Overall sports star award crowns another memorable year for English
Joe English said the English family were shocked but delighted that his son Mark was named Donegal Sports Star of the Year for 2015.
And he declared that the award was vindication for those clean athletes who are competing in a sport that has received such bad publicity of late.
Mark, a silver medal winner in the 800m at the European Indoors in Prague in March, was unable to attend Friday night’s awards ceremony after only arriving back in the country from a training camp in South Africa .
His proud dad Joe collected the award on his behalf and said he was delighted to do so.
“It was a big shock to the family and I’m sure it will be a big shock to Mark when I get talking to him in a short while,” Joe said on Friday night.
“He’d love to have been here in person. Last year he wasn’t able to be present because he was actually running in New York that night. He’s just off the plane from South Africa after a stint of training so he’ll be absolutely delighted.
“Athletics is his game. That’s what we’re passionate about and so we’re just delighted that athletics that got the overall award. It’s a minority sport, and when you look at the names that were also nominated for the overall award, It must have been a tough decision for the committee. We’re absolutely honoured to receive it.”
He added: “Athletics is getting a tough time out there at the moment, there’s no harm saying that.
“It affects keen athletes like Mark. It hurts them.
Vindication for athletics
“Tonight is actually a vindication for clean athletes It gives them that little boost and it gives other athletes a boost as well. Sometimes the playing field might not exactly be level, but they can achieve as well.”
Mark’s performance in Prague in March was undoubtedly the highlight of what was another memorable year for the UCD athlete. His dad referred to an injury crisis that impacted on Mark’s schedule.
“Thankfully he got around that,” Joe said.
“He came back and got his target time for the Olympics. He got that out of the way at the end of July and that took a little bit of the pressure off. He then went on to Beijing and was tenth overall in the Worlds.
“That was very competitive, very tough. But the European silver medal back in Prague will have special memories for us all.”
Fourth person to win award twice
English’s award on Friday night sees him become only the fourth person to win the overall award twice. Billy Bourne (weightlifting), Sharon Foley (athletics) and Sinead Jennings (rowing), have also twice won the award.
“He probably doesn’t even know that himself,” Joe said.
“I’m going to make him aware of it. I know that Sharon Foley, an athletics winner, was one of the people to win it twice before so Mark will be delighted to be up there and sharing that platform with Sharon and the others.”
The other nominees for the overall Sports Star Award were Donagh Kelly (motorsport), Frank McGlynn (GAA), Nora Stapleton (rugby) and Sinead Jennings (rowing).