Belfast Telegraph

Young stars show future is bright for Ulster sport

BY FRANK BROWNLOW

It augurs well for the future of Northern Ireland sport that the Belfast Telegraph Young Player of the Year award looks set to be one of the most hotly contested of all our highly-prized accolades.

There are numerous candidates across a range of sports.

Goalkeeper Conor Devlin was a mainstay of the Cliftonville side who were the dominant force in local football.

The Reds ran away with the Irish League title, their first since 1998, adding the League Cup for good measure as well as reaching the Irish Cup final.

Devlin's stunning performances caught the eye of Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, earning the 22-year-old an international call-up.

O'Neill is fortunate to have a batch of good young players to call upon, with the pick of them 22-year-old Shane Ferguson who had a key role in the stunning 1-0 win over Fabio Capello's Russia at Windsor Park in August.

There are several young guns making their mark with the Ulster rugby team. Paddy Jackson, Iain Henderson, Craig Gilroy and Michael Allen all have the potential to reach the very top and will have crucial roles as Ulster battle it out on Heineken Cup and PRO12 fronts.

And Ross Kane captained a superb Methody side to Schools' Cup success, defeating RBAI 20-5 in the final at Ravenhill.

In GAA, Conor Glass of Watty Graham's Glen and St Pat's, Maghera is an exciting prospect.

Still only 16, he has won minor and under-16 club championships with his club, along with MacRory and Hogan Cups with his school.

Swimmer Conor Ferguson, just 13, showed his potential by winning three gold medals at the British Age Group Championships. He already holds an Ulster junior record, despite being five years below the age limit.

Karola Bejenaru has had an outstanding year on the local tennis circuit and after recent success outside the province, in tournaments in Nottingham and Malta, the 15-year-old's aim is to make junior Wimbledon.

Hockey has several outstanding young players including Lucy McKee, Hannah Grieve and Emma Kernohan.

This is only a sample of the contenders for the Belfast Telegraph Young Player of the Year Award, which will be presented at a glittering bash at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on January 20.

We are looking for your nominations for the 2013 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, which we are proud to say have Armagh-based health foods company Linwoods as title sponsor and Sport Northern Ireland in the role of our sporting partner.

We celebrate those successful sports people on a world stage and our local heroes making a difference at home at grass roots level.

You can nominate your own particular favourites in each of the 12 categories by visiting www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/ sportsawards2013 by Monday, December 2, 2013.

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