Belfast Telegraph

Our greatest sports star... who are you going to choose?

To celebrate the 20th Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, sponsored by Linwoods, and taking place on January 26, 2015, we want YOU to decide Northern Ireland’s greatest sports star ever. In alphabetical order, and continuing daily, Steven Beacom assesses the 20 legends shortlisted by a judging panel. Voting details below.

Barry McGuigan is today the canny manager of World Champion Carl Frampton. Back in the 1980s he was one of the most celebrated sporting stars around.

A household name, Barry could not go anywhere in Northern Ireland without being stopped to talk about his boxing career which enraptured and fascinated the public all at the same time.

As an amateur McGuigan won a host of titles and at only 17 years of age took home the gold medal for Northern Ireland from the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

The next step was to become a successful professional and boy did McGuigan take it as he won British, European and World titles.

His battles in Belfast became legendary with thousands turning up to create an incredible atmosphere every time he entered the ring.

In those dark, desperate days Northern Ireland was gripped by 'the Troubles' impacting daily on everyone's lives.

Barry was one of the few uniting forces around. There was a saying when this charismatic figure got down to work 'leave the fighting to McGuigan' and he was exceptionally good at it.

His skills, drive and determination earned him a World title shot in June 1985.

At a packed Loftus Road in London, when it appeared as though half of Northern Ireland had made the trip, McGuigan, now 53, became the World Featherweight Champion after defeating long-reigning title holder Eusebio Pedroza on points following 15 rounds.

It is considered one of the best nights in Ulster sporting history, and even now, almost 30 years on, memories of that epic evening remain fresh.

Barry, who retained his title twice, had his last fight in 1989 and is now guiding Ulster's latest boxing hero.

Rory McIlroy

The current world number one and a four-time Major championship winner, Rory McIlroy at just 25 is the youngest on our Greatest Sports Star Ever shortlist.

That in itself shows how much this remarkable golfer has achieved in a short space of time.

Ever since appearing on the Gerry Kelly chat show as an enthusiastic little kid, it’s as if he was destined to become a Northern Ireland great.

Rory’s record is extraordinary and you just know there is so much more to come.

A sensation in his amateur days, when he became a professional in 2007 it seemed just a matter of time before he would win a Major title.

The first came at the 2011 US Open, aged 22, setting a record score of 16-under-par on his way to an amazing eight-stroke victory.

What was even more impressive about that success was that he did it just a few months after what became known as his ‘Masters meltdown’ when on the verge of claiming the green jacket at Augusta, he dropped several shots late in his final round.

His US Open triumph outlined that here was a kid with character as well as a classic golf swing.

Major number two arrived at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in 2012. He won that one by eight shots as well. Fast-forward to 2014 and McIlroy had the most outstanding summer, becoming the first European to win three different Majors thanks to his brilliant victory at The Open in July. Just three weeks later on an unbeatable run, Rory secured his second PGA Championship and his fourth Major title!

All this and he’s won numerous other tournaments and the last three Ryder Cups with Europe. The Holywood hero really could go on to become the most successful golfer of them all.

Belfast Telegraph


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