THE 40th annual Donegal Sports Star Awards, in association with Donegal County Council is on tonight in the Mount Errigal Hotel, where the great and the good of Donegal Sport have gathered.
That’s it from me folks – good night and God bless!! Keep an eye on the site over the coming days for more reaction to tonight’s awards.
OVERALL DONEGAL SPORTS STAR OF THE YEAR: MARK ENGLISH
Mark English has become only the fourth person to win the overall award a second time. Sharon Foley (1989 and 1993), Billy Bourne (1990 and 1991) and rower Sinead Jennings (2001 and 2006) are the others and, after Bourne, English is only the second man to win the overall gong in two consecutive years.
Joe English, on behalf of Mark, says “This is so unaccepted’ after his son wins the overall award for the second year in a row.
English has won the Primary and Secondary School Sports Boy Awards here as well as the Athletics prize.
HALL OF FAME: Jim Sheridan
Former Finn Harps captain Jim Sheridan is this year’s Hall of Fame recipient. Scroll down to listen to an interview with the Rathmullan man.
See a profile of Jim Sheridan here
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD: Ollie Horgan
Ollie Horgan, the Finn Harps manager, collects this award having helped to guide Harps back into the Premier Division of the League of Ireland. A dramatic play-off win over Limerick FC catapulted Harps back to the Promised Land. The season was masterminded by Horgan. Despite regularly playing down his team’s chances, Horgan’s tactics when it came to the crunch were spot on.
BRENDAN MCDAID MEMORIAL SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT: Sean McFadden
History is made as the first husband and wife team have won awards. Moments ago his wife, Irene, accepted an award. Sean won The Race 2015 last March, a gruelling event. Also won a 100-mile cycle time trial and took part in several extreme races.
INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION: Brett McGinty
The St Johnston man won a silver medal at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. McGinty is a multiple Irish champion who is on the rise in his sport.
SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER AWARD: Keith Cowan
Managed a range of teams to success in 2015 at Coláiste Ailigh. Managed eight teams in total in 2015.
SECONDARY SCHOOL AWARD: Loreto Secondary School, Letterkenny
Loreto had hundred of medals across a number of sports and their list is way to long to even begin here. At team and individual events, Loreto enjoyed brilliant success.
PRIMARY SCHOOL SPORTS TEACHER: Irene McFadden
Her love of sport is reflected in her enthusiasm at Scoil Mguire gan Smál, Letterkenny, where she organises a wide range of sporting activity, on top of promoting a healthy eating programme.
PRIMARY SCHOOL AWARD: Scoil Mguire gan Smál, Letterkenny
Implemented an all-inclusive policy and have been recognised for their endeavours at national level. Their efforts are reflected in the host of champions in the school.
TEAM AWARD: Inishowen League Oscar Traynor Team
Inishowen finally got over the line when they beat Limerick to win the Oscar Traynor Cup, after a couple of near misses. To make it all the more special, they won the final at their home, Maginn Park.
APPRECIATION: John Wilkie
The Karate tutor has been a long-time advocate of the sport and has done some unbelievable fundraisers – including barefoot walks and laying on a bed of nails. In his sport he has represented Ireland. He has brought international instructors to Letterkenny.
TEAM MANAGER AWARD: Peter O’Donnell
Managed the Irish Elite Senior team at last year’s European Senior Championships. The Raphoe man is widely regarded as Donegal’s Mr Boxing and has done tireless work for his sport.
SECONDARY SCHOOL SPORTS GIRL WINNER: Janine Boyle
A student at St Columba’s in Stranorlar, Janine (15) ran a wind-assisted 11.72 over 100m. Had the wind-assisted time been legal, she’d have been inside the world top ten. Potential to hit the top of her sport. Certainly one to watch.
SECONDARY SCHOOL SPORTS BOY WINNER: Fergus Cox
From Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana, Fergus is a real all-rounder, who has excelled in javlin and triple jump. He took bronze in All-Ireland schools javelin and took part in the inter-provincial games. He won gold in Schools Track and Field in Scotland.
