Sport - a great way of putting life’s worries to one side

Sport - a great way of putting life’s worries to one side
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.

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