The best in local sport was celebrated on Thursday night past (16 March) at the annual Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Sports Awards.
Shortlisted athletes, teams, coaches and others from across the Borough’s sporting community gathered at The Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena, to contend the awards across eight categories.
Hosted by TV presenter Claire McCollum, the awards were sponsored by Hastings Financial Services, Marty’s Catering Services, McCadden, Stirling Trophies, Pollock Lifts, Rainbow Signs, Ryobi and Wilson’s of Rathkenny.
Renowned darts player, Josh Rock, was crowned ‘Sportsperson of the Year’. Rock has burst onto the darts scene over the last 12 months.
The 2022 PDC world youth champion has been a revelation since claiming his Tour Card at the start of 2022, winning five Development Tour titles as well as his first senior PDC title at Players Championship 28 in Barnsley. He also hit a nine dart leg against Michael Van Gerwen in the Grandslam of darts in Wolverhampton!
For the third year running, Claire Taggart was crowned ‘Sportsperson with a Disability’, having won a gold medal BC2 female and silver medal BC1/2 team at the World Championships, retained the British title 3 years running and secured a gold medal BC2 female and gold Medal BC1/2 team at the Povoa de Varzim World Cup.
Terry Windsor received the award for ‘Services to Sport’ in recognition of 28 years’ service to local sailing. Emily McClune & Oliver Wilkinson’s Acrobatic Gymnastics, meanwhile, was named ‘Team of Year’ after a record year in 2022 that saw the club qualify 1st place in British Championships Regional Qualifiers; 1st place in the British Acro Gymnastics Championships; 1stplace in the Northern Ireland Acro Gymnastics Championships and were the First Northern Irish Acro Gymnasts to win a medal in the British Championships in 20 years.
The full list of winners is as follows:
• Junior Sportsperson of the Year – Calum Pollard – Sailing
• School Sporting Performance – St Killian’s College – Camogie
• Sportsperson/Team with a Disability – Claire Taggart – Boccia
• Manager/Coach of the Year – Iain Mahood – Boxing
• Community Participation – Con Magee GAC
• Team of the Year – Emily McClune & Oliver Wilkinson - Acrobatic Gymnastics
• Services to Sport – Terry Windsor – Sailing
• Sports Person of the Year – Josh Rock – Darts
Bursaries were awarded to Josh McCauley and Mollie Auld. This is now the fourth year of sponsorship from Balon. Each worthy recipient receives £250 towards sportswear. Both Josh and Mollie have overcome different challenges whilst at the same time continuing to achieve on the sports field in both rugby and netball respectively.
Addressing guests at the ceremony, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Alderman Noel Williams commended the Borough’s players, athletes, coaches, managers, volunteers and administrators for their hard work, dedication and determination.
He went on to say: “Our local athletes and teams across the Borough have provided us all with moments of which we can be hugely proud, and, on behalf of Council, I extend my warmest congratulations to all those shortlisted for awards this evening.
“Sport plays an important role in our community every day and brings benefits that reach far beyond physical wellbeing and fitness. It provides avenues for young people to learn and develop life skills through team and individual sports; it brings communities together with shared goals; it strengthens local networks which reinforce a sense of place; and it reaches all walks of life, from youth to old age.”
Reaffirming Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s commitment to sport, the Mayor continued: “As a Council, we are aware of the many benefits of sport and physical activity, and are committed to delivering high quality leisure and sports facilities, to supporting clubs, communities, coaches and elite athletes in their further development, and to delivering a diverse range of inclusive activities at the very heart of our communities - through our MEActive Programme.
“I would like to thank everyone who gives up their time every week to provide all types of sport and physical activity programmesthroughout MEA. They do it for the satisfaction that it brings them and others who participate. They do it for the love of the sport, to inspire others and to create memories that will stay with them forever. Without them, we would not be gathered here tonight for this tribute to sport in our Borough.”