PRIMARY SCHOOL SPORTS GIRL WINNER: Keeva Thompson
From Dooish NS in Ballybofey, Keeva was county champion in high jump and long jump, setting a new record in the long jump.
PRIMARY SCHOOL SPORTS BOY WINNER: Oisin Kelly
The Kilmacrennan NS pupil is a rising athlete and is unbeaten at schools cross country since he first entered. He won gold in regional cc’s and in county finals. At Donegal Primary Schools Championships, he won three gold medals.
We are moving on now to the school’s awards, a huge part of these awards over the years. Volume of nominees here outlines the great work done in Donegal’s schools…
TRIATHLON WINNER: Aidan Callaghan
Crowned his year by winning National Super Series and became the best triathlon competitor in Ireland.
TRANSPLANT ATHLETE WINNER: Kieran Murray
The Milford AC man won two gold medals at the World Transplant Games in 2015. He had a kidney transplate in 2012. He also took a bronze in the World Transplant Games who had a host of p.bs last year.
SWIMMING WINNER: Eadaoin O’Raw
The Scoil Mhuire Buncrana student had success in Community Games and also in the Avon Ocean Mile and other events. She competed in her first triathlon in 2015 and goes from strength to strength.
SURF LIFESAVING WINNER: Triona McMenamin
Triona was team captain at the European Championships and also excelled in the individual category.
SOCCER WINNER: Zoe Green
Zoe Green played with the Republic of Ireland Under-17s who competed in the European Championship qualifiers in Turkey. Zoe plays for Lagan Harps in the Donegal Women’s League.
RUGBY WINNER: Nora Stapleton
The Fahan woman won the All-Ireland League with Belvedere and was a member of the Irish team that won the 6 Nations last spring.
ROWING WINNER: Sinead Jennings
In Spain at a training camp for the Olympics, having finally booked a ticket to Rio, alongside her partner Claire Lambe. The 39-year-old fulfilled a lifetime ambition in reaching Rio.
PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT WINNER: Golden Boy Promotions boxer Jason Quigley has won this award after a brilliant year during which he won six out of six, taking his pro record to 9-0. His tenth pro bout will be on March 25.
“It’s an absolute honour to be here,” Quigley says. “Tonight is a night for everybody, from teachers, to children, to the nominees. I want to say to all the kids who go away disappointed not to have won: Use that as determination to come back and win again.”
POWER LIFTING WINNER: Maria McShane
Raphoe woman McShane was second in the deadlift in the National Championships in Cork and set two new Irish records in 2015.
POOL/SNOOKER WINNER: Shaun Sharkey
The Dungloe man is a European Pool champion. He represented Ireland in Malta last February and competed in the World Championships in June. He helped Donegal win the Irish Championships and represented Ireland in 8-Ball Pool.
MOTORSPORT WINNER: Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan
Frosses driver Kelly and Newtowncunningham man Flanagan, his co-driver, had an unbelievable year in 2015. Read all about him here
Charlie Collins spoke with Kelly earlier…
MOTORCYCLING WINNER: Caolan Irwin
He got his first UK podium finish in April with a second placed finish and was back on the podium in July. He made his Mondello Park debut and was second in his class. At the British Championships in October, he was third in the 400 cc class.
MIND SPORTS WINNER: Billy Kelly
One of the country’s top draughts players in Ireland, the Buncrana-based man had a superb year. He was first in the Inishowen League and he was Senior Division winner in the Irish Championships.
MARTIAL ARTS WINNER: Elaine Dullaghan
The NW Shotokan Karate Club member took gold and silver in the Ulster Invitational and in English Championships took a range of medals, including two golds, before winning gold again in Wales.
HURLING WINNER: Jamesie Donnelly and Ronan McDermott
An unusual occurance with a joint award…Both were named as Nicky Rackard All-Stars. McDermott from Burt was a scorer of note and Donnelly a ferocious and inspirational presence in defence.
