Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Ireland centurion Rory Best and golden girl Bethany Firth stand tall after history-making heroics

By Steven Beacom

Rory Best and Bethany Firth created sporting history in 2016 and were honoured for those achievements at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

Ulster rugby star Best was named the Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year while swimming sensation Firth took home the Sports Person with a Disability prize.

Firth was in fantastic form at the Rio Paralympics last year. The 20-year-old won THREE gold medals and a silver on her way to becoming Team GB's most successful competitor at the Games.

Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop are legends for their Paralympic heroics, but in Brazil Bethany was the first person from Northern Ireland to be on the top step of the podium three times in one Games. It's an incredible accomplishment that may never be beaten... unless the golden girl beats it herself in years to come.

For Player of the Year Best, 2016 was also unforgettable.

In November he captained the Ireland team to their first ever victory over mighty New Zealand. In an extraordinary match in Chicago, Rory led the way as the Irish defeated the World champions 40-29. After 111 years of trying, Ireland finally won against the All Blacks.

And that wasn't all because earlier in the year skipper Best was an inspirational figure as Ireland won for the first time in South Africa.

The international year ended on a high for the Ulster hero when he won his 100th cap, helping Ireland to another famous victory - this time 27-24 in a compelling contest versus Australia at the Aviva Stadium.

With Best on Six Nations duty and preparing for Saturday's trip to Italy, his wife Jodie was on hand to collect his trophy.

Other winners at the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards included golfer Oliver Mehaffey, who was Young Player of the Year, and Methodist College First XI Girls Hockey Team, who were crowned Young Team of the Year.

Slaughtneil GAA club, who had an amazing 2016, were honoured with a Local Heroes award while athletics official David Seaton took the Paddy Patterson prize for services to sport.