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Golden boy Michael Conlan is a cut above lifting Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year award

World King eyes Rio joy after lifting top award

By Steven Beacom

Published 27/01/2016

Winners all: Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Michael Conlan, flanked by Coach of the Year Michael O’Neill and Hall of Fame entrant Martin O’Neill
Winners all: Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Michael Conlan, flanked by Coach of the Year Michael O’Neill and Hall of Fame entrant Martin O’Neill
Glory boy: Our Sports Star of the Year, World amateur champion boxer Michael Conlan picks up the award from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Belfast Telegraph editor Gail Walker along with Sarah Shimmons Head of Marketing from title sponsors Linwoods
Michael Conlan

Michael Conlan has another title to add to a growing list - the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year award.

The brilliant amateur boxer collected the prestigious prize last night at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, at the Ramada Plaza hotel in front of a star studded audience.

What a start to the Olympic year for the Belfast man, who is intent on going to Rio and returning to Northern Ireland with a gold medal.

In 2015, bantamweight Conlan created sporting history. After qualifying for the Olympic Games in April, he became European champion in August and the icing on the cake came in October when he won the World Amateur title.

When defeating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in their 56kg final in Doha, Conlan became the first man from Northern Ireland to experience victory at the long running championships. Indeed, he became the first man from the island of Ireland to stand on top of the podium (right).

And the 24-year-old did it with a style and a swagger that had boxing fans purring. The class - and confidence - oozes out of Conlan.

All this in 2015 and Michael got engaged to his partner Shauna and they became parents for the first time when beautiful daughter Luisne was born.

What a year!

In 2012 he won the George Best Breakthrough Award at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards and he has collected two Special Recognition prizes at the ceremony, but last night was the first time he has taken home the big one - the Sports Star of the Year trophy.

At the glittering ceremony, Conlan received his Sports Star of the Year prize from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker and Linwoods Head of Marketing Sarah Shimmons.

Sports Star of the Year: Michael Conlan . Trophy presented by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Telegraph's editor Gail Walker, and Linwoods head of marketing Sarah Shimmons. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Sports Star of the Year: Michael Conlan . Trophy presented by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Belfast Telegraph's editor Gail Walker, and Linwoods head of marketing Sarah Shimmons. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Team of the Year winner: Northern Ireland football team. Manager Michael O'Neill and assistant coach Jimmy Nicholl collect the trophy on behalf of the team from champion cyclist Martyn Irvine and Patrick Woods, Director of Linwoods. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Martin O'Neill is inducted into the Hall of Fame and presented with his trophy by football legends Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong, Michael O'Neill, Neil Lennon and joined by Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of category sponsor The OUTLET Banbridge. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Hall of Fame award: Martin O'Neill is inducted into the Hall of Fame and presented with his trophy by Chris Nelmes, Centre Manager of category sponsor The OUTLET Banbridge. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Belfast boxer Michael Conlan gets a congratulatory kiss from his mum Theresa as he was named Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year at a glittering ceremony in Belfast’s Ramada Hotel last night
Manager of the Year winner: Michael O'Neill. Michael is presented with his award from Bolton Wanderers manager Neil Lennon and Richard McClean, Managing Director, Belfast Telegraph. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
After his storming World Cup for Ireland, the George Best Breakthrough Award is given to Ulster Rugby's Iain Henderson. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Top team: Representatives from the Commonwealth games Youth team, Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collect their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe and Muriel O'Grady, chair of the SUBWAY Ireland Marketing Board
Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year: Steven Davis (collected by father David) .Rugby Legend Stephen Ferris and Rajesh Rana, Director of category sponsor Ramada Plaza presents David Davis with Stephen's trophy. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Young Player of the Year Conor Ferguson is presented with his trophy by Dame Mary Peters and Arthur Scott, Sport NI Interim Chief Executive. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Sportsperson with a Disability winner: Michael McKillop is presented with his trophy by Paddy Barnes and Joanne McDowell, Director for Northern Ireland of category sponsor, Big Lottery Fund. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Michael McKillop with Jackie Fullerton. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Winners all: Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Michael Conlan, flanked by Coach of the Year Michael O’Neill and Hall of Fame entrant Martin O’Neill
Local Heroes award winner: Aisling Reilly is presented with her trophy by GAA Tyrone Manager Mickey Harte and Brian Henning, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Special recognition award goes to Crossmaglen's Paul Hearty. Paul Hearty is presented with his trophy by Belfast Giant's Matt Nickerson and Robert Cairns, Volvo Parts Manager of category sponsor Volvo. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Special recognition award goes to Crossmaglen's Paul Hearty. Photo: Paul Hearty aand Claire McCollum. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Young Team of the Year goes to the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Youth squad. Conor Ferguson, Danielle Hill, Ben Fisher and James McGivern collect their award from rugby legend Tommy Bowe and Muriel O'Grady, chair of the SUBWAY Ireland Marketing Board and franchisee. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Erin Cassidy, Julia McCann, Ella Rourke, Eile Bradley, Cara Gordon and Michela McAvoy pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Peter Spratt with his daughter Lucy pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Ben Fisher and Angel Reyes pictured at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Eileen Logan and Debby Armstrong
Sarah Shimmons, Michael O'Neill and Paddy Barnes
Carol McMenamin, Joanne Hayden and Jane Rowe
Gail Walker and Neil Lennon
Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.
Pat Jennings
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with boxer Michael Conlan pictured at the awards night. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Steven Beacom pictured at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Guests at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Guests at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Stephen Baxter at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 25th January 2016 - Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards sponsored by Linwoods 2015 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast. Claire McCollum and Jackie Fullerton pictured at the awards night.   Picture by Kelvin Boyes/ Press Eye

He overcame some serious competition. The stunning shortlist was made up of four World champions, an iconic jockey and an inspirational captain.

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis, who inspired his country to the Euro 2016 finals, Sir Tony McCoy, who retired in 2015 having won his 20th title, World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea, World boxing champion Carl Frampton and World Lightweight pairs rowing champion Joel Cassells were all in the mix.

Last year Frampton shared the top award with golfer Rory McIlroy. Conlan is the third boxer in the 21-year history of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards to pick up the premier prize, with Wayne McCullough the first ever winner.

"It is great to be named the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year for 2015," said Conlan, whose mum Teresa was in attendance and beaming with pride.

"I have won other categories at the Awards and to win the big prize means a lot to me, especially when you look at the strength of the shortlist."

Only three people from Northern Ireland have gold medals from the summer Olympics, Dame Mary Peters and hockey greats Stephen Martin - who along with Dame Mary was at the show - and Jimmy Kirkwood.

Conlan, a bronze medallist at London 2012 and coached by dad John, is determined to join that list.

"I'm going to Rio with only one thought in mind and that is to win gold," said the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion. "I have the experience of London behind me and I believe I can go all the way this time.

"Having won the World Championships in 2015, I will be favourite at the Olympics but it doesn't bother me. I know I will go there and win the gold. No one is going to stop me."

In Rio, Conlan will be joined by fellow Ulster boxers Paddy Barnes and Steven Donnelly. After Brazil, he will enter the professional ranks.

Older brother Jamie is already there and is hoping for a World title shot later this year. His fights tend to be exciting and you get the feeling the younger sibling's contests at professional level will be just the same. His ring craft, hand speed, balance and movement can make him a big hit.

He will leave behind a host of glorious memories from the amateur game, not least that historic World title success.

In the final in October, Conlan defeated Akhmadaliev 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 in a typically clever display of boxing, though he was shocked late in the third and final round when he was dumped on the canvas for the first time in his career. He quickly regained his composure to see the fight out.

"It was probably the best punch I've ever been hit with in my life. I've never been down before but I recovered really quickly and was delighted for myself and my family to win the gold and create history," he said.

"Being a World champion is incredible. I am Commonwealth champion, European champion and World champion. Now I want to complete the set and be Olympic champion before I move on with my career."

Belfast Telegraph

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