Countdown is on to Donegal Sports Star Awards

Diarmaid Doherty

Reporter:

Diarmaid Doherty

Countdown is on to Donegal Sports Star Awards
RTE’s Sean O’Rourke says he is well aware of the dedication of so many coaches and organisers within sport in Donegal and the passion and dedication shown by so many.

RTE’s Sean O’Rourke says he is well aware of the dedication of so many coaches and organisers within sport in Donegal and the passion and dedication shown by so many.

The broadcaster will be the special guest at this month’s Donegal Sports Star Awards which take place in Letterkenny.

He said it’s a huge honour to be invited to the awards, “a very big event in the sporting calendar of a county with a powerful tradition of sporting excellence on so many fronts.”

The ceremony will take place in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Friday, January 30th. Mr. O’Rourke, who has a holiday home in Downings, says he is looking forward to the event.

“Household names from my boyhood would include the likes of Hughie McClafferty, Brian McEniff and Danny McDaid, and then came those heroic ‘keepers Packie Bonner and Shay Given to defy the best that world football could throw at the Irish goalmouth,” he said.

“More recently, people like Michael Murphy and Seamus Coleman have added to the sporting glories of Donegal. But it goes much deeper and broader than that. I’ve got some small insight into the dedication of so many coaches and organisers in several sports, be it athletics, boxing, GAA, rugby or golf - and you’ll also see pockets of passion and dedication in sports like tennis and badminton.”

Details of the Sports Star Awards, now in their 39th year, were announced at a press briefing in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Monday evening.

A number of special guests were in attendance, among them Cllr. Michael McBride, Mayor of the Letterkenny Municipal Authority. He said the awards event is always a proud night for nominees, their familes and their clubs. He said 2014 had been another hugely successful career for the county with success achieved at national and international level. Not surprisingly, he said, the awards in the various categories are becoming more difficult to win every year.

Donegal County Council has been associated with the awards for a long number of years. The council’s Chief Executive, Seamus Neely, said Donegal is fortunate to have a great array of sports. “There are up to 167 nominees for 41 categories and that begins to show the extent of engagement there is with this particular sports star awards programme,” he said.

“From a council’s perspective, these awards celebrate potential and gives people encouragement by bringing them together on the evening and connecting those at schools level or local level, with those who have had considerable success.

“It’s a programme that continues to recognise participation, particularly at schools level. Children at a very formative age, learn skills like team-building, working with each other, and as we all know, those are skills that stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Other guests at Monday evening’s event included Danny McDaid, who was the winner of the Athletics award in the first year of the Awards in 1976 and the overall winner in 1979.

Danny paid tribute to members of the committee, many of whom have since passed on, among them Hugh Strain, Brendan McDaid, Denis Martin and Harry Blaney. “Unfortunatley we have lost these people but they showed great foresight. They gave a platform for some of the minority sports, like athletics, and the stars that we have produced over the years from Donegal has been unbelievable.”

Peter O’Donnell, President and PRO of the Donegal County Boxing Board, said the Sports Star Awards are a fantastic celebration of sport. “It’s one of the most important fixtures on the sporting calendar,” he said.

Patsy McGonigle, one of the leading figures in Irish athletics for many years, won the Appreciation Award in 1979. He said he was associated with many team and individual award winners over the years but one of most cherished was the Hall of Fame award which was won by his late father.

“It meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to his peers and his generation and it meant a lot to our family as well,” he said.