Belfast Telegraph

Youngsters Conor Ferguson and Olivia Mehaffey show the way at Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards

By Steven Beacom

Conor Ferguson has been making waves over the past 12 months and last night raced to more glory by clinching the Young Player of the Year prize at the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

It wasn't the only victory the 16-year-old was involved in because Northern Ireland's successful Commonwealth Youth Games team - he was an influential member in the squad in Samoa - walked away with the Young Team of the Year award.

Ferguson was in supreme form in 2015 - one of many highlights was winning the 100m backstroke gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games.

He is now rated as the third fastest backstroker in the world at his age group, which given the intense competition in the sport, is incredible.

He was not the only young winner at the gala ceremony to show that Northern Ireland's sporting kids are alright.

Banbridge golfer Olivia Mehaffey won a Special Recognition prize for her superb efforts in 2015 when she won a third successive Irish Girls' Strokeplay Championship, the Scottish Amateur Open and Welsh Amateur Open.

Dad Philip colleted the trophy with Olivia competing in Portugal. The talented 18-year-old has big plans to turn professional in the future.

Another Special Recognition award went to popular, record breaking Crossmaglen Rangers goalkeeper, Paul Hearty. At 37, the former Armagh custodian has been the safety net of Crossmaglen Rangers' 10 Ulster club titles, six All-Ireland club titles and an unmatched 19 county titles in the Armagh Championship.

The Local Heroes award was presented by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte to handball sensation Aisling Reilly.

The 26-year-old from Antrim successfully defended her Senior Singles title, then achieved a double at the World Championships in Calgary and also won the US Open title.

Top Paralympian Michael McKillop, an inspirational figure and serial winner at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, claimed the Sports Person with a Disability category.

The middle-distance athlete struck 'Gold' twice at the IPC World Championships in Doha with victory in the 800 and 1500m races.

And on an emotional evening, Danny O'Connor was named recipient of the WJ 'Paddy' Patterson Award, presented annually by the Northern Ireland Sports Forum. This category recognises individuals who have brought honour to the province and served Ulster sport with great distinction over a period of years. Danny, a former Head of PE at schools and colleges made a huge contribution to the Belfast City Marathon, the Belfast Hills Partnership, Belfast Play Forum and the Irish Basketball Association.

Belfast Telegraph

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