THE best of Londonderry’s sporting talent were out in force at the City Hotel on Friday night as the District Sports Council held its annual gala presentation night to honour those who have excelled in their respective sports during the past 12 months.
Special guest for the evening was Northern Ireland international manager Michael O’Neill.
Recipients of two of the most prestigious awards on the night, the male and female Sports Personality accolades, were Foyle Valley AC’s Scott Rankin and the North West Karate Federation’s Catherine Gillespie.
Rankin had produced the run of his life with a terrific new 5K personal best of 14m 42.09s the previous night at the Armagh international road race as he continues to impress.
Indeed, the 22 year-old enjoyed his best ever season in 2012 when representing Derry in a medal winning cross country All Ireland Championships side.
The Foyle Valley man also made a huge impact in the local athletics scene when claiming the Furey 5k Series title as well as the St. Patrick’s 5k, Finn Valley 5k and Foyle Valley 5k, finishing the year inside the top 20 in the UK 5k rankings at Under-23 level.
The winner of the female sports personality award, Catherine Gillespie also enjoyed an outstanding season, winning silver medal at the World Karate Championships in July 2012 for N.Ireland in Lithuania.
Catherine sustained an ankle injury just 10 days prior to travelling for the event which disrupted her preparations, yet she went on to claim silver against all odds in soaring temperatures.
The awards categories for ‘Sports Coach’ and ‘Services to Sport’ have in the past been two of the most keenly contested and once against that proved to be the case.
Taking top honours in the ‘Sports Coach’ category was Oakleaf Amateur Boxing Club’s Kevin McGilloway who has been qualified as a coach for 10 years.
And McGilloway was a worthy recipient of the award having coached local boxers to 21 Ulster titles and nine national titles during 2012, while guiding two of his club members to European bronze medals at the Schoolboys Championships in Russia.
It proved to be a successful night for Oakleaf ABC as the Chairman of the Brandywell club, Eugene O’Kane received a ‘Services to Sport’ award.
Eugene, who formed the club in 1992, is an elected member of the National Boxing Association of Ireland and has officiated at three world senior amateur boxing championships in Ireland, China, USA and also at the world Junior Championships in Cuba.
And Oxford United Stars coach, Noel Crampsey also received a ‘Services to Sport’ award in recognition of the work he’s done for the local soccer scene.
Noel was a founding member of the Derry & District Youth F.A. in 1973 and continues to be heavily involved in various different roles with Oxford United.
Inducted into the Derry District Sports Council’s Hall of Fame was Elaine McLaughlin who represented Great Britain & N. Ireland in the 1986 Olympics in Seoul.
Elaine became the seventh person to be included in the Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of the city’s other Olympians, including Anton Hegarty, Liam Ball, Neil McLaughlin, Terry Watt, Charlie Nash and Roisin Smyth.
Another of the city’s Olympians, Aileen Morrison, and Paralympian, Jason Smyth received ‘London 2012 Merit’ awards for their achievements last summer.
The Sports Council also presented Sports Personality awards to Derry City Football Club, Chairperson of Swim Ireland, Eugene Hillick, N.Ireland international netball coach, Elaine Rice, President of Athletics Ireland, Gerry Lynch and world champion kickboxers, Daniel Quigley and Aidan Lafferty.
Sports team award went to City of Derry Ladies squad whose highlights included N. Ireland Road 5km gold last April and promotion to the National Premier League in August.
Other notable winners were City of Derry RFC’s Ryan McMenamin who took the Youth Male award; Cyra Taylor who won the Youth Female; City of Derry Swimming Club’s Daniel Doherty (Juvenile Male) and Victoria Colhoun (Juvenile Female).