Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: George Best Breakthrough Award winner - Michael McGovern

STEVEN Davis, Jonny Evans, Niall McGinn, Craig Cathcart and Conor McLaughlin are all current Northern Ireland internationals.

Another honour they have in common is that since 2005 they have all won the George Best Breakthrough prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Now add goalkeeper Michael McGovern to that list.

At 32 the Fermanagh man is the oldest footballer to get his hands on the trophy, but he is as deserving as the others because 2016 proved to be McGovern's big breakthrough year on the world stage. He was exceptional at the Euro finals in France.

No matter what he does in the rest of his international career, McGovern will always be remembered and respected by Northern Ireland supporters for the amazing display he put in against World Champions Germany in the final group game in Paris.

The Germans were in dominant form, but McGovern dazzled them with a series of world class saves that left his opponents shaking their heads in disbelief.

The native of Enniskillen was only beaten once, and that was a deflected effort, as Northern Ireland lost 1-0 - a scoreline that did little harm to their goal difference and ensured they made it to the knockout stages.

While McGovern's near perfect performance in the French capital was the best goalkeeping effort in the tournament, he was also outstanding in the other group games versus Poland and Ukraine plus the last 16 contest with Wales.

Coming out of contract at Hamilton, McGovern's brilliance in the Euros led to a host of clubs chasing him. He eventually opted to sign for Norwich City.

There was little doubt entering the World Cup qualifying campaign that McGovern was Northern Ireland's number one. He could be in that position for some time because in the World Cup group games late last year he continued where he left off at the European Championships.

For Michael McGovern, 2016 was definitely a breakthrough year on the big stage.

The Norwich goalkeeper was unable to attend the ceremony but it was fitting that the legendary Pat Jennings was on hand to present Michael's proud dad Terry with his award at the Waterfront.