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Vote: The Belfast Telegraph's best sporting moments of 2015 - now it's your call

By Graham Luney

Published 31/12/2015

Steven Davis
Steven Davis
Carl Frampton (right) against Chris Avalos
Tony McCoy
Chris Henry scores Ulster's fifth try against Toulouse
Jonathan Rea
Jason Smyth
Paul Hearty lifts the cup
Rory McIlroy at Royal County Down
Michael Conlan (right) against Murodjon Akhmadaliev
Andy Murray flanked by Kevin Sinfield and Jessica Ennis-Hill

To coincide with the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, we’re celebrating Northern Ireland’s greatest sporting moments of 2015. And we need YOUR help to select the number one moment this year. We have chosen 10 of NI’s best sporting moments from 2015. Graham Luney has written about them below. Now it is over to YOU. Get voting for your favourite below.

Northern Ireland reach Euro finals

One of Northern Ireland's great sporting fairytales - against all the odds, manager Michael O'Neill guided the national side to the finals of the European Championships for the first time.

A 3-1 win over Greece at Windsor Park in October booked the trip to France for next summer's finals and it will be Northern Ireland's first major tournament adventure since Mexico 1986.

After 14 unsuccessful qualifying campaigns, the Green and White Army dared to dream and the players performed heroics to top Group F, finishing on 20 points after nine matches.

Striker Kyle Lafferty was one of the side's heroes, smashing in seven goals while captain Steven Davis led from the front.

O'Neill was named Coach of the Year at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Belfast and also lifted the RTE Manager of the Year award.

Carl Frampton beats Chris Avalos

Carl Frampton has Scott Quigg in his sights on February 27 in a mouthwatering showdown and he will settle for another performance like the one he delivered in the same month this year.

Both men landed some big shots but Frampton rocked Avalos with a right hand at the start of the fifth and the referee called it off shortly after with the challenger unable to defend himself.

In July the man from Tigers Bay maintained his unbeaten record after recovering from being knocked down twice in the opening round to win a unanimous points decision over Alejandro Gonzalez Jr in El Paso.

The 28-year-old fell to his knees twice but gained control against the Mexican.

AP closes curtain on glorious career

Tony McCoy was given a deserved standing ovation when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Sports Personality of the Year Awards in Belfast.

AP retired in April after an extraordinary racing career which featured more than 4,300 winners - a feat no other has achieved.

The Moneyglass hero claimed the champion jump jockey title an incredible 22 times.

McCoy was the first jockey to be crowned Sports Personality of the Year, after finally winning the Grand National at the 15th attempt on Don't Push It in 2010.

As well as his Grand National success, McCoy won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, three Champion Hurdles and the Champion Chase.

After receiving his BBC award earlier this month, it has been confirmed that McCoy will receive a knighthood in the New Year's Honours.

Ruthless Ulster carve open Toulouse

For Ulster Rugby fans this will be difficult to top. Their heroes scored a remarkable five-try 38-0 victory over Toulouse in the European Champions Cup at Kingspan earlier this month.

Nick Williams crossed in the 23rd minute and Andrew Trimble then scored a brilliant individual try to increase Ulster's lead to 17-0 at the break.

Man of the match Ruan Pienaar set up a Luke Marshall score after half-time with a brilliant cross field kick.

Stuart McCloskey and Chris Henry also crossed as Toulouse failed to score in a European game for the first time.

Ulster went into the game knowing that a second home defeat in Pool 1 could have effectively ended their hopes of making the knockout stages but this win reignited the aspirations of coach Les Kiss (above) and his troops.

Ulster then made it back-to-back wins over the French side, claiming a 25-23 victory on the road.

Super Rea is a world champion

King of the road Jonathan Rea lived his dream when he was crowned World Superbike champion in September.

The magical moment for the 28-year-old arrived when he finished fourth in a race at Jerez in Spain.

Rea is the fifth British rider to win the World Superbike Championship and he also became Northern Ireland's first motorcycling World champion since Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid in 1986.

