On a night that was not very enticing with wind and sleet, the Mount Errigal Hotel was packed on Friday night for the annual Donegal Sports Stars.
There may not have been the level of expectation about who would end up with the overall award as in other years, but nevertheless, the night was a fitting tribute to the full range of sports people in a sports mad county.
The announcement of Finn Valley boxer Jason Quigley as the overall winner for 2013 was met with universal approval - something that is not always the case. But then this is not a race or a boxing match, it is the result of the opinions of the selection committee.
On this occasion, there was no quibble. Quigley was the outstanding sports figure of the year gone by - his European gold and World silver, truly remarkable achievements. Now ranked No. 1 in the world, he has done his family, club, county and country proud. Indeed, the only surprise in my mind is that he was not selected as the Donegal Person of the Year for 2013. He may have been the victim of the success of the Donegal senior team in 2012 with Jim McGuinness getting the award. But in my humble opinion, Jason Quigley was the Donegal Person of the Year for 2013.
His achievements in 2013 surpassed anything ever achieved by a Donegal sports person in one year.
The Donegal Sports Stars are now part of the furniture in Donegal since their introduction in 1977. On the night on Friday last, two of the founding members who passed away in the last year - Harry Blaney and John McHugh - were remembered.
There are 13 members on the committee that continues to run this worthy event.
The special guest this year was FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney, who would give any politician a run for his money, in the way he mingles with the general public.
Delaney was the perfect guest and for anyone who had not met him before, he left his mark with his down to earth approach. To be fair to him, he seemed genuinely interested in what was going on and had a word for every award winner that he presented on the stage in the Mount Errigal.
Apart from the reception received by Jason Quigley when he was announced overall winner, the award given to Jason Black was equally well received by the attendance, who gave the Letterkenny man who conquered Everest a standing ovation.
Black was presented with the Brendan McDaid Memorial Special Achievement Award and in an interview with the excellent MC Chris Ashmore, he gave a brilliant description of the effort and anguish which he enjoyed or endured in scaling the highest mountain in the world. His own personal satisfaction was to be the first Donegal man to fly the Donegal flag on the top of the world, and he had some special words for the young sports people present.
“In life people put hurdles in our way; they tell us we’re not good enough, not fast enough, not tall enough. Donegal is blessed. We’ve got the most brilliant talent in this county. I’m privileged to be here tonight and seeing the names that are. You have got to set your sights high. You really got to want it. Sacrifices have to be there.
“Don’t let anyone ever stand in your way. We all have an Everest in us. We’re heard people say, ‘life’s short, we’re only here for a short time’. But how many people sit down and listen to those words. Sport is the greatest education in the world. I failed every exam I ever put in front of me. But I was good at sport. I owe my life to sport and that’s why this is a wonderful celebration of sport here tonight,” said Black.
WIDE RANGE OF TALENT
The Sports Stars committee can take a bow after this year’s awards night with such a celebration of a wide range of sports. The night itself went smoothly with some of the awards presented before dinner was served.
Two years ago, in the Silver Tassie, I commented afterwards that there was a need for some minor adjustments to the nominations and the pace of the presentations. I had mentioned that there should not be nominations for the Hall of Fame award and that was taken on board. There may be a case to be made for a similar situation in the Appreciation Award. The presentations and interviews were performed in a precision-like manner. There is probably 15-20 minutes to be gained by starting a little quicker after the meal, but overall it was a great night of celebration for Donegal sport.
Full list of winners was:
Athletics: Mark English,
Badminton: Chloe Magee, Raphoe
Basketball: Cian and Tadhg Hickey, Letterkenny Blaze
Boxing: Jason Quigley, Finn Valley
Clay Pigeon: David Porter, Lifford.
Cycling: Philip Deignan, Letterkenny
Special Athlete: Eileen Ferry, Errigal Sports and Social Club
Darts: Charlie Grant, Quigley’s Pt
Equestrian: Kenneth Graham, Muff
GAA: Michael Murphy, Glenswilly
Golf: Brian McElhinney, Foyle GC
Gymnastics: Megan Lynch, Desertegney
Hockey: Matthew Lecky, Raphoe
Hurling: Danny Cullen, Setanta
Martial Arts: Natalie McCarron, PTs, Carrigans
Motor Cycling: Aaron McBride, Convoy
Motor Sport: Declan and Brian Boyle, Lettermacaward
Professional Sport Achievement: Martin Harley, Trentagh
Rowing: Larissa Muldoon, Cappry and Nora Stapleton, Buncrana
Soccer: Barry McNamee, Derry City
Surf Lifesaving: Triona McMenamin, Letterkenny
Swimming: Anne Marie Ward, Portnablagh
Transplant Athlete: Vienna White, Letterkenny
Triathlon: Gavin Crawford, 24/7 Letterkenny Club
Primary School Sports Boy: Conor O’Donnell, St. Patricks NS, Carndonagh
Primary Schools Sports Girl: Gemma McFadden, Kilmacrennan NS
Secondary School Sports Boy: Jamie Brennan, Magh Ene, Bundoran
Secondary School Sports Girls: Arlene Crossan, Loreto Secondary, Letterkenny
Team Manager/Coach: Ray Durack, Donegal Hurling manager
Appreciation: Hughie Rua Gallagher, Gweedore.
Brendan McDaid Memorial Special Achievement: Jason Black (Mount Everest Ascent)
Team: Donegal GAA hurling team
Primary School: Soil Cholmcille, Letterkenny
Primary School Sports Teacher: Pauric McKinney, Scoil Iosagain, Buncrana
Secondary School: Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana
Secondary School Sports Teacher: Seosamh Mac Ceallabhui, Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny
International Achievement: Maeve McCarron, Carrigart BC
Special Recognition: Ciara Grant, Letterkenny and Raheny Celtic
Hall of Fame: Hughie ‘Dickie’ Doherty, Buncrana
Overall Donegal Sports Star: Jason Quigley