Trailblazer Sarah McClure's joy at scooping third award
Sarah McClure last night made history by becoming the first person to lift the Ulster women's hockey player-of-the-the-year accolade for a third time.
The men's award went to Instonians captain William Robinson, who also led his team to the domestic title and was also the league's top scorer with 22.
Both players picked up their prizes at last night's glittering Ulster Hockey Awards ceremony at a Belfast hotel.
McClure inspired Lurgan to a fourth consecutive Premier League title last season and was her team's leading scorer again with a tally of 15.
Last night was her third individual accolade in a row and the 28-year-old midfielder says she expects a strong challenge heading into the new campaign.
McClure said: "We have been putting a lot of effort into the pre-season in the hope that we hit the ground running next Saturday.
"We are expecting the league to be even more challenging in the new campaign as a lot of clubs have strengthened their squads.
While delighted to receive the individual award again, McClure modestly said it was a squad effort while Lurgan coach Robbie McMinn attributed much of the club's enduring success to his captain.
He said: "Sarah is an inspirational figure at the club, especially to the younger girls and is pretty much the complete player."
"Time after time she scores vital goals and, last season, she got the winner in the 1-0 victory over Banbridge that clinched us the title once again."
Lurgan pipped Queen's to the post for the second year in a row but the students didn't go home empty-handed last night.
Irish international Jessica McMaster was the league's top scorer with 27 goals and her team also lifted the Fair Play award for having the best disciplinary record.
Instonians skipper Robinson can boast a similar feat to McClure, having hit two of the goals in the decisive 4-1 win over Kilkeel that sealed the Premier League trophy.
He said: "While it's obviously a really pleasing honour to have been named player-of-the-year, it's a testament to the rest of the players and our coach Stephen Watt.
"He brought in some fresh ideas in his first season, is tactically very astute and a very good man-manager.
"This time around, the hope is that we can make it back into the IHL."
The prestigious Winifred Templeton award for services to women's hockey in the province unusually went to a male as Banbridge Academy girls' coach Neil Madeley took the honour.
This season coming will be Neil's 10th coaching at the Academy and, for the last six of them, he steered the team through to at least the semi-finals of the Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools' Cup.
Bann won the coveted trophy twice in the last three years, beating Ballyclare High 2-1 in the final last March, having gone on to lift the all-Ireland crown after their last domestic triumph in 2017.
Ireland captain Katie Mullan received the women's personality-of-the-year award for her inspirational achievements and leadership as the national team attempt to add Olympic qualification to the World Cup silver medals they collected in London a year ago.
The men's equivalent went to Ballynahinch forward William Edgar.
His goal-scoring exploits helped the Co Down outfit win all four trophies on offer, including the Intermediate League title which secured them promotion to the Premier League and saw them also receive the club-of-the-year accolade last night.
The Carson Clarke Award was presented to Richard Kendrick who has been actively involved in Ulster Hockey for well over 40 years, as a player, Olympic and World Cup umpire and, latterly, as a mentor for aspiring whistlers.
Women's player-of-the-year: Sarah McClure (Lurgan)
Men's player-of-the-year: William Robinson (Instonians)
Women's personality-of-the-year: Katie Mullan (Ballymoney)
Men's personality-of-the-year: William Edgar (Ballynahinch)
Women's leading goalscorer: Jessica McMaster (Queen's)
Men's leading goalscorer: William Robinson (Instonians)
Club-of-the-year: Ballynahinch men
Fair Play award: Queen's women
Winifred Templeton Award for services to women's hockey: Neil Madeley (Banbridge Academy)
Carson Clarke Merit Award: Richard Kendrick