Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton double tops at Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2014
Carl Frampton and Rory McIlroy are well used to breaking barriers... and they were at it again last night, creating history by becoming the first joint winners of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year award.
Carl and Rory had the best year of their sporting lives in 2014 and given the magnitude of their achievements, the judging panel decided that BOTH deserved the prestigious prize.
What a way to mark the 20th anniversary of the biggest and best sports awards show in Northern Ireland - our world boxing champion and golf's Major man recognised together for fantastic feats over the past 12 months.
Tiger's Bay star Frampton was at the 2014 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, to pick up his trophy at the Ramada Plaza hotel in Belfast, receiving a rapturous reception in the process.
And while Holywood hero McIlroy was unable to attend because he is in Dubai preparing for his latest tournament, a very special person was there to collect his award - brave teenager Amy Uprichard, a cancer sufferer, representing the Daisy Lodge Cancer Fund for Children Centre, supported by the Rory McIlroy Foundation.
It is the third time that Rory has won the Sports Star of the Year award. For Carl, last night's accolade was his first top prize at the glittering ceremony, which was compered by Jackie Fullerton and Claire McCollum.
The hugely popular boxer, taking time off from his training regime for next month's world title defence against Chris Avalos at the Odyssey Arena, was chuffed to receive such a distinguished accolade.
'The Jackal' recalled that epic night in September when he became champion of the world at the super-bantamweight division, defeating Spaniard Kiko Martinez on points in front of 16,000 joyous fans, who had packed in to the purpose built arena at the Titanic Slipway in Belfast.
It was one of the greatest nights in Northern Ireland sporting history, and followed on from a convincing victory over Hugo Cazares earlier in the year to set up a shot at the world belt.
Managed by the great Barry McGuigan and trained by Shane McGuigan, Frampton has become one of the hottest tickets in town, as illustrated by the crowd reaction to him last night.
"It's fantastic to win the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year award," said the 27-year-old.
"And to win it along with Rory McIlroy, who had an incredible 2014, is really special.
"Last year was great for me becoming world champion in Belfast. The support I received from everyone in Northern Ireland was amazing.
"I want to keep delivering big nights to the people of Northern Ireland, and to keep winning, starting next month with my title defence."
Like Frampton, McIlroy also had a stunning 2014, winning two Major titles. The first came at The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, with the 25-year-old playing magical golf throughout the four rounds.
He doubled his Major tally for the year and took his total to four overall at the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, with a storming finish on the final day.
The world number one was also victorious in other tournaments and helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup.
In 2015 he plans to complete a Major Grand Slam by winning the Masters at Augusta and hopes for more success for Frampton and everyone else involved in Northern Ireland sport.
"I'm delighted to have won the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year prize again," said Rory, in a statement read out last night.
"It's amazing to think that 10 years have passed since I picked up the Young Player of the Year prize at the awards.
"I'd like to thank the Belfast Telegraph and its readers, who nominated me for this prestigious award, and congratulate all the other winners and nominees, in particular Carl Frampton, who has also been voted Sports Star of the Year for 2014.
"I met Carl last year and it's fantastic to see him rewarded in this way for all for his hard work and success.
"He had a great year and hopefully both of us and all those connected with Northern Ireland sport can look forward to an enjoyable and successful 2015.
"The support I receive from everyone in Northern Ireland is greatly appreciated. It's always pleasing to receive awards from back home and this one is all the more special because Amy Uprichard, a wonderful young lady, representing the Daisy Lodge Cancer Fund for Children Centre, which is supported by my Foundation, has been able to accept the trophy on my behalf."
The shortlist for the Sports Star of the Year category was arguably the strongest in the history of the awards, with Carl and Rory beating stiff competition from motorcycle sensation Michael Dunlop and Winter Paralympic skiing champion Kelly Gallagher.
Dunlop had a superb 2014, becoming the first rider to win four races at the Isle of Man TT in successive years, and Gallagher made history of her own by winning Team GB's first gold medal at the Winter Paralympics. That feat led to Kelly last night being named the Sports Star of the Year with a Disability.
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