Rory McIlroy and Carl Frampton share Belfast Telegraph Sports Award top prize and inspirational Amy Uprichard does honours
A brave teenage cancer sufferer who touched the heart of Rory McIlroy has described how it was an "absolute honour" to collect the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year award on behalf of the world's number one golfer.
Amy Uprichard had shot into the spotlight when Rory gave her a good luck kiss ahead of her bone marrow transplant when he officially opened a cancer respite centre in Newcastle, Co Down.
Rory won the Sports Star of the Year award jointly with champion boxer Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton - the first time the judges couldn't separate two winners in the awards' 20-year history.
But when he realised he wouldn't be able to pick up his award in person, the Holywood hero turned to 17-year-old Amy to help him out.
They first met after Rory visited Daisy Lodge, a respite centre for children with cancer that he had helped fund - and surprised Amy by planting an affectionate kiss on her cheek. Last night, the courageous Lurgan girl, who was diagnosed with leukaemia almost two years ago, also stole the hearts of 500 guests at our star-studded ceremony in Belfast's Ramada Plaza Hotel.
"It is an absolute honour to be able to go up and get the prize for Rory and it was a privilege meeting him through the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children because he has done so much for us and given us Daisy Lodge therapeutic getaway centre in Newcastle," said Amy.
"The centre helps a lot and he has put £1m towards it. I am the girl he kissed on the cheek - lucky me! They contacted the charity and asked for someone who had a connection with Rory to collect the prize and they came to me and asked me if I would do it.
"Rory is lovely, he is just a completely down-to-earth guy, you kind of think celebrities are going to be celebrities but he sat down with all the kids. Watching him with the little ones was great, he just played and talked away to everyone.
"The £1m he gave is helping to run Daisy Lodge so we can go down with friends and family and have a relaxed stay and I think he is donating more money every year to continue with the running costs as well. It was brilliant having him there."
Joint winner and IBF World Super Bantamweight boxer Frampton said he was thrilled to win the top annual prize with Rory.
"I'm delighted to win this award," said Carl, who took time out from training for next month's world title defence against Chris Avalos to attend the ceremony. "It is always a great night at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards and it is fantastic to win the top prize along with Rory."
Although he is in Dubai, McIlroy - who won two majors and a massive global fanbase on his way to becoming the world number one last year - sent a message saying: "Hopefully Carl and I and all those connected with Northern Ireland sport can look forward to an enjoyable and successful 2015."
The two winners fought off stiff competition from motorcycle road racing sensation Michael Dunlop and Winter Paralympic skiing gold medallist Kelly Gallagher, who looked dazzling in a shimmering evening gown.
Also honoured was Northern Ireland football legend David Healy who was inducted into our Sports Hall of Fame, sponsored by Belleek. Healy became a national hero for Northern Ireland when he scored against England at Windsor Park in 2005.
"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," he said.
Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson said: "Thanks to all our sponsors and our partner Sport NI for making this night such a big success."
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