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Your top 10 sporting moments of 2018: Who came out on top as Stockdale, Rea and Giants all feature?

By Gareth Hanna

The New Year is almost upon us and it's time to reflect on another packed 12 months of Northern Ireland sporting action.

We did just that when we put together a list of 20 contenders for Northern Irish sporting moment of the year. But who better to decide the winner than you lot, the readers? So we set up a poll and reeled in 2,571 votes as you had your say.

Before we break down your top 10, it's important to mention some of those who didn't make it.

Notably, there was swimmer Bethany Firth's four European gold medals, Coleraine and Crusaders' Irish League football successes, Paul Smyth and Gavin Whyte's debut goals for Northern Ireland and Mark Allen's Dafabet Masters victory which, coming in at number 11, just missed your top 10 countdown.

So without further ado, here are the 10 moments you rated as the best:

10. Gymnastics: Rhys McClenaghan wins gold on the pommel horse at both the Commonwealth Games and the European Championship (2%)

It was a remarkable year for the Newtownards gymnast, who was named RTE's Young Sportsperson of the Year for his efforts. He's hoping his success and the attention it has attracted will be good news for his sport. "I think it's time that a lot of other gymnasts start believing and I'm excited for that," he said. "I just can't wait for the next stage in my career."

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Rhys McClenaghan says his European Championship gold is the biggest achievement of his career so far.

9. Boxing: Carl Frampton beats Luke Jackson to win interim WBO World Featherweight title at Windsor Park (2%)

It was the fight location he had always dreamed of as Carl Frampton finally got to take the ring at Windsor Park. He didn't disappoint, stopping Australian opponent Luke Jackson in the ninth round. Fleet of foot and with big-hitting hands, the Jackal proved his world class credentials against a man who had never been beaten until he arrived in Belfast. A big right hand eventually caused the opponent's team to throw in the towel. Carl had hit Jackson with a left hand body shot in the eighth, knocking him down and one further big smash proved the decisive blow. The win set up his world title fight against Josh Warrington, who would go on to beat Frampton on points at the Manchester Arena on December 22.

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Carl Frampton makes his way towards the ring for his contest with Luke Jackson at Windsor Park.

8. GAA: Tyrone beat Monaghan to reach the All Ireland final (3%)

There was another thrilling run in the All Ireland Senior Football Championship for Mickey Harte's Tyrone. Bidding to win their fourth title, the Red Hands reached another final to be ultimately beaten by Dublin, who claimed their fourth title in a row. On August 12, Tyrone edged Monaghan 1-13 to 0-15 thanks to a late Niall Sludden goal in a thrilling semi-final at Croke Park.

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Cathal McShane roars with delight after setting up an All-Ireland final against champions Dublin

7. Hockey: Ireland women become the first ever Irish side to reach the World Cup final in any sport (5%)

What a run it was for the Irish women's hockey team, who defied all the odds to reach the World Cup final - the first Irish team to do so in any sport. The squad included six Ulster players; star goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, Katie Mullan, Lizzie Colvin, Shirley McCay, Megan Frazer and Zoe Wilson. It was McFerran who grabbed the headlines in their semi-final win over Spain as she made three saves in the shoot-out, allowing Gillian Pinder to score the winning penalty for a 3-2 success after a 1-1 draw in normal time.

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Ireland's Ayeisha McFerran (far right) celebrates with teammates after winning the shootout to win the match during the Vitality Women's Hockey World Cup Semi Final match at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London. Steven Paston/PA Wire

6. Rugby: Jacob Stockdale is named Player of the Tournament as Ireland beat England 24-15 at Twickenham to complete the Six Nations Grand Slam (5%)

It was the perfect way to celebrate St Patrick's Day when Ireland defeated England 15-24 at Twickenham to secure an historic Grand Slam. Stockdale scored his seventh try of the tournament to set a new Six Nations record and, unsurprisingly, he was rewarded with the Player of the Tournament gong. Stockdale took 32% of the public vote for the Six Nations award, well clear of his team-mate Conor Murray in second.

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Sealed with a kiss: Jacob Stockdale celebrates with his girlfriend Jessica after sealing Grand Slam glory

5. Motorcycling: Glenn Irwin completes a Superbike double at the North West 200 (7%)

Glenn Irwin won both of the Superbike races at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200. In two textbook performances, he led from start to finish on his PBM Be Wiser Ducati to complete what was a masterclass to add to his success in last year's feature race. In this year's feature NW200 race, Irwin finished 9.962 seconds clear of Michael Dunlop.

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Smokin: Glenn Irwin's smoke grenade celebration after his double Superbike win

4. Motorcycling: Jonathan Rea wins his fourth successive World Superbike title (12%)

As impressive as Irwin's performance was, he still wasn't the top voted motorcyclist as Jonathan Rea's fourth consecutive World Superbike title hauled in 12% of the vote. The Ballyclare rider delivered a record-breaking season as he became the first man ever to win four-in-a-row. He also broke Carl Fogarty's overall wins record when he claimed his 60th WBSK race success and broke the record of consecutive race wins with his 12 victories in a row to close the season. Rea's title-winning moment again came at Magny-Cours, when he won the first race of the weekend.

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Unstoppable: Four-time world champion Jonathan Rea

3. Netball: Northern Ireland outclass Wales to secure qualification for the 2019 World Cup (13%)

It's set to be a big 2019 for Northern Ireland's netball team thanks to their successful qualification for the World Cup, which is due to take place in Liverpool in July. NI's qualification moment came way back in January, when they outclassed Wales in a 57-42 victory at the Regional Qualifier in Perth, Scotland. Missing out on the 2015 World Cup in Sydney after an agonising 45-44 defeat by Scotland led to significant funding cuts for Netball NI, leaving the players facing financial hardship. Not qualifying for next year's tournament would have been catastrophic for the sport's future here but now Noleen Lennon, who skippered Northern Ireland at Singapore 2011, and current captain Caroline O'Hanlon are both looking forward to a third World Cup of their exceptional careers.

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Caroline O'Hanlon

2. Rugby: Jacob Stockdale scores the only try as Ireland beat the All Blacks 16-9 at the Aviva Stadium (15%)

The only person to feature twice in our top ten is, unsurprisingly, Jacob Stockdale. The Ulster winger delivered another one of the iconic moments when he touched down the only try of the game as Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time on home soil. Stockdale chipped the All Blacks defence and outpaced the cover to score another of his spectacular tries in the 16-9 victory that forced New Zealand coach Steve Hansen to label Ireland as favourites for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. “It has been a massive year and a half for me and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon," said Stockdale.

1. Ice Hockey: Belfast Giants beat Cardiff Devils 6-3 to win the Challenge Cup for the second time (29%)

When the Belfast Giants issue the rallying call, their supporters react in unambiguous style.  Over 700 voted for the side's Challenge Cup final victory as the best Northern Ireland sporting moment of 2018. The Giants had only ever won the trophy once before, in 2009, and were up against it when they were forced to face Elite League champions Cardiff Devils on their opponents' home ice back in March. Jonathan Ferland (two), Brandon Benedict, John Kurtz, Darcy Murphy and Man of the Match Matt Towe all scored in a stunning 6-3 success to secure the Giants' first silverware in four years.

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The Belfast Giants celebrate after winning the 2018 Challenge Cup.

And here's to plenty more big Northern Ireland sporting moments in 2019.

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