Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Kearney and Baxter among shortlisted candidates for Manager of Year prizes

Oran Kearney and Stephen Baxter
Oran Kearney and Stephen Baxter
Leading man: Michael O'Neill lifts our 2017 platinum Manager of the Year award
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Another big year of sport in Northern Ireland has come to a close, with plenty of achievements to reflect on.

All of those will be celebrated in our Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, which will be handed out on Monday, January 14 at our glittering ceremony at the Waterfront Hall.

One of the most keenly contested prizes will be the Manager of the Year, sponsored by Linwoods, which is one of our dual awards that will reward both a professional coach (platinum) and an amateur coach (gold).

Behind every successful team or individual joy was a coach who led them to that glory, and this award recognises the efforts of those behind the scenes.

To buy tickets for the ceremony, visit

On the platinum side of the award, a current and former Irish League manager are both in the mix against an ice hockey coach and an athletics trainer.

Stephen Baxter of Crusaders is in the running after his side won their third league crown in four years with a thrilling last day victory over Ballymena United, while he also pioneered their move to a full-time set-up.

The team they beat out to the title, Coleraine, have their former coach up for nomination in Oran Kearney, who led them to Irish Cup glory a week later and then earned a big move to Scottish side St Mirren later in the year.

Also in the running is Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe, who took over after six years as a player and ended the team’s four-year trophy drought by winning the Challenge Cup in March.

And the final nominee is Rhys McClenaghan’s coach Luke Carson of the Rathgael gym, who successfully led the youngster to Commonwealth gold on the Gold Coast in the summer.

Meanwhile, the gold award will also be a very closely run contest between four of the country’s top amateur coaches.

Tyrone senior football coach Mickey Harte is the most recognisable as he took the Red Hands to the All-Ireland final.

Another athletics coach, Niall Wilkinson, is up for the gong after he coached Sommer Lecky to silver in the high jump at the World Under-20 Championships after also competing at the Commonwealth Games.

Also in the running is Irish Show Jumping team manager Gary Marshall, who led them to Under-16 European glory, while Taekwondo coach Peter Stewart is also in with a chance.

Sponsors Linwoods are one of Northern Ireland’s leading health food brands and are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles.

A family-owned and managed business based in County Armagh, Linwoods has a strong history in promoting health and well-being, as well as in supporting sportspeople and sporting organisations across Northern Ireland.

Patrick Woods, Director of Linwoods Health Foods, commented: “We see this as a healthy and dynamic partnership and a high profile platform from which Linwoods Health Foods can both celebrate the creme de la creme of sport in Northern Ireland and reinforce our company’s long-standing association with healthier lifestyles and fitness.

“We take pride in acknowledging and celebrating Northern Ireland’s sporting achievements.”

To buy tickets for the ceremony, visit