Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Who will succeed Rory McIlroy at top?

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland's major golf champions have dominated the main prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards in recent years.

The success that Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy have enjoyed on fairways and greens has led to all of them being named our Sports Star of the Year.

The 2013 winner, though, is set to come from a different sport, ending golf's grip on the prestigious award.

Holywood hero McIlroy claimed the 2012 Tele's Sports Star prize at the ceremony last year on the day he agreed a multi-million pound deal with Nike.

Double joy then for Rory, but who will succeed him at the gala event on Monday night at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast?

There are plenty of candidates.

We thought that 2012 was spectacular for Northern Ireland sporting success with the Olympics and Paralympics providing us with such joy, combined with Rory's Major glory, but 2013 was sensational too.

Northern Ireland's heroes lit up the sporting world at home and abroad.

Classy cyclist Martyn Irvine became the World Track Champion, jockey Tony McCoy won another jump jockey title and raced to the 4,000th winner of his stunning career, motorcyle star Eugene Laverty finished runner-up in the World Superbike Championship, fellow brilliant biker Michael Dunlop won at all the big meetings including four victories at the Isle of Man TT, supreme boxer Carl Frampton lifted the European title and rugby star Tommy Bowe was in the British and Irish Lions team that defeated Australia in a thrilling summer series.

And that's just for starters.

Yes, it's been another incredible year for Northern Ireland's world class sporting talent.

On the night itself several of our previous Sports Stars of the Year are set to attend including Northern Ireland football legend David Healy, Olympic medal winning cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel and motorcycling great Phillip McCallen.

Just like the hundreds in the audience they will eagerly await to see who has walks away with the big prize.

The title sponsor for the Awards is Linwoods, whose brand manager Maeve McKeefry said: "Linwoods is delighted to be part of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

"An established highlight of the Northern Ireland sporting calendar, the Sports Awards recognise and reward sporting excellence and endeavour by both our grass roots and elite athletes.

"Like many of our sports stars, we're proud that 'Team Linwoods' is showcasing the very best of Northern Ireland as our expanding portfolio of products are incorporated into the daily diets of people in homes across America, Italy, Holland and the Middle East as well as in the UK and Ireland.

"Year on year the calibre of the winners and nominees gets even more impressive which augurs well for the future of sport locally.

"In anticipation of Monday evening Linwoods would like to extend hearty congratulations to all those recognised by the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

"it's been an amazing year for our local sporting heroes and their achievements have been thoroughly enjoyed and celebrated by everyone throughout Northern Ireland."

And, in many ways, that is the beauty of these awards, now recognised as the foremost sporting awards in the country.

They celebrate all sports, not just one, and they celebrate the achievements of global stars as well as honour those behind the scenes at grassroots level. And there's no doubt the winner of the Sports Star of the Year prize acts as an inspiration to all.

Only the greats win our Special Award

There were five winners of the Special Recognition prize at last year's Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Olympic heroes Alan Campbell, Richard and Peter Chambers, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan came home from London 2012 with medals and a Special Award for each gave the famous five another trophy to cherish for their outstanding efforts at the Games.

That quintet are not the only well known sporting personalities from Northern Ireland who have collected this particular award down the years.

In recent times winners have included cricketing great Kyle McCallan, Ulster rugby star Bryn Cunningham and motorcycling ace Michael Dunlop.

McCallan, Cunningham and Dunlop proved to be amongst the most popular winners in the history of the Tele awards charming the assembled great and good of sport with tales from their career and talking openly about their respective fields. We look forward to this year's acceptance speeches.

The Special Recognition award will be sponsored by Hastings Hotels.

Jackie Fullerton and Claire McCollum will be the presenters on Monday at the ceremony in the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

If you wish to be part of the audience on what promises to be a star studded evening you can purchase tickets by contacting JPR on 02890 760066. Guests are advised to arrive at 6.45pm for the big event.

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