Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Football and GAA head race for team prize

By Steven Beacom

To win the Team of the Year prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards is a fantastic achievement.

Not only are our individual sporting heroes raising the bar with their performances, teams from Northern Ireland are also doing the country proud both at home and abroad.

Consider the Tyrone GAA team for example.

In recent years Mickey Harte's men have been written off in various quarters but, like the champion outfit they are, they tend to provide answers for the ever growing number of questions that crop up in the modern world.

Entering 2016 Tyrone had not won an Ulster Championship since 2010. Harte and his players did not want that run to become a seven year itch, claiming the Anglo-Celt Cup with a thrilling victory over Donegal in the final. The Red Hand County trailed by four points at one stage before mounting a memorable comeback to win 0-13 to 0-11.

Tyrone have not been the only impressive GAA side this year. There has been much to celebrate for Slaughtneil with their hurling and camogie sides winning Ulster titles.

At the weekend the Derry club could complete what would be a stunning hat-trick if they beat Kilcoo in Ulster Club Championship football decider. And what if Kilcoo from Down were to emerge victorious? They would be worth considering for the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards team of the year.

The winners of the trophy in 2015 are also expected to be in the running this time around. The Northern Ireland football team took home last year's prize and deserve to be in the mix 12 months on.

Michael O'Neill's side worked wonders at the Euro 2016 finals in France by qualifying for the knockout stages. The highlight was a famous 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Lyon. Northern Ireland followed that up with some fine showings in the World Cup qualifiers with 4-0 victories over San Marino and Azerbaijan taking them into second spot and in prime position to reach the play-offs for the 2018 finals in Russia.

Another football team in the mix for the Belfast Telegraph team prize will be Irish League champions Crusaders. It is tough enough lifting one title but to go out and retain it as Stephen Baxter's men did in 2016 is the sign of an extra special outfit.

In rugby maybe you feel the Ulster side are worthy of nomination for their efforts in 2016. There was no silverware at the Kingspan stadium, but there were some fantastic evenings and exciting wins, not least in the European Champions Cup against Exeter.

On the club scene Bangor did brilliantly. They won the Junior League, Junior Cup and Towns Cup before winning promotion back to senior rugby just a couple of years on from being in the second tier of the junior ranks.

In cricket, dynamic Donemana were double winners in the North West.

In men's hockey Lisnagarvey showed their class by beating Banbridge in the final to clinch the first Champions Trophy title after winning the EY Hockey League, while in women's hockey the Ulster Elks won the Irish Senior Cup final against Ards.

On the ice, the Belfast Giants marked up their 1000th game in 2016. Not bad for a team that some felt wouldn't last.

To nominate email or write to Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, c/o Jcomms, Sylvan House, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast, BT4 2AW. Please include your reasons why you believe they should win the award. Nominations close on December 9.

Pick your sporting moment of 2016

As well as looking for your nominations in the various categories of the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, you can also vote for Northern Ireland’s greatest sporting moments of the year.

 Please see the 10 options below... you can vote for your favourite at in the Sports Awards section.

• Gareth McAuley’s Euro 2016 NI goal v Ukraine

•Carl Frampton beating Leo Santa Cruz

•Jonathan Rea retaining his World Superbike title

•Bethany Firth’s golden world record

•Jason Smyth’s gold at Paralympics

•Michael McKillop’s gold at Paralympics

•Rory Best leading Ireland to victory over New Zealand

•Rory McIlroy winning FedEx Cup

•Tyrone lifting the Ulster Championship

•Alastair Seeley breaking Robert Dunlop’s NW200 record