Academy do the double at Junior Sports Awards

BANBRIDGE Academy’s hockey teams did the double at the Banbridge District Junior Sports Awards last Wednesday night.

The school’s First XI won the Youth Team of the Year award, while the school’s hockey set-up was named as the Junior Club of the Year.

Around 190 guests gathered at the Belmont Hotel to honour the district’s talented young sports stars for their outstanding achievements and performances throughout 2010.

First launched in February 2004, the Banbridge District Junior Sports Awards has grown considerably in stature and importance. This annual event recognises and rewards sporting achievement throughout the district and celebrates commitment to and excellence in participation and performance.

This year has proved to be one of the best yet with a total of 27 nominations received across seven categories.

Speaking at the event, Banbridge District Sports Association Vice Chairman Lindsay Corkin said: “It is fantastic to see so many young people doing so well in sport. We hope that by recognising and celebrating their success we are motivating and giving them the desire to achieve their dreams in sport. Congratulations to all the clubs, teams and individuals who either won or were nominated for an award.”

These awards were organised by Banbridge District Sports Association and Banbridge District Council with sponsorship from Donaghy’s Shoefair Sports and Intersport. Denise Watson, a sports presenter with BBC NI, compered the event while Yvonne Jackson from Donaghy’s Shoefair Sports and Lindsay Corkin from Banbridge District Sports Association presented the awards.

There were three winners in the Special Olympic Junior Athletes of the Year Award category, which were awarded to members of Banbridge Special Olympics Club and Birdies Golf Club for their achievements at last year’s Special Olympics All Ireland Games. Alex Dawson won a gold medal in golf. Stefan McGrath won a gold medal in athletics and Liam Ross won a gold medal in softball.

The overall winner for the Female Youth of the Year Award went to golfer Olivia Mehaffey. Olivia finished second in the European Championships, won the under 14 All Ireland Championships and was a member of the winning Ulster U18 team at the interprovincials.

“It means a lot to me, I’m really happy to win the award,” said Olivia, who has a handicap of just five. “I practice every day and I want to become a pro so I’m going to keep working hard.”

Ballyvalley Archery Club ace Shannon Russell-Cowan was second placed in this category while third was runner Emma Mitchell. Esmee Hall, Clodagh McComiskey, Kerri McDonald, Shenna McKiverigan were highly commended in this category for their achievements in swimming, boxing, hockey and cycling respectively.

Athletics star Andrew Mongahan was named overall winner for the Male Youth of the Year Award. This talented young sportsman was British U17 champion in 800m and he broke the British Indoor Record which stood for 41 years. Andrew won both the Ulster and Irish Schools Cross Country and was ranked fourth in Britain at the 3000m.

“Breaking the record was very unexpected,” said Andrew, who lists his influences as Seb Coe and Steve Ovett. “I want to thank my PE coaches, running coaches and team mates.”

Karate champion TJ Morris was second in the category while Mark Downey was third for his achievements in cycling. Also highly commended in this category were Matthew Devlin for gymnastics, Tyler Evans for Tae Kwon Do, Nicky Galloway for swimming, Peter Lavery for Archery, Patrick Monaghan for Athletics, Lee Steenson for Rugby and Luke Woods for Golf.

Banbridge Town Junior Football Club’s U11s who won both the highly competitive and Northern Ireland wide Lisburn Junior Invitational League and Shield was named Junior Team of the Year.

Accepting the award, David Maxwell, the club Chairman, said: “It’s a tremendous achievement and a credit to the teams and the coaches. We have nine teams with 160 boys and 26 managers and coaches. The club won’t stand still and we are constantly looking to improve.”

The Youth Team of the Year Award went to Banbridge Academy’s first XI Boys Hcokey Team who had a tremendous season winning the the Ulster McCullough Cuop, the Burney Cup and the All Irelands.

The team’s captain, Hugh McShane, said the All Ireland win was the highlight of the year. “Beating the hosts and going on to win the tournament was special. The school is integrated now with the hockey club and we are taking primary school kids over to Oxford to develop them.”

The Junior Club of the Year Award went to Banbridge Academy Boys Hockey Club owing to its sensational record of achievements during 2010. Over the year they have won U13 Bannister Bowl, the U14 Ferris Cup and the U15 Richardson Cup with the second XI wining the Priory Shield and the Dowdall Cup. The first XI were winners of both the McCullough Cup and the Burney Cup and later went on to be crowned Irish School Boy Champions after winning the All Irelands in Dublin. This clean sweep of trophies is the first time in history this has been done by any school and as a result this fantastic achievement the school were awarded the Belfast Telegraph Local Heros Award.

The school principal, Raymond Pollock, paid tribute to the coaches at the school. “They make a huge contribution and often they do it after school and on Saturdays voluntarily. It is an honour to be head of a school which has achieved such success.” He went on to commend the Council for their support.

New for this year was the Donaghy Shoefair Sports Special Achievement Award which was presented by Anne McVeigh to Ulster and Irish Hockey star Kerri McDonald.

“There has been a lot of dedication and hard work but when you get to go to Singapore for the Youth Olympics you know it’s been worth it,” she said.

Paying tribute to her hometown club she said,” “Dromore are such a good club. I was with them from U10 level and they encouraged me to play for Ulster and go on trials.”

Meanwhile Mark Downey and TJ Morris were awarded the John Ingram Bursaries on the evening.