Belfast Telegraph

Rising star will become latest to win our Breakthrough prize

In the swim: Jack McMillan and Amelia Kane at the
new Lisnasharragh swimming pool
In the swim: Jack McMillan and Amelia Kane at the new Lisnasharragh swimming pool
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

With less than two weeks now until the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, our countdown to the ceremony at Belfast’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on January 20 continues.

Today, we look at the George Best Breakthrough Award, which is sponsored by Better Gyms (GLL), which will recognise a sporting individual who has made a spectacular rise during the past 12 months and has achieved national recognition.

Named after the legendary Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer, the award does not feature a nominee list. However, the list of past winners reflects the calibre that this year’s winner will have to have reached to earn the accolade.

Last year, the award was won by Northern Ireland football ace Gavin Whyte, who broke onto the international scene with a bang after his move from Crusaders to Oxford United, and then backed it up by earning a transfer to Championship side Cardiff City, for whom he has excelled over the past 12 months.

Other footballing winners from past years include Steven Davis, Jonny Evans, Niall McGinn, Craig Cathcart, Conor McLaughlin and Michael McGovern, while Ulster Rugby stars Jacob Stockdale and Iain Henderson have also taken possession of the annual prize.

That, plus the prestige of having the award named after Best, who went from being an unknown factor to becoming one of the greatest players to ever play the game, winning the Ballon d’Or, means this is an award that will be one of the ones to keep an eye on at the ceremony on January 20.

Award sponsors Better Gyms are in their third year of sponsoring the event and are in the process of opening two new leisure centres as part of a £105m investment in Belfast’s leisure facilities.

Brook Leisure Centre in Twinbrook and Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre, which is on the site of the former Robinson Centre in east Belfast, will open with a host of brand new sporting products, including the biggest swimming pool in Belfast at Lisnasharragh, the largest sensory pool in Northern Ireland at Brook and a host of indoor and outdoor sporting facilities.

Social enterprise GLL will run the new centres in partnership with Belfast City Council. This is the second phase of the Council’s 10-year plan to transform leisure services and get more people in the city more active, more often.

Lisnasharragh opened on December 2 and will become a leading Aquatic Centre for Belfast, featuring the city’s biggest swimming pool with eight lanes, state of the art timing devices for gala swimming, as well as a diving pool and Tom Daley Diving Academy.

Brook opened on December 4 and will focus on outdoor games with a new 3G pitch for Gaelic and soccer, three covered and three uncovered 3G five-a-side pitches, and a hurling wall.

Brook will also introduce swimming facilities to the Colin area, including a sensory-enabled pool that will be the largest of its kind in a public leisure facility in the UK.