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Sports Awards: Stellar cast are in line to land top player prize

By Adam McKendry

Rugby stars Jacob Stockdale and Gareth Steenson will look to hold off the challenges of footballer Jonny Evans and cyclist Mark Downey for the Malcolm Brodie Player of the Year at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Waterfront Hall on January 29.

The accolade, which is sponsored by Celerion, is one of the headline awards and is named in honour of the legendary former Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor.

It is another award that will be split into a platinum category for professionals and a gold category for non-professionals.

For the platinum award, Stockdale has enjoyed an excellent season for Ulster and Ireland, cementing his place in the starting line-up for his province before starring for his country during the November Internationals.

Across the water, Ulsterman Steenson led the Exeter Chiefs to their first ever Aviva Premiership title, captaining his side and scoring 13 points in their win over Wasps in the final.

Northern Ireland centre-back Evans also impressed in 2017 in Michael O'Neill's back four during their World Cup qualifying campaign and the West Brom ace is being lined up by heavyweights Manchester City and Arsenal for a big money move in the current transfer window.

And cyclist Downey had a fantastic year of his own, taking three gold medals in the World Cup and finishing the year as the World No.1.

The gold side is also competitive, with four more outstanding candidates in the running.

In Gaelic games, Slaughtneil captain Chrissy McKaigue was instrumental in the club's capture of the 'double-treble', captaining their hurling side to a second successive Ulster title as the football and camogie teams also claimed back-to-back provincial honours.

He was also a driving force behind the footballers reaching the All-Ireland final last March.

Northern Ireland netball star Lisa Bowman was also a key member of her side as they ran up a string of achievements. She won the Player of the Tournament award at the European Championships.

Banbridge hockey captain Eugene Magee was another inspirational leader, taking their men's 1st XI to an Irish League and Cup double, as well as a last-16 appearance in Europe.

The final nominee is Northern Knights cricket captain James Shannon, who led the Inter-pro Series in runs scored, won Inter-Provincial Player of the Year and was named to the Ireland Wolves squad in October.

Sponsors Celerion, Northern Ireland's only clinical research organisation, have made a significant contribution to the development of healthcare and, although a global company, pride themselves on focusing on the needs of the local community.

Celerion recruitment manager Paula Quinn commented: "We recognise the role sport plays in creating a better, healthier society and feel it is important to recognise the outstanding achievements of our local sporting heroes.

"It is for this reason that Celerion is proud to sponsor the Malcolm Brodie award."

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