The County Antrim rider comes from a famous motorcycling family, with his dad Johnny having won an Isle of Man TT race in a successful road racing career, while his grandfather John was one of Dunlop's early sponsors.

"I have been waiting for this moment for such a long time," he said.

The other British riders to have won World Superbike titles are Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and Tom Sykes.

Smyth and McKillop are out in front

Paralympic stars Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop continued to make great strides in 2015.

Irish sprinter Smyth cemented his status as the world's fastest para-athlete after winning a 100m race in Rio.

In a race involving sprinters from all disability classes, Smyth triumphed in 10.73 seconds ahead of USA's Richard Browne and Brazil's Petrucio Ferreira.

The Eglinton ace will be going for gold in Rio next year, along with McKillop who clinched his sixth IPC Athletics World Championship gold medal after defending his T37 1500m title in Doha.

The T38 800m champion stayed on the shoulder of Australia's Brad Scott before making a move with 600m to go.

"That race was controlled and timed to perfection," the three-time Paralympic champion said. "Going into 2016, it is going to be an exciting time."

Cross still the kings of Ulster

Crossmaglen Rangers became Ulster club champions for an 11th time after an extra-time 2-17 to 2-12 victory over Scotstown in November.

The final was in the balance until a poor kick-out by Scotstown keeper Rory Beggan gifted a goal to Kyle Carragher in the second additional period.

Substitute Brian McGinnity got a late goal for the Monaghan men to pull it back to 2-15 to 2-12.

But Cross, whose first goal was scored by Tony Kernan, added two points to seal their place on the Ulster throne.

The win fired Crossmaglen into the semi-finals of the All-Ireland club competition in which they will play Castlebar.

Crossmaglen's captain and goalkeeper Paul Hearty lifted the glittering prize.

Crossmaglen joint-manager Oisin McConville said: "It was an unbelievable battle but we got there in the end and that is the important thing."

Irish Open at Royal County Down

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down at the end of May delivered a fantastic golfing spectacle and raised significant funds for children's charities.

Soren Kjeldsen ended his six-year wait for a European Tour title after he won a three-way play-off.

The Dane birdied the first play-off hole to deny Bernd Wiesberger and Eddie Pepperell, the latter earning the considerable consolation of a place at St Andrews for The Open Championship in July.

A sell-out crowd of 20,000 attended the event for the fourth consecutive day, despite several of the world's leading stars failing to shine, including Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who both missed the cut.

Royal County Down is a venue particularly close to McIlroy's heart and one which witnessed his final appearance as an amateur, in the 2007 Walker Cup.

Conlan delivers in Doha

Michael Conlan proved again in 2015 that he can pack a big punch.

The Belfast man became the first ever Irish World Amateur Championship boxing champion after winning bantamweight gold in Doha, Qatar, in October.

Conlan overcame Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan by a unanimous points decision in the final showdown.

The 24-year-old also won the European title and qualified for the Rio Olympics twice, through the World Series of Boxing.

And to top off a sensational year, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist also became a father for the first time.

Conlan was named BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year 2015 and RTE Sport Person of the Year.

Conlan joins Katie Taylor as the only Irish fighters to win AIBA World titles, with Taylor due to go for her sixth in Kazakhstan early next year.

Murray glory at Belfast

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards were held in Belfast this month with a 7,500 capacity audience at the SSE Arena attending the annual awards show.

It was the first time Northern Ireland has hosted the event, which first went on the road in 2006, but its remarkable success is likely to be repeated with the show set to return to Belfast in the future.

Davis Cup hero Andy Murray walked away with the big prize, having gained 35% of the public vote but Northern Ireland sporting success was celebrated with Michael O'Neill lifting the Coach of the Year gong and jockey Tony McCoy picking up a Lifetime Achievement award. Rugby League's Kevin Sinfield was runner-up, with heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill third.

Scot Murray, 28, won 361,446 of the 1,009,498 votes cast (35%), with Sinfield getting 278,353 (28%) and Ennis-Hill 78,898 (8%).


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