... you can vote for your favourite at www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport in the Sports Awards section.

• Gareth McAuley's Euro 2016 NI goal v Ukraine

•Carl Frampton beating Leo Santa Cruz

•Jonathan Rea retaining his World Superbike title

•Bethany Firth's golden world record

•Jason Smyth's gold at Paralympics

•Michael McKillop's gold at Paralympics

•Rory Best leading Ireland to victory over New Zealand

•Rory McIlroy winning FedEx Cup

•Tyrone lifting the Ulster Championship

•Alastair Seeley breaking Robert Dunlop's NW200 record

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