HOCKEY WINNER: Ben Wallace
Played a significant role as Raphoe won promotion to the Premier League and played for the Irish Under-16s and in Holland was named Player of the Tournament while representing Ireland.
GYMNASTICS WINNER: Patrick Quinlivan
At the end of July, Patrick won FIVE medals at the Special Olympics World Games, a silver and four bronzes. In September, he won two silvers at the Disability British Championships in Bolton.
GOLF WINNER: Jack Doherty
The 13-year-old was tied 21st in a field of 148 in the US Kids World Championship. He scored seven over and plays off a 5 handicap.
GAA WINNER: Frank McGlynn
The Glenfin man was Donegal Footballer of the Year in 2015 after yet another consistent year in the green and gold.
EQUESTRIAN WINNER: Mary Devine
The first Donegal dressage competitor to compete in Britsh Masters. She was placed just outside the top ten and she took reserve national championship at Dressage Ireland National finals.
CYCLING WINNER: Ciara Doogan finished 25th in women’s road race in European’s in Estonia. She also won the time trial and road race at Junior National Cycling Championships. She was Cycling Ireland’s Junior female of the Year.
SPECIAL ATHLETE AWARD: Oliver Doherty, from Buncrana, won a silver medal at the Special Olympic World Games last summer. A former Buncrana Golf Club captain, he excelled when holing a 40-foot putt to take silver in America.
Now, back to the awards…
Councillor Brogan says the County Council will continue their partnership with the Donegal Sports Star Awards: “We have to fully commit to support this great event towards the 50th anniversary. All the members have been in a position through Development Funds to support sport in the county. We realise there is huge value in sporting organisation. Some of the real heroes deserve huge recognition. Some of the coaches, organisers and parents over the last 40 years deserve huge credit.
Councillor Ciaran Brogan, Donegal County Council Chairman, says Maeve Kyle has shown us how good we are: “Sometimes we forget how good of a county that we have – but Maeve has reminded us of that.”
The selection process isn’t easy, as Neil Martin outlines: “We have met 16 times since December 29th – and some of those were very lively!”
Neil Martin passes on his congratulations from Ronnie Delaney, who had originally been pencilled in as the special guest.
Neil Martin: “40 years on, we’re still here. Sport has always played an important role in Donegal. The committee has embraced all sports by rewarding participation and honouring success.”
“These awards are a credit to the foresight of the first committee,” says Neil Martin.
The Donegal Sports Star Awards Chairman, Neil Martin, is next to the podium…
Maeve Kyle on the difference between then and now: “It’s great to see so many Irish people on the Olympic stage. It’s become 100 times more sophisticated than when I was there. Ireland now knows what’s needed to compete.
“You have to give up some things, but it’s worth it because, as Ronnie Delaney says: ‘Once an Olympian, always an Olympian.’
“Have belief and just go for it. You will have plenty of people to help you. People are very willing to help and you can find the right people to inspire you and the people to pick you up when things don’t go so well.”
“Running was easy. There was always somewhere you could run. For example, there’s no good in wanting to be a good swimmer when the nearest swimming pool is 100 miles away.”
Maeve Kyle was also a renowned hockey player and won 58 Irish caps.
Maeve Kyle: “We had the most amazing welcome there in Melbourne. Thousands of people were in Melbourne. We couldn’t understand what it was all about. It took me until I went back to Melbourne in the 60s to realise what it was all about – these were Irish people who had moved out and this was their first proper contact with Irish people.”
Kyle was Ireland’s first ever female Olympic athlete, competing in both thje 100m and 200m at the Melbourne Olympics where Delaney won his 1,500m gold medal.
She subsequently took part in both the Rome and Tokyo Games where she reached the semi-finals of both the 400m and 800m.
“I had no idea what they were talking about!” – Maeve Kyle on being selected for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Maeve Kyle is now taking to the stage to be interviewed by Chris Ashmore, the MC
Now that we’re fed and watered, we’re ready to get moving with the function again…
The high point of the evening now – the food! Will return with an update – on the food and the awards!
We’re now reflecting on the first overall awards: For the first two years of the Sports Star Awards, in 1976 and 1977, there was no overall winner, but Liam Doherty of Lifford Athletic Club was the first recipient of the overall award, in 1978
Doherty still holds the Donegal records in the 110m and 400m hurdles.
In 1980, he did the 110m hurdles in 15:23 in the Omega Final in Belfield while he recorded a time of 53:70 for the 400m hurdles in Copenhagen the same year.
Danea Herron was the first female to win the overall award in 1985.
DARTS WINNER: Jordan Boyce
The Newtowncunningam schoolboy qualified for the World Youth Final – after winning six qualifying games – and earlier this month competed at the Lakeside in the final, which he was beaten in by Joshua Richardson. Boyce is a name to watch in the coming years.
CLAY PIGEON SHOOTING: Gareth Warren.
Carrigans and St Johnston Gun Club man Warren qualified to go to England for an international competition and just missed out on a place in the super final while he won a raft of competitions locally and finished third in the All-Irelands in Mullingar.
BOXING WINNER: Maeve McCarron.
It was a superb year for Carrigart heavyweight Maeve McCarron, who reached her first Irish senior final.
BASKETBALL WINNER: Andrew McGeever.
Captained ST Eunan’s College to first ever Under-19 A championship and was the ace scorer. He broke the freethrow record at St Vincent’s in Dublin with 68 consecutive baskets.
BADMINTON WINNER: Rachael Darragh.
A niece of Chloe Magee, Rachael was a beaten finalists in Irish national championships in singles and doubles and has represented Ireland. She won gold in women’s singles and doubles in Carlton Under-19 Open and was silver medal winner in the mixed doubles.
ATHLETICS WINNER: Mark English.
English won a silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in Prague in 2015 and also booked his ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The first award of the night will be the athletics category…
Clip playing of first award winners, each of whom are getting honoured here: Danny McDaid (athletics), Uel Blair (badminton), John Gillespie (boxing), Veronica McAteer (camogie), John McCrossan (clay pigeon shoot), Tommy Burns (cycling), Andy Curran (GAA), Fr Brendan McBride (golf), Tom Eaton (Hall of Fame), Marie Kelly, Margaret Gallagher (handball), Ed Moore (hockey), Frank Harrigan (hurling), Robert Ward (motorsport), Michael Jamieson (rugby), Pat Bonner (snooker), James Doherty (soccer), Anne McCafferty (tennis).
We’re going to have some awards before we’re served food. This is not good news for your hungry correspondent. ‘Beef or salmon?’ she asked at the door. I used to back a horse called Beef or Salmon. Didn’t too badly out of that. Now just looking forward to the beef.
Our MC for the evening is Chris Ashmore, who notes that the attendance reflects the status of this event. “To be nominated is in itself an achievement,” he says – and how right he is.
There are 750 guests here tonight and such is the attendance the crowd is split between two rooms in the hotel – surely a logistical nightmare for the organising committee.
1956 Olympic gold medallist Ronnie Delaney was due to attend tonight as the special guest – he was special guest on the occasion of the first awards in 1976 at the Milford Inn. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he has been forced to pull out and last weekend Maeve Kyle stepped in as the replacement, 30 years after she last presented the awards.
Over 190 names have been listed for awards in 40 categories and just three are guaranteed an award.
Just three people – athlete Kieran Murray from Ramelton, Buncrana golfer Oliver Doherty and former Finn Harps captain Jim Sheridan – know that they will definitely be receiving awards on the night.
Doherty won a silver medal at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles at the end of July giving him the Special Athlete category award.
In August there was double gold for Murray at the World Transplant Games in Argentina. Murray who is a kidney transplant recipient was first in the 5k and 1,500 metres and also took bronze in the 800m at the global games.
Sheridan was captain of the 1974 FAI Cup winning Finn Harps team – and he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. See here for a profile of the Rathmullan native.
Sheridan spoke to Charlie Collins. Listen below …