In a year of such high achievement, the winner of the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Coach of the Year award will be a truly exceptional individual.
Last year’s winner Brendan Rodgers has gone on to take charge of Liverpool FC, one of the world’s great footballing institutions.
Rodgers was blazing a trail with Swansea City in the Premier League when he won the Belfast Telegraph award, and only last week we were given a sharp reminder of the quality of coaches and managers from these shores.
YOU CAN NOMINATE IN AS MANY CATEGORIES AS YOU LIKE
This award recognises outstanding achievement and is an additional award agreed by the judges.
Neil Lennon has strengthened his case thanks to Celtic’s breathtaking 2-1 Champions League victory over Barcelona.
That tremendous result, which puts Celtic in a strong position to progress to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite tournament, came on top of last season’s title triumph.
David Jeffrey just keeps on winning trophies with Linfield, the Blues clocking up a third successive IFA Premiership and Irish Cup double, beating Crusaders in the final at Windsor Park.
Stephen Baxter has turned Crusaders into serial trophy challengers despite a limited budget. The Crues became All-Ireland champions with a penalty shootout victory — following a 2-2 extra time draw — over Derry City in the final at The Oval.
Baxter’s battling side also added an IRN-BRU League Cup triumph.
Declan Devine guided Derry City to an FAI Cup success thanks to a 3-2 extra-time victory over St Pat’s Athletic at the Aviva Stadium.
Whitey Anderson masterminded little Ballinamallard United’s march into the Irish League’s top flight, becoming the first Fermanagh club to play at the highest level after lifting the Belfast Telegraph Championship One title.
And the Mallards have taken to their new surroundings like ducks to water, leading the Premier League title race at one stage.
Brian McLaughlin guided Ulster to the Heineken Cup Final in 2012, while Mark Anscombe has taken over this season and sparked off a superb winning streak that sees the Ravenhill side sit proudly on top of the Pro12 League with seven wins from seven games as well as having secured two wins from two in the Heineken Cup.
Jim McGuinness led Donegal to the Ulster and All-Ireland football titles, and has now also taken up a part-time backroom post with Celtic.
McGuinness now faces the huge challenge of excelling in two different sports at the same time. Management duo Tony McEntee and Gareth O’Neill took the prolific Crossmaglen Rangers to a second successive — and sixth in total — All-Ireland club football crown.
PJ O’Mullan and Jim Nelson guided Loughgiel Shamrocks to the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, adding the 2012 accolade to the national title won back in 1983.
Doug Christiansen helped end the heartache for the Belfast Giants. After agonisingly missing out on the Elite League title by a single point in each of the last two seasons, this was the year that the Giants finally lifted the biggest prize again. Christiansen’s team also reached the Challenge Cup final and produced a battling display in the Continental Cup — the ice hockey equivalent of the Champions League.
In women’s hockey, Michelle Rainey guided Pegasus to an excellent Ulster League and Shield double.
In men’s hockey, Kyle Lunn has done a fantastic job at Lisnagarvey — his first year in charge and his first time coaching at this level — the club qualifying for the Eurohockey League by winning the All-Ireland League, and last month becoming the first Ulster club to progress to the second phase of the high-class continental tournament.
The Kirk Cup was secured as well plus the runners-up position in the Ulster Premier League.
In cricket, Ireland coach Phil Simmons — who has steered his side to some massive scalps over the years, including a triumph against England — secured victory in the World Twenty/20 qualifiers.
We are fortunate to have such a fine array of coaching talent, with many others worthy contenders for the Belfast Telegraph award.
We’re sure you, the readers, will have your own ideas — and as always we would love to hear them.
Sports Star of the Year: Darren Clarke
Hall of Fame: Mike Gibson
Player of the Year: Rory Best
Young Player of the Year: Sycerika McMahon
Team of the Year: Linfield FC
Young Team of the Year: Lurgan College girls' hockey team
Manager/Coach of the Year: Brendan Rodgers
Sports Person with a Disability: Sally Brown
WJ ‘Paddy’ Patterson Award: Danny Murphy
George Best Breakthrough Award: Peter Chambers
Special Recognition Award: Michael Dunlop
Local Heroes Award: Ian Sloan
The purpose of the awards sponsored by Linwoods and supported by Sport Northern Ireland, is to identify sporting achievement and recognise those individuals, teams and organisations whose contribution to Ulster Sport is outstanding. Nominations for the awards may be made by organisations, governing bodies of sport, district councils, local sport councils and individuals.
Nominations close on Saturday 1st December at 5pm and can either be posted by clicking on one of the links above or by hard copy which should be no more than 200 words. Hard copy nominations should be posted to Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, C/O JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast BT4 2AW or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone who nominates has the opportunity to claim 5 x 20p off vouchers of Linwoods' Super Healthy Milk drink, a new low fat and fresh milk product enriched with probiotic and vitamins, plus some free Linwoods Healthy Super Food Seed samples.