McIlroy creates a little piece of sporting history
It was a wonderful night filled with pride and joy - a night when we could reflect on the marvellous Northern Ireland sporting achievements in 2009.
At local, national and international level, record breaking and world class performances were hailed.
And none so more than the exceptional efforts of Rory McIlroy, who was crowned 2009 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year at the Magners sponsored event.
Typical of the brilliant young golfer from Holywood, he created history in claiming the top prize at the most prestigious sports awards ceremony in the country.
Rory became the first person to win the Sports Star honour after lifting the Young Player of the Year and George Best Breakthrough awards in the past.
What a hat-trick and what a way to complete a remarkable 12 months for the gifted 20-year-old.
In 2009 Rory made it into the world’s top 10. He won a European Tour event for the first time and was only pipped by Lee Westwood in the race to top the European Order of Merit, while in the majors he also impressed, his best finish third, in the US PGA event.
The great thing for Ulster sport is that Rory promises to get better and better. Goodness knows what we can expect from him this year.
Unfortunately McIlroy could not be at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast last night to collect his award because at present he is in Abu Dhabi, preparing for his first tournament of the year.
Rory’s proud parents Gerry and Rosie represented our young sporting superstar on the night.
If McIlroy’s future is bright, the same can be said of Ulster and Ireland rugby hero Stephen Ferris.
The big man was a deserving winner of the Player of the Year prize for his heroics not just at Ravenhill, but on the international scene where he played a key part in Ireland’s memorable Grand Slam.
Outstanding displays in the Six Nations led to Stephen being selected for the British and Irish Lions. He made a bright start on the tour to South Africa before injury curtailed his trip, but I suggest this magnificent performer will be back in the famous red shirt in years to come.
Over the past year Stephen would have appreciated the efforts of Ballynahinch rugby club who won the Team of the Year prize. In an exceptional season they clinched the Division 2 Championship, the All-Ireland Senior Cup as well as the Ulster Senior League and Cup to win a Grand Slam of domestic titles.
Just as pleased to win the Young Team of the Year award were Armagh Minors. The youngsters from the Orchard county were superb in 2009 as they clinched the All-Ireland minor title in scintillating style.
Another GAA winner was Liam Bradley, the charismatic figure who has transformed the fortunes of Antrim.
Liam was rewarded for taking the Saffrons to the Ulster final for the first time since 1970 with the Manager of the Year prize.
Ciara Mageean wasn’t even born in 1990, let alone 1970. The 17-year-old Portaferry athlete took home the Young Player of the Year award for winning a silver medal in the 800 meters at the World Youth Championships which added to a record-breaking gold in the 1500m event at the European Youth Olympics in Finland.
The Sportsperson with a Disability prize went to badminton player Niall McVeigh, who secured a clean sweep of National singles titles in 2009 as well as victory in this summer's World Dwarf Games in Northern Ireland.
In a great night for badminton, the Paddy Patterson Award for service to sport was presented to Bob Colhoun, who has given 50 years of outstanding voluntary dedication.
Another man to have given sterling service is Kyle McCallan. Recently retired from international cricket after winning a record 226 caps for Ireland, Kyle was a popular choice as he collected a Special award.
And the applause kept on coming as Maeve Kyle OBE, such a wonderful stalwart of Northern Ireland sport, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Maeve joined icons such as the late great George Best into the Hall of Fame. The prize named after Bestie, the Breakthrough Award, was taken home by Celtic and Northern Ireland winger Niall McGinn, who has had such an amazing year, establishing himself on the international front with some superb showings.
And of course we can’t forget the award for Mohammad Ali — yes, that really is his real name.
Mohammed is one of the UK's top-ranked wrestlers. The Iranian national, now living in Londonderry, is a two-times British champion. He was delighted to win the Local Heroes award sponsored by Sport NI at the Magners event, compered by the excellent Jackie Fullerton and Jill Douglas on a fantastic celebration of Northern Ireland sport.