Patsy McGonagle to be special guest at 2016 Donegal Sports Star Awards

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PATSY MCGONAGLE has been confirmed as the special guest for the 2016 Donegal Sports Star Awards ceremony later this month.

The Ballybofey man is the Irish Athletics Team manager and filled the role last year at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

It was his fifth time at the Olympics and his fourth as the manager of the Athletics Team, having led the team to Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

McGonagle will now be the special guest for the Donegal Sports Star Awards function.

The attendance of McGonagle was confirmed at the official launch of the Donegal Sports Star Awards in the Mount Errigal Hotel this evening.

“It’s a great honour for me,” McGonagle said.

“I’m a local Donegal man and have been involved in Donegal sport all my life. It is a great honour and a great privilege.”

He formed the Finn Valley Athletic Club in 1971 and the club’s base at the Millbrae in Stranorlar stands as a monument to his efforts.

McGonagle was given the Freedom of Donegal in 2013 and was Donegal Person of the Year in 2001.

The 41st annual Donegal Sports Star Awards function will be held in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Friday, January 27.

Athlete Mark English, a European outdoor and indoor medallist, and now an Olympian after he competed in Rio last summer, has been the Donegal Sports Star of the Year in each of the last two years.

Buncrana pier tragedy hero Davitt Walsh officially launched the awards this evening.

Walsh, a former Finn Harps and Derry City footballer who now plays with Fanad United in the Ulster Senior League, aved baby Rionaghac-Ann from drowning after the family car slid into the water back in March.

Five people tragically died when their car slipped off the pier in Buncrana and were named as 46-year-old Sean McGrotty, sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (57) and daughter Jodie Lee, 15.

Kerrykeel man Walsh dived into the water and managed to rescue four-month old Rionaghac-Ann.

Walsh has been honoured for his bravery and has since returned to playing in the Ulster Senior League with Fanad.

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The Vice Chairperson of Donegal County Counil, Barry O’Neill, and the Council’s Chief Execuitve, Seamus Neely, were at this evening’s launch.

“The Council has been associated with the Donegal Sports Star Awards since 1977 and their support has helped the committee to make the event the huge success it has been over many years,” Donegal Sports Star Awards Chairperson, Neil Martin, said.

“2016 was another great year for Donegal sport and that is reflected in the quality and volume of nominees for the 41st awards.

“We have added an extra category by dividing the Primary Schools in two sections.

“There will now be winners for schools of under 100 pupils and over 100 pupils. We are confident that this will enhance the competition in this sector.”

Councillor Barry O’Neill said: “This county has a great tradition of success and participation. The inclusiveness is so important and especially the recognition of those involved in minority sports. That is a great aspect of the ceremony each year.”

Mr Neely added: “Donegal County Council is delighted to be association with these awards. We are fortunate to have such big numbers participating. That feeds into a very successful awards night.

“Sport is the lifeblood of the county ans is the glue that holds many communities together. It is a great source of gaining a life experience.

“The awards are the highlight of the sporting year in Donegal. The great thing is they also recognise not only the sports stars, but the people who have helped them along the way; the unsung heroes who work tirelessly.”

The Donegal Sports Star Awards were first held in 1976. Last year, the award winners from the first function were honoured and this evening two of those who couldn’t be there last January – Veronica McAteer and Ed Moore – were given their 40th anniversary awards this evening.

A number of former winners were in attendance at this evening’s launch, including: James Cullen (motorsport 1981, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1999), Colm McGonagle (soccer, 1979), Seam Boyle (MC, 1978), Bryan Harkin (squash, 1985), Anne McGrath (tennis, 1980), David Patterson (badminton 1977), Paul Giles (cycling 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993), Eamon Giles (appreciation 1997 and 2002), Michael McGarvey (rugby, 2001), Christine Russell (triathlon 2014), Anne-Marie Meehan (primary school teacher 2012), Nicola Harris (secondary school sports teacher 2012) and Charlie McAteer (appreciation 1998).

The Ryan family, who finished third in the Ireland’s Fittest Family series, were also present. Danny Ryan is a former winner of the boxing award and was joined by members of his family.

Tickets for the Donegal Sports Star Awards function will go on sale from the Mount Errigal Hotel tomorrow and it has been confirmed that the hotel is the only ticket outlet.

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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