Player of the Year winner: Ryan Farquhar
Published 18/01/2013 | 11:57
Prior to announcing his retirement from motorbike racing in September 2012, the brilliant Ryan Farquhar once again had a stunning season, winning national and international road races all over Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scarborough.
The 36-year old Killyman rider got his season off to a flyer at the Spring Cup at Olivers Mount, Scarborough in April speeding to five victories.
In a hectic period Farquhar sizzled during the Cookstown 100 where, despite one of the best national road race entries of the season, he took four chequered flags, two lap records and was named Man of the Meeting.
Another three victories came a week later at the Tandragee 100 before heading to the North Coast and the International North West 200 where Farquhar had one of his proudest days, not only winning the inaugural supertwins race but as a team owner he had a clean sweep of the podium as team mates for the day Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter followed their team boss home.
The Isle of Man TT came next and again Farquhar won the supertwin class alongside podiums in the second supersport and superstock races.
Back home for the Mid Antrim 150, Farquhar had five wins from five starts on a greasy, slippery track at Clough a feat he repeated a week later at his home meeting at Bush, near Dungannon.
A busy July saw another 12 victories at Skerries, Scarborough’s Cock o’the North meeting, the Southern 100 and Armoy.
Ulster Grand Prix Bike Week turned out to be Farquhar’s last home meeting and he signed off with two victories before heading to the Manx Grand Prix where the elation of winning the Classic 500cc Manx turned to tragedy in the afternoon when his uncle, Trevor Ferguson, lost his life following a crash in the Lightweight Manx Grand Prix ironically riding a Kawasaki belonging to Ryan.
Shortly afterwards Ryan announced his retirement from the sport after a record 199 Irish road race wins and Duke Road Race Rankings champion for a record seventh time in 11 years.
He continues in 2013 as a team owner but will be remembered as one of the most successful, dedicated and respected competitors, who lived and breathed road racing.
Nominee - Liam Watson
The Antrim hurler performed heroically for his club Loughgiel Shamrocks in their All-Ireland Senior club hurling championship victory over Coolderry.
The Shamrocks scored four goals and 13 points in that success with Liam hitting a remarkable three goals and seven points.
That's a bewildering tally illustrating just how unstoppable Watson was at Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.
Rarely has one player had such an incredible impact in a final and this after Watson had delivered the goods with an exemplary display of free taking in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Nominee - Alan Dunbar
Northern Ireland golfers continue to shine with Alan Dunbar another outstanding talent to come off the conveyor belt.
In 2012 Alan did something than not even Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell, from his own Rathmore Club in Portrush, have achieved when he won the British Amateur Championship. Previously only two other Ulstermen (Garth McGimpsey 1985 and Michael Hoey 2001) had won the tournament which started out with a field of 288 hopefuls.
Dunbar, displaying the class which should see him succeed in the professional ranks, came through to win the final against Austrian Matthias Schwab taking the last two holes to lift the trophy at Royal Troon.
Nominee - Chris Henry
The Ulster rugby star is one of the most exciting players in Ireland producing numerous inspiring performances in the white shirt over the last 12 months.
Capable of playing any position in the back row Henry was a key figure as Ulster made it through to the Heineken Cup final last season.
This season he has kicked on and looks even stronger. In the absence of the injured Johann Muller, Chris has taken over as captain doing a fantastic job during Ulster's terrific start to the campaign.
For Ireland too he has established himself and will surely be an important player in the green shirt in 2013.