World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has been rewarded for a sensational and dominant display in 2018 by racing away with the Sports Star of the Year trophy at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards for a second successive year.
Northern Ireland favourite Rea won an unprecedented fourth consecutive world title after recording 11 race victories in a row and the 31-year-old was a deserved recipient of the top award at the annual ceremony in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall last night.
The Kawasaki rider from Ballyclare held off stern competition from rugby stars Jacob Stockdale and Rory Best, Ireland’s hockey goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, gold medal-winning gymnast Rhys McClenaghan and Trap shooter Kirsty Hegarty, and Rea says he still has so much left in the tank.
He admitted: “It’s scary to think I’ve done four in a row. The only way is down but I can’t see retirement now. I’m having fun. I’ve just finished my training camp and I’m feeling better than ever.”
It was a wonderful evening of celebration, which saw some of Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting names mingle with those from grassroots level.
While Rea was the star attraction, there was plenty of success across a wide range of sports as a remarkable 18 awards were announced on the night.
Irish rugby stars Stockdale and Best both received accolades, while Northern Ireland football rookie Gavin Whyte and Irish women’s hockey hero McFerran were recognised at the event.
Meanwhile, motorcycling legend William Dunlop was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, taking his place alongside legends of Northern Ireland sport. As brother Michael walked up to collect the award, William received a standing ovation.