David Healy nets a place in Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards hall of fame
When David Healy scored the winning goal for Northern Ireland against England at Windsor Park in a World Cup qualifier in 2005, he entered the hearts of just about everyone in our wee country.
Last night at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, the man from Killyleagh became the latest sporting hero to enter our Hall of Fame.
He joins an illustrious list of Northern Ireland sporting greats including football idols George Best, Pat Jennings, Harry Gregg and Gerry Armstrong.
A humble man, Healy has never been one to seek the glory, but there was great pride cursing through his veins as he collected his award from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
They were full of praise for the 35-year-old, who started his career as a kid at Manchester United before going on to play for a number of clubs such as Preston, Leeds United, Fulham, Sunderland and Rangers.
It was as a Northern Ireland player though that he truly hit the heights to become a national hero.
Winning his first cap back in 2000, Healy scored twice and in an international career that saw make 95 appearances he kept on finding the net.
His most famous strike of all came 10 years ago when England's so called 'Golden Generation' of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen came to Belfast and left defeated thanks to Healy's fantastic strike.
They were partying all over the streets of Northern Ireland after that. One year later there were more celebrations when the man known on the Kop as King David hit a stunning hat-trick in a European Championship qualifier against a mighty Spain side, who would go on and dominate world football.
In that campaign Healy was the most dangerous striker in Europe, netting a record 13 goals in the group stages, almost taking Northern Ireland to the finals all on his own.
By the time he hung up his boots, David had scored 36 goals for Northern Ireland. Before he came along the best had been 13!
Without doubt David Healy is the finest goalscorer this country has ever produced and watched by his proud parents Irene and Clifford last night, deservedly walked into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.
"It's a real honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame," said Healy, a Sport NI ambassador.
"To receive the award from Michael and Martin meant a lot to me and this is so special for myself, my wife Emma and our children.
"So many people helped me throughout my career, starting with my mum and my dad and my family and friends in Killyleagh as well as all my managers, especially at international level, my team-mates and of course the Northern Ireland fans who were always brilliant to me.
"I'd also like to thank the Belfast Telegraph for this award and all the support they have given me throughout the years. When I think of all the other people who are in the Hall of Fame this is a huge honour for me and my family.
"To follow in the footsteps of Northern Ireland sporting heroes like George Best, Pat Jennings, Jack Kyle, Dame Mary Peters, Barry McGuigan and last year's inductee Mickey Harte, I feel very honoured and proud."
Fittingly at last night's ceremony, Ulster and Ireland rugby great Dr Jack Kyle was remembered following his sad passing in November. Jack's daughter Justine spoke about her dad and another icon of the oval ball game Mike Gibson paid a glowing tribute to the first sportsperson to be inducted into our Hall of Fame.
Take a bow: the Sports Awards roll of honour...
Sports Stars of the Year (sponsored by Linwoods): Carl Frampton and Rory McIlroy
NI's Greatest Sports Star Ever (as voted by Belfast Telegraph readers): 1. Joey Dunlop 2. George Best 3. Rory McIlroy
Hall of Fame (sponsored by Belleek): David Healy
Team of the Year (sponsored by Outlet): NI Commonwealth Games Boxing squad
George Best Breakthrough Award (sponsored by Ramada): Conor McLaughlin
Coach of the Year Award (sponsored by Volvo): John Conlan
Paddy Patterson Award (sponsored by NI Sports Forum): Doreen Miskelly
Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year (sponsored by Linwoods): Andrew Trimble
Local Heroes award (sponsored by Sport NI): Anto Finnegan
Sports Star with a Disability (sponsored by National Lottery): Kelly Gallagher
Special Recognition Award (sponsored by Centra): Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan
Young Team of the Year (sponsored by Sport NI): Portora Royal School Boat Club Boys Junior Coxed Eights
Young Player of the Year (sponsored by mamba): Chloe Watson
Further readingIt's a knock-out night for Northern Ireland's boxers at Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards Joey Dunlop voted as Northern Ireland's Greatest Sports Star Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton double tops at Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2014 Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton share Belfast Telegraph Sports Award top prize and inspirational Amy Uprichard does honours