‘Team Downey’ clean up at District’s Sports Awards

THERE was double joy for ‘Team Downey’ at the 2010 Banbridge District Sports Awards, held last Wednesday night.

Banbridge District’s top sportsmen and women gathered at the Belmont Hotel to attend the annual Senior Sports Awards ceremony.

Over 160 guests attended the prestigious sporting event to honour the award winners in each of the nine categories as they received their accolades from Yvonne Jackson from Donaghy Shoefair Sports and Alison Wilson from Banbridge District Sports Association. Denise Watson, a sports presenter with BBC NI, compered the event.

Speaking at the awards, Alison Wilson, Chairman, Banbridge District Sports Association, stated, “These awards enable us to showcase some of the best sporting talent in the Banbridge District. I congratulate both the nominees and award winners who have excelled in their chosen sports and have shown great dedication and commitment to achieving sporting excellence.”

In a great night for the Downey family Commonwealth Games broze medalist Sean was named Sportsman of the year while his cousin, Banbridge Golf Club’s 2010 Junior Cup team captain Hugo Downey, picked up the Team of the Year award on behalf of his team mates.

Said Hugo, “I’m really proud of my cousin, he has done the family name proud with what he achieved in Delhi.

Speaking of his own team’s achievements he added, “It’s nice to be recognised, I am totall shocked. We won the Ulster Cup four years ago and we were expected to win the All Ireland but it just didn’t happen for us on the day.

“The Ulster section was very tight. We beat Cairndhu in the semi-finals who are a good up and coming team so that gave us a real boost going into the final.”

Sean was unable to pick up his award but speaking on behalf on his son, his dad Seamus - himself a former Commonwealth cyclist, spoke proudly of his son’s achievements.

“Sean puts in a lot of effort and dedication,” he says.

“On the day of the ride-off for the bronze medal we were all sitting on the edge of our seats but he was cool about it. He seems to handle his nerves better than we do.

“He had a serious accident last year but he came through it and to win a bronze medal shows how hard he has worked this year. He’s had lots of highs and lows this year so that has allowed him to see both sides of the coin.”

And another Downey, rugby star Eliza, was named runner up in the Sportswoman of the Year category, being pipped to the award by top prize by Dromore shooter Louise Aiken, who also competed at the Commonwealth Games.

“It’s fantastic, brilliant,” said Louise about winning her award.

“I put in a lot of hard work in the run-up to the games, training about 6-10 hours a week in the build-up to the games.

“Delhi wasn’t as bad as people made out - I was there in February before the games so I knew what to expect but everything was OK.”

Also among the award winners to be recognised at the event for their outstanding sporting achievements in 2010 were:

Special Olympic Athletes of the Year - Six athletes who won medals during 2010 were recognised at this year’s event. Winning Gold Medals at the Ireland Games were Mark Blevins for golf, Robert Crory for swimming, Paul Embanks and Tony Lunny for gymnastics. Denise Fegan won gold at the Regional Games for golf, while Philip Patton won a bronze medal at the European Games for table tennis.

Runners up in the Sportsman of the Year were World and Irish Bowls Champion, DJ Wilson, who was second and in third place was top Irish Amateur Golfer, Rory Leonard.

The Club of the Year award was presented to Tullylish Gaelic Athletic Club, who had five members on the Down Squads, a player awarded with a College All Star, who’s Senior Ladies, won the Down Junior Championships and Senior Men won the Down Intermediate Championship for the first time in the 42 years, took this title.

“Everything is looking great for the club at the moment. We have a great U16 team coming through at the moment who, as U14s, won seven trophies,” said coach Gerry Roberts, who was joined on stage by Mark Blevins.

“We haev a hard working backroom team and a great committee who work hard for the club.”

It has been a difficult year for the club as well, following the tragic death of club captain John McAreavey’s wife, Michaela.

“Words can’t describe the situation we found ourselves in,” added Gerry.

“John and Michaela were a massive part of the club but John, like the rest of us, have to move on and everybody at the club is right behind him.”

Coach of the Year was presented to Northern Ireland’s top karate coach, Kevin Broderick, for coaching the Northern Ireland karate team and Banbridge Karate Club to success in 2010.

Asked by compere for the evening, Denise Watson, about the benefits of being involved in karate he said, “Karate is very hands on whereas other martial arts wouldn’t be.

“It’s a different style of coaching, but then every coach is different.”

Gerard O’Neill, who has given 38 years service to Aghaderg Gaelic Football Club and Ballyvarley Hurling Club, took the Service to Sport award.

“People use the word ‘community’ and here we are awarding people who work in theirs all the time,” he said.

“It’s a way of life and we all do our bit for the love of the sport as we want to pass it on.”

The final award of the evening was the Chairman’s Award which was presented to European Masters Badminton Champion, Michael Watt.

“I’ve been playing badminton from U12s right through to O45 level and I still want to play and compete,” he said.

“I’ve had a good year this year and I have a lot of people to thank for helpint me with family and work as I have a lot to juggle.

“Everything just clicked for me this year but that was the result of a lot of work - I had set myself a nine month programme and I am happy with what I did.”