Belfast Telegraph

Fierce battle for our Team of the Year title

In it together: Caroline McComb with Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill
In it together: Caroline McComb with Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill

By Steven Beacom

The Team of the Year prize will be as eagerly contested as ever at the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards.

The most prestigious awards ceremony in Northern Ireland has been running for over two decades and this category tends to be one of the more testing for the judges when it comes to making a shortlist and choosing the winner.

At the 2015 ceremony the Northern Ireland football team walked away with the trophy.

On February 6 we will find out who follows in their footsteps at the 2016 Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards which will be presented by Claire McCollum and Craig Doyle in front of a star-studded line-up at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

The Team of the Year prize will be sponsored by McComb's Coach Travel.

There is little doubt that Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland side will be in contention again.

They were the talk of the country last summer when they reached the knockout stages of Euro 2016 in France, with the highlight being a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Lyon when Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn found the net.

Both goalscorers started out in the Irish League and will know how hard it is to win the league title here, let alone retain it. That's what Crusaders did in 2016 in another fantastic season.

The Tyrone GAA squad were also winners last year, claiming their first Ulster Championship since 2010.

Mickey Harte's men showed their class and character by coming from behind to defeat Donegal 0-13 to 0-11 in the final.

While Ulster Rugby did not win any trophies in 2016, further down the rugby scale Bangor triumphed in the Junior League, Junior Cup and Towns Cup before winning promotion back to senior rugby.

In cricket, dynamic Donemana were double winners in the North West while in men's hockey Lisnagarvey defeated Banbridge in the final to clinch the first Champions Trophy title after winning the EY Hockey League.

In women's hockey, the Ulster Elks won the Irish Senior Cup final against Ards.

And that's just for starters. There were plenty more nominations for the Team of the Year award which will be sponsored by McComb's Coach Travel.

Director Carol McComb said: "McComb's Coach Travel are delighted to sponsor the Belfast Telegraph Team of the Year Award.

"During our 20 years we have transported many high profile teams, such as the national football teams of Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy, as well as teams for sports such as rugby, including Clermont Auvergne and Glasgow Warriors, basketball, hockey, netball and more.

"Reliable, comfortable group travel is vital for sporting teams, as pre-match focus should always be on the game ahead, so at McComb's we guarantee luxury, hassle free transport.

"We have seen how being part of a team, from grassroots level up, can change lives and we are honoured to be able to sponsor